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Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, since 2007. All written content © 2014 by Paul Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Opera Review: The Met's Magnetic Carmen

Reposted from The Classical Review.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Don José (tenor Yonghoon Lee, with knife) menaces Anita Rachvelishvili's Carmen in
Act IV of the Bizet opera. Photo by Ken Howard © 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.
Carmen returned to the Metropolitan Opera Friday night with an energetic new conductor, Michele Mariotti in his house debut. The performance crackled with a sense of barely controlled violence that suited Richard Eyre’s handsome, war-torn production. It also marked the return of Anita Rachvelishvili, who brought an earthy sensuality and a magnetic presence to the title role.

Read the whole review by Superconductor's own Paul J. Pelkonen, exclusively on The Classical Review.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opera Review: A Golden Turandot

Reposted from The Classical Review.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Maria Guleghina as the Princess Turandot. Photo by Marty Sohl © 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera celebrates the 25th anniversary of the 
company’s over-the-top 1987 Franco Zeffirelli production of Puccini’s 
Turandot this year. At Wednesday’s opening night, the show 
looked and sounded surprisingly fresh, serving as a gilt framework for an evening of tremendous vocal performances from the three principals.

Read the whole review by Superconductor's Paul J. Pelkonen, exclusively on The Classical Review.

Sour Peaches in Atlanta as Lockout Ends.

Both sides bitter as orchestra lockout ends.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A new collective bargaining agreement in Atlanta will shrink their symphony orchestra to 88 players.
The lockout is over in Atlanta.

That's the news from both sides of the labor dispute that threatened to axe the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 2012-2013 season.

Following the end of their contract, musicians were locked out of the Woodruff Center, the orchestra's home base on Sept. 4. Last night, the players agreed to all of management's demands and cuts in the interest of preserving the ensemble's season and reputation as one of America's better orchestras.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Opera Review: The Conservative Ticket

L'Elisir d'Amore opens the Metropolitan Opera's 2012-2013 Season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Opening night in Times Square. Photo by the author.
Original images by Nick Heavican (top) and Ken Howard (bottom)
© 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.

The Metropolitan Opera opened last night with the company's first performance of a new production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore starring Anna Netrebko. Ms. Netrebko was reunited with her tag-team partners from a successful 2010 revival of Don Pasquale, tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień.

It's true that the Met was due for a new Elisir. John Copley's shopworn 1991 production had soured with audiences, despite an energetic run of the opera last spring. The choice also allowed the Met marketing department to keep Ms. Netrebko's flashing, dark eyes at the heart of its city-wide campaign. However, this was an uninspired choice to kick off the season at a time when opera needs to make itself relevant.

Bart Sher's new production is conservative, lacking the distinct directorial mannerisms and surreal humor that prevailed in his three previous outings for the Met. The sets (by Michael Yeargan) are realistic and picturesque. Catherine Zuber provided elaborate costumes and rich fabrics that ground the opera firmly in the reality of the 19th century. The only oddity is a preference for high black hats: indeed everyone except Mr. Polenzani gets to sport one at one time or another.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Resolves Strike

Musicians, management reach agreement.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The rest is silence: the empty stage of Orchestra Hall, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Image from Music Acoustics and Architecture © 1962 Leo Baranek.
UPDATED: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has resolved its labor issues for the moment. A tentative agreement has been announced between the Orchestra Association and the players, meaning that the first part of the 2012 season will go ahead as planned. This includes the orchestra's season-opening concerts at Carnegie Hall under Music Director Riccardo Muti.

Ratification of the contract by all parties was completed on Sept. 25, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The new contract will apply retroactively from Sept. 17, 2012.

The ensemble will open the season with a performance of Carl Orff's ever-popular cantata Carmina Burana on Oct. 3.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Opera Review: A Catalogue of Crime

Ildar Abdrazakov dodges bullets in WNO's Don Giovanni.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Super stud: Ildar Abdrazakov grapples with unearthly forces at the climax of Don Giovanni.
Photo © 2012 Washington National Opera/The Kennedy Center.
The Washington National Opera's current revival of John Pascoe's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni features the return of bass Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role. It is a towering portrayal, and not just because of the big Russian's sturdy frame.

On Saturday night, Mr. Abdrazakov played the Don as a force of nature, bringing dulcet tones and genuine sexual charisma to the part. In Act I, the dark-voiced singer walked a fine between charm and villainy with humor and honor intact. His Champagne Aria and cry of "Vive la Liberta!" were mission statements for this anarchic opera, ringing out what would become a Romantic battle-cry with all the meaning and power it deserves. At the climax of the Act I party scene, the Don's skill at sophisticated swordplay (dispatching four combatants and dodging bullets) proved to a thrilled audience that the anarchic title character cannot be killed by conventional means.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Opera Review: Head of the Class

Anna Bolena at the Washington National Opera.
Royal rumble: Anna Bolena (Sondra Radvanovsky) confronts Jane Seymour (Sonia Ganassi) in
the Washington National Opera production of Anna Bolena. Photo by Scott Suchman for the Kennedy Center
The 2012-2013 opera season is still in its first month, but it's already had its first great diva turn: Sondra Radvanovsky's portrayal of Donizetti's Anna Bolena at the Washington National Opera.

These performances mark the American singer's first turn as Henry VIII's second queen in the bel canto gem, an opera that has rapidly come back into fashion thanks to the meaty title role and her dramatic confrontations with her double-dealing husband (played here by Oren Gradus) and Giovanna (Jane) Seymour (Sonia Ganassi) her lady-in-waiting turned successor.

First of all, Ms. Radvanovsky has the pipes to sing the demanding title role, gliding easily through the role's tessitura and finding a glittering edge to her voice that allowed her to surmount everyone else on stage in the Act I finale, the moment when Anna discovers she has lost her seat on the throne. This same strength and dominating presence is there in the big Act II duet with Ms. Ganassi, where Anne discovers that "her Seymour" is in fact taking her place.

Opera Review: Einstein on the Beach

Reposted from The Classical Review.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Helga Davis (left) and Kate Moran perform Knee Play No. 2 from Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach at the BAM NextWave Festival. Photo by Stephanie Berger © 2012 Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Like a comet that only passes earth once every 20 years, Einstein on the Beach has returned to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This new touring production of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s collaboration—presented as part of the BAM NextWave Festival—keeps the opera’s anarchic spirit intact while still packing an impressive theatrical wallop.

Read the entire review here at The Classical Review.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Concert Review: The Rite Stuff

Reposted from The Classical Review. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen


 Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in The Rite of Spring. Photo by Chris Lee.
The New York Philharmonic’s opening night marks the beginning of the classical music season at Lincoln Center. This year, Alan Gilbert opened the season not with a splashy gala or free concert, but with a regular subscription performance, featuring works by György Kurtag and Igor Stravinsky flanking Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto.
Click here for the full article, available on The Classical Review.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carnegie Hall 2012-2013 Season Preview

Carnegie Hall's ambitious 2012-2013 slate.
The Dude abides: Gustavo Dudamel returns to Carnegie Hall with an ambitious
program of Latin American music. Photo © 2011 Rolex.
The Carnegie Hall season opens Oct 3. This year's intiatives include a Latin American music festival featuring conductor Gustavo Dudamel, composer Osvaldo Golijov, and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in a rare New York appearance.

Mr. Golijov is also the Hall's new composer-in-residence. And opera singer Renée Fleming takes the post of artist-in-residence with a four-concert Perspectives series featuring the New York stage premiere of André Previn's opera A Streetcar Named Desire.

Here are 12 quick highlights of the 2012-2013 season:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Metropolitan Opera User's Guide

All you need to know about the big house on W. 64th St.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Metropolitan Opera open for business.
(Ed. Note: This is an updated version of the Metropolitan Opera User's Guide that originally published in May of 2011. It has information on new (more expensive) ticket policies for the coming 2012-2013 season. For information on repertory and performances visit our 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera Preview.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Superconductor 2012-2013 Season Preview: Great Performers at Lincoln Center

The annual series announces its lineup for 2012-2013.
Piano man: Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Debussy at Lincoln Center this Fall.
Photo © IMG Artists.
Of the major series mounted annually at Lincoln Center, Great Performers is the hardest to define. It is essentially a traditional concert cycle, encompassing symphones, piano recitals and liederabend at the myriad venues of Lincoln Center. Here's what's on tap for next season.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Superconductor 2012-2013 Season Preview: New York Philharmonic

Starting and ending with Stravinsky, an exciting year at the Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Music director Alan Gilbert. Photo by Chris Lee © 2010 The New York Philharmonic
The 2012-2013 season promises some big changes at the Philharmonic. Emanuel Ax, the pianist who has played 100 concerts with the ensemble over the years, joins the orchestra as Artist-in-Residence. Also, Christopher Rouse is the new Composer-in-Residence, replacing Magnus Lindberg. With a new orchestra contract in place and music director Alan Gilbert at the helm, this should be an exciting year for New York's hometown orchestra.

Here's twelve things that we're excited about seeing next season.
  • In an egalitarian gesture, the 2012 season opens on Sept. 19 with an "ordinary" subscription concert conducted by Alan Gilbert. György Kurtág's ...quasi una fantasia... starts the year off, followed by Leif Ove Andsnes playing Beethoven's third Piano Concerto. The concert ends with Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring conducted by Mr. Gilbert. (There will be a gala opening too on Sept. 27, but that's probably not as exciting.)
  • On Oct. 4, new Artist-in-Residence Emanuel Ax pairs Bach's D minor Keyboard Concerto with the Schoenberg Piano Concerto, followed by Mozart's Linz Symphony. Alan Gilbert conducts.
  • The Nielsen Project continues Oct. 10, as Alan Gilbert conducts four concerts featuring the Danish composer's concertos for flute, violin and clarinet, paired with Tchaikovsky's Little Russian Symphony.
  • The Philharmonic is working with Lincoln Center's White Light Festival this year. On Nov. 4 at the Rose Theater, Emanuel Ax will lead a chamber-sized performance of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in a reduced orchestration by Arnold Schoenberg.
  • Kurt Masur and Lorin Maazel return to the Philharmonic this season. Mr. Masur offers two weeks of Brahms starting on Nov. 8. Mr. Maazel will lead works by Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Lutoslawski and Shostakovich, starting Jan. 16, 2013.
  • The first concerts of 2013 (starting Jan. 3)  feature French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra maestro Manfred Honeck conducts the program, which also includes Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
  • The Philharmonic continues its tradition of performing great Broadway musicals with Carousel. Rodgers and Hammerstein's operatic show will be staged at Avery Fisher Hall and directed by James Brennan. Carousel runs for five performances and will open Feb. 27.
  • March has become the time of the season when the Philharmonic focuses on a single composer in a spring festival. This year, they offer The Bach Variations. The month-long festival, mounted in collaboration with the 92nd St. Y kicks off with a March 3 symposium. March 6 marks the first concert. The series will feature choral works (the Magnificat, the Mass in B minor) orchestral works and a collaboration with Hungarian pianist András Schiff. Mr Schiff will also make his debut as a conductor on April 3.
  • Christopher Rouse's presence as the orchestra's new Composer in Residence will be felt (and heard) throughout the season, especially at a series of four concerts featuring soloist Joshua Bell and Charles Ives' daunting Symphony No. 4, a massive work that requires two conductors.
  • This year's free Memorial Day Concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (May 27) features Bruckner's Third Symphony, as Alan Gilbert continues his survey of the major works by this heavyweight Austrian composer. For those wishing for better acoustics, the Bruckner Third will also be played in subscription concerts starting April 24, 2013.
  • June 6 is D-Day, as in Luigi Dallapiccola. The Philharmonic presents his one-act opera Il Prigionero, a 1948 work that offers a powerful statement about political oppression. This concert is presented as part of June Journey: Gilbert's Playlist, a season-ending series of concerts highlighting the many influences and personal musical taste of the New York Philharmonic's music director. 
  • The season ends with the welcome return of visionary designer Doug Fitch (Le Grand Macabre, The Cunning Little Vixen.) This time, the Brooklyn-based artist will mount Stravinsky's Petrushka, a ballet score about a love-struck puppet that meets a violent end.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Atlanta Lockout...Continued

ASO Management responds to musicians' statement with their own.
Dr. Stanley Rommenstein, president of the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra poses in the
Woodruff Arts Center.
Photo from WoodruffCenter.org,
This afternoon, Dr. Stanley A. Rommenstein, President of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra released a statement giving some details of the orchestra's side of its ongoing negotiations with its musicians. As a followup to an earlier Superconductor story detailing the lockout, and in the interest of journalistic fairness, here are the highlights from his prepared statement:
  • The deficit for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 was $2.7M...inclusive of $1.8M in non-sustainable sources (i.e. bequests and one-time gifts. Without them, the true operating deficit is $4.5M.
  • The ASO has been running an annual deficit of nearly $5M and the accumulated deficit is approaching $20M.
  • Average compensation of the musicians is $131,000, which currently includes 100% free health and dental coverage, free instrument insurance, retirement pension, and eight (8) weeks of paid vacation. 
  • Since 2006, average staff compensation has been reduced by 1.7%. During this same period, average musician compensation has risen 23.6%. 

Allan Kozinn: The Internet Strikes Back

Petition circulates to reinstate New York Times critic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Yes, it's me manipulating images again. Snip snip snippity snip.
(Pictures sourced from Allan Kozinn's Facebook page and Wikimedia Commons.)
Just one day after Norman Lebrecht's blog Slipped Disc called attention to The New York Times' "reassignment" of classical music critic Allan Kozinn to the post of "cultural reporter," voices on the Internet have come out in support of his reinstatement.

The story was covered yesterday on Superconductor.

The Day the Lights Went Out in Georgia

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra locks out musicians. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
An empty, silent campus and armed off-duty cops as the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra locks out its players.
Photo of the Woodruff Arts Center from Wikimedia Commons.
Jail bars added by the author.
A breaking story on Norman Lebrecht's blog Slipped Disc states that a lockout is in effect for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which threatens that ensemble's 2012-2013 season.

 Last month, Superconductor reported an impending labor impasse between the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association (ASOPA) and the Executive Board of the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC). That impasse has now escalated into a lockout.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Allan Kozinn Demoted at The New York Times

Veteran Times critic to become "cultural reporter."
by Paul J. Pelkonen
New York Times writer Allan Kozinn. Photo from his Facebook page.
In a fast-breaking story on Norman Lebrecht's blog Slipped Disc, it appears that respected New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn has been "demoted" to the post of "cultural reporter."

Full details are available on Mr. Lebrecht's site.

The September Short...Circuit

Back to the concert hall...slightly re-branded.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Just listen to the donut.
Hi folks. Yes this is our same monthly calendar with all the exciting performances happening in and around New York City. Just trying to brand it a little differently, in keeping with the blog name Superconductor.

Like it? Hate it? Don't care? Feedback please!

September is the start of the 2012-2013 classical and opera season in New York. The first ten days are pretty much dead, as we're all on vacation or engaged in furious writing of blog posts!

Here's the slate:

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.