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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Opera Rewind: Foxy, Foxy

New York City Opera's classic The Cunning Little Vixen.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Frame grab of The Cunning Little Vixen with Gianna Rolandi in the title role of "Sharp-Ears."
Image © 1983 Live From Lincoln Center/New York City Opera.
Presented purely here for the dual purpose of nostalgia and education, this is a video of the New York City Opera's classic Maurice Sendak production of Leos Janacek's magical opera The Cunning Little Vixen. (Which will never be seen again as the sets and props were dumped at the company's auction over the winter.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Wagnerian Alternative

Where to see music drama in 2013-14.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Johan Engels' design for Act II of the new Parsifal in Chicago.
Stage model by Johan Engels © 2013 Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The 2013-14 opera season marks the first time since the 1918-19 season that the Metropolitan Opera is not performing Wagner.

With productions of all ten major Wagner operas in the company's repertory, Wagner is a staple (not to mention a box office draw) at the Met. However, due to some schedule changes and the health issuesof newly returned company music director James Levine, this year's slate does not include any of the ten major "canon" operas. It does feature a strong, entertaining mix of Russian opera and works by Richard Strauss and Vincenzo Bellini. But Wagnerians may be scratching their winged helmets, anxious for their fix of Germanic music drama.

The Met's choice to replace planned revivals of Tannhäuser and Parsifal in the 2013 schedule (with Dvorak's Rusalka and Berg's Wozzeck, respectively) leaves Wagnerphiles up the Hudson River without a proverbial swan boat. Happily, a look at the schedules of other American opera companies reveals that there are other Wagner performances of interest coming this season, and we  decided to put together this little survival guide to shepherd you through the 2013-14 season.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Superconductor Fall Preview: Carnegie Hall

2013-14 at the "Hall that Music Built."
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Ronald O. Perelman Stage in the Isaac Stern Auditorium in Carnegie Hall.
Photo from carnegiehall.org.
For serious concert-going, it's hard to do better than the 2013-14 schedule that Carnegie Hall has put forth this year. From the slate of piano recitals to the first New York appearances in decades of the Vienna State Opera, this is going to be a season to remember.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Concert Review: At Long Last, Mozart

Mostly Mozart 2013 concludes with the last three symphonies.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Conductor Louis Langrée led Friday's Mostly Mozart concert.
Photo © 2013 Lincoln Center.
This year at Mostly Mozart, the festival's namesake composer has been largely ignored in favor of an exploration of the major works of Ludwig van Beethoven by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. (And if you've been reading this blog for the last month, you know that the results have been mixed.) On Friday night, music director Louis Langrée led the final program of this year's Festival, a triptych of Mozart's three final symphonies. The orchestra, for its part, sounded relieved at the prospect of playing an all-Mozart evening.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Concert Review: The Departed and the Heroic

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment pays tribute to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Peter Sellars' production of Theodora at Glyndebourne.
Photo by Mike Hoban © 1996 Glyndebourne Festival.
On Thursday night, the Mostly Mozart Festival welcomed the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for a special concert of Handel arias and orchestral works, specifically dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. (who succumbed to breast cancer in 2006) was one of the premiere mezzo-sopranos of the modern age, a key member of a generation of singers responsible for renewing the public's interest in the operas of Handel and baroque repertory in general.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Recordings Review: Meet the New Gods

Marek Janowski records his second Das Rheingold.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alberich (left) chases the Rhine-daughters in the opening scene of Wagner's Das Rheingold.
Illustration by Arthur Rackham.
Any recording of Das Rheingold, the "preliminary evening" to Wagner's mighty tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen must, in the course of review be compared to the classic Deccarecording made in 1958 with Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic. So let's do that first. No, this new recording from Marek Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra  (released a few months ago on the PentaTone label) doesn't quite measure up. However, as a document capturing some interesting young artists and a snapshot of the current state of international Wagner singing, it certainly has value.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Opera Review: She Just Can't Wait to Be Queen

Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble mounts L'Incoronazione di Poppea
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Passion in the palace: Nerone (Alison Taylor Cheeseman, left) macks on Poppea (Greer Davis) in
Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's L'Incoronazione di Poppea. 
Photo by Brian Long © 2013 Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble.
The Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble took a major chance with this year's Summer Repertoire Project, pushing into the deep waters of Renaissance opera with its first production of Claudio Monteverdi's 1642 masterpiece L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Although it is the last of Monteverdi's works for the Venetian stage, Poppea is a milestone opera in that it was the first opera to portray actual historical figures on the stage instead of mythological or allegorical figures.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Concert Review: The Mother Weeps, the Voices Soar

Rossini's Stabat Mater at Mostly Mozart.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Gianandrea Noseda made his Mostly Mozart debut with Rossini's Stabat Mater
When you think of the name Giaoachino Rossini, it is usually in connection with the 39 operas he wrote by the age of 37, and not with choral music. On Wednesday night, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra offered the second of two performances of the composer's Stabat Mater, one of the few products of the composer's long retirement. The concert was conducted by Festival newcomer Gianandrea Noseda.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Opera Review: Off the Rack

The Budapest Festival Orchestra presents Le Nozze di Figaro.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Iván Fischer (lower right) supervises the good-natured insanity in Act II of
Le Nozze di Figaro at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival.
Photo by Richard Termine © 2013 Richard Termine.
One of the most eagerly anticipated events of this year's Mostly Mozart Festival is the return of conductor-director Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Mr. Fischer, who mounted a superb Don Giovanni two years ago) have returned to Lincoln Center with a new production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, seen Tuesday night at the Rose Theater.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Superconductor Interview: Victoria Crutchfield

The director brings L'Incoronazione di Poppea to Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Fresco from the Villa de Poppaea at Oplontis in southern Italy.
This house was built for her by the Roman Emperor Nero.
Can an opera from 1642 work in today's culture? That's the question facing director Victoria Crutchfield. Her new production of L'Incoronazione di Poppea ("The Coronation of Poppaea") is part of Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's 10th anniversary Summer Repertoire Project. Superconductor had time for a few quick words with the director, whose production opens at the E. 13th St. Theater.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Opera Review: The SPQR-Word

Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble presents La Clemenza di Tito.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Hilary Ginther (left) as Sesto and Elana Gleason as Vitellia plot and plan in
Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's new production of La Clemenza di Tito.
Photo by Angel Roy © 2013 Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
Of the mature operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it is La Clemenza di Tito that has the lowest reputation. The composer dashed off the work in ten days to meet a ridiculous crunch deadline--the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia. The libretto, recycled from a Metastasio story, is somewhat dated with an 18th century approach to classical drama and politics and a musical style that clashes between Mozart's late-period innovations and the stage conventions of opera seria.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Concert Review: Trip Through Her Wires

Isabelle Faust plays a doubleheader at Mostly Mozart.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Isabelle Faust and her Stradivarius, the "Sleeping Beauty."
Photo by Marco Borggreve  © 2010 harmonia mundi.
The violinist Isabelle Faust and her Stradivarius were at the center of two performances on Saturday night at the Mostly Mozart festival. The first featured the German violinist as soloist in Mozart's Turkish Concerto. The second, an intimate gathering at the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse featured two of Bach's solo works for the violin: the Sonata No. 2 and Partita No. 3.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Opera Preview: What Goes On in the Capital

Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's Standard Repertoire Project goes to Rome.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Roman emperors Nero (left) and Titus (right) are the stars of the
summer Standard Repertory Project as Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
celebrates its tenth anniversary season.
For the past decade, Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble has provided a home for young singers, and its Standard Repertoire Project has gotten those singers opportunities on the stage. For its tenth anniversary season music director Christopher Fecteau has put together a formidable one-two combination of operas: Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.

Obituary: Regina Resnik, 1922-2013

From Bronx baby to international opera star.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A gypsy from the Bronx: Regina Resnik.
Regina Resnik, the opera singer who went from soprano roles to mezzo to a Tony-nominated career on Broadway, died today. She was 90.

Born in 1922 in the Bronx, Ms. Resnik studied drama and music at Hunter College. She vaulted to stardom on December 6, 1944, when she debuted at the Met. On just 24 hours notice, she stepped in for Zinka Milanov in Verdi's Il Trovatore. This launched a ten-year career playing opera heroines in works by Mozart Beethovem Wagner, Veri and uccini. She was the first singer to play Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes at the Met, and she created the role of Delilah in Bernard Rogers' now-forgotten opera The Warrior.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Aunt Petunia and the Deathly Opera

Fiona Shaw to direct Eugene Onegin.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Fiona Shaw (right) receives the shocking news that she's directing Eugene Onegin at the Met.
OK. Yes. That's a still from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone with Ms. Shaw (right,)
Richard Griffiths (center) and Harry Melling (right.) Can't fool you for a second.
Movie still from  Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone © 2001 Warner Bros.
The Metropolitan Opera announced today that actor-director Fiona Shaw, best known to American audiences as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter films will step in for Deborah Warner to direct the company's new production of Eugene Onegin. Onegin, a collaboration with the English National Opera is scheduled to open the 2013 season.

Opera Review: Things Are Going to Get Merry Here

Salzburg's new Die Meistersinger is just...dreamy.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Hammer time: Michael Volle is Hans Sachs in Salzburg.
Frame-grab from the live stream of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Image and likeness © 2013 Salzburger Festspiele.
It is a small miracle of modern technology that blogs such as this one (given a limited budget for travel) can write about important new opera productions on another continent. It's true that the live opera house performance is always preferable to the recording, but in the case of this new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Salzburg Festival, the availability of a live stream is very welcome indeed, especially as this new production may be bound for the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in the near future.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Recordings Review: All The Young Dudes

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a Don Giovanni for our times.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo in DG promotional art for Don Giovanni.
Image © 2012 Deutsche Grammophon/UMG
When a major label like Deutsche Grammophon puts out yet another recording of Mozart's Don Giovanni, it is a significant event. This 2012 set, (recorded live at a 2011 concert performance in Baden-Baden) is the Yellow Label's seventh, and the first in a new complete cycle of the major Mozart operas under the baton of conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Norma

Two great divas; one bel canto classic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Angela Meade (left) and Sondra Radvanovsky are appearing in Norma this season...
...though not together. Photoshop by the author.
This October run of Vincenzo Bellini's most famous opera is one show you may want to see twice. Two great singers take on the title role, with Sondra Radvanovsky singing the first six performances, followed by Angela Meade in the last three. In all performances, Kate Aldrich is Adalgisa and Aleksandrs Antonenko is Pollione.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Concert Review: The Bucolic Beethoven

It's mostly--make that all Beethoven as Mostly Mozart continues.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Emanuel Ax. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco for EmanuelAx.com and Sony Classical.
The second concert series of this year's Mostly Mozart Festival showed total focus on Ludwig van Beethoven, presenting a program that consisted exclusively of that composer's work. On Friday night, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Sixth Symphony, representing two cheerful highlights from this popular composer's vast catalogue.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Nose

The Shostakovich comedy is back for another run.
(For the Superconductor review of The Nose, visit this link.) by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Nose makes a run for it as the Met revives William Kentridge's 2010 production.
Image © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.
Opera fans, rejoice: the beezer is back.

The Nose, based on a story by Nikolai Gogol is Shostakovich's first opera, a wild, absurdist comedy that recounts the story of Kovalyov, an unfortunate bureaucrat (Paulo Szot, reprising his performance from 2010) who receives an unexpected total rhinectomy from his barber one morning.

Injured Mezzo Sues Metropolitan Opera

Singer sues following 2011 Faust fall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Wendy White (right) as Marthe in the Met's production of Faust,
with bass René Pape as Mephistopheles.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2011 The Metropolitan Opera.
According to a story published today on the official website of The New York Times, opera singer Wendy White has filed suit against the Metropolitan Opera following an injury suffered onstage in 2011. A copy of the complaint appears here, hosted by her good friends at parterre box. (The pertinent parts of the document are on pages 8 and 9).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Robbery, Shootout, Revelation

Turning up the Heat with Elliot Goldenthal's soundtrack.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Robert De Niro as robber Neil McCauley in a still the Michael Mann film Heat.
Image © 1995 Regency Entertainment-Warner Bros.
I don't write much about film music on this blog. Sure, movies and so-called classical or art music have been joined at the hip since the heady Hollywood days of Franz Waxman and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. But in today's column I'd like to talk about composer Elliot Goldenthal, and the extraordinary soundtrack for Michael Mann's 1995 heist movie Heat.

Heat is more than just a cops-and-robbers story: it is an epic three-hour Los Angeles saga with an all-star cast (the leads are Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, along with a "laundry list" of skilled actors, many of them in tiny supporting parts) Shot entirely on location and taking place mostly at night (although De Niro's "crew" of robbers stages their two most spectacular thefts in daylight) it immerses you in the lives of both the crooks and the cops, exploring their characters with a depth that goes far beyond the usual formulas of the genre.

But what I really want to talk about is the music.

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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.