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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.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Night of the Holy Bail

Andris Nelsons is out of Bayreuth's new Parsifal.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Andris Nelsons at the helm of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Photo © 2016 the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
According to reports published today by The New York Times and the Boston Globe, Andris Nelsons, the fiery Latvian conductor who is the still-new music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra has exited from his commitment to open the 2016 Bayreuth Festival and its new production of Wagner's Parsifal.

Superconductor Audio Guide: Der Fliegende Holländer

The series sails forth with Wagner's high seas ghost story.

by Paul J. Pelkonen

The legendary ghost ship The Flying Dutchman inspired Wagner's 1843 opera.
Digital image is © UbiSoft.
This is the first outing, the maiden voyage if you will of a new feature on Superconductor focusing on classic (and some modern) recordings of the great "canon" operas. We're going to start with a series on the ten major operas of Wagner and whether it will continue beyond that will depend on how many of you all click and read. Sounds good? OK. Let's go.)

Der Fliegende Holländer is Richard Wagner's fourth opera, but the earliest of his works to be considered "canon" by the Bayreuth Festival, the German opera festival that was founded by the composer himself in an opera house of his own design in the tiny Franconian spa town of Bayreuth. Holländer (referred to hereafter by its English title The Flying Dutchman) was written in 1842 as the struggling Wagners lived in Paris and Richard tried (and failed) to get Rienzi staged at the Paris  Opera.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Festival Preview 2016: The MET Live in HD Screenings

Because watching movies of opera productions on a screen for free couldn't possibly diminish the opening of the actual opera season a month later....
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Mozart (Tom Hulce) celebrates a field goal in this scene from the
award-winning Milos Forman film Amadeus. Image © 1984 The Saul Zaentz Company/Orion Pictures.
This August, the Metropolitan Opera will fill Lincoln Center 's outdoor space with seats and turn Josie Robertson Plaza into a venue for repeats of the company's  omnipresent Live in HD series. This is an enjoyable summer festival event, free to all and stunning passers-by and curious tourists. Here's the slate for this year's festival which opens not with an opera but with an Academy Award-winning movie. And yes, we tell you which operas to catch and which ones to skip...or at least bring a good bottle of wine.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: The Orchestra Concerts

Superconductor recalls the five best orchestra concerts of Spring 2016.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The amazing Esa-Pekka Salonen in flight. Photo by Chris Lee.
The blog reviewed a lot of orchestra concerts this spring, with performances in far-flung exotic places like Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, NJ and Brooklyn, NY. Here's our list of the best-conducted and best-played shows of the last six months.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: The Recitals

We look at the best solo performance of the year so far.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Lisette Oropesa (right) in recital at the Park Avenue Armory.
Photo by Da Peng Nuo.
It takes nerve to go out on stage by yourself, or to take the stage with just your voice and a hopefully friendly pianist providing accompaniment. That's the premise of this look at five great recitals for piano and voice that Superconductor was witness to in the spring of 2016. Presented in just-about-chronological order.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: Chamber Music

Great music with an accent on the intimate.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Attacca Quartet goes underground
Photo by Andrew Ousley.
Sometimes music is best in small groups. With that in mind, Superconductor looks at intimate performances by three or more players, some of which were in decidedly unusual locations, like a crypt deep under a Harlem church, the upper level of a YMHA, or even...Carnegie Hall. Here's the best of chamber music from the spring of 2016.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: The Operas

The Five Best Operas of Spring 2016
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Theo Hoffman (right) and Kara Sainz as Papageno and Papagena
in Act II of Die Zauberflöte at Juilliard. Photo by Richard Termine for the Juilliard School.
This was a strange operatic spring for Superconductor. I missed most of the Met season (which turned out to be due to a computer battery problem (I couldn't sync with their computer to get rush tickets and it is still house policy not to bestow press tickets upon bloggers) so there were no Superconductor reviews of Les Pecheurs de PerlesManon Lescaut or even Roberto Devereux. As they say, c'est la guerre.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Concert Review: The Individual Against the System

Yefim Bronfman closes his Prokofiev cycle at Zankel Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The hands. Yefim Bronfman.
Portrait photo by Dario Acosta from the artist's website.
The classical music schedule is a big, hectic thing with artists girdling the globe in their efforts to meet each year's long slate of concerts and professional obligations. Sometimes, though things get re-scheduled and pushed to the very end of the season. That's what happened Saturday at Zankel Hall, when pianist Yefim Bronfman finally played the much-delayed final concert in his ambitious concert project exploring Serge Prokofiev's set of nine sonatas for solo piano.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Superconductor Audio Guide: The Wagner Operas

A new approach to old opera recordings on Superconductor .
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Richard Wagner at warp speed.

On Saturday night,  I was coming out of Carnegie Hall and the last concert of the season (which was Yefim Bronfman playing Prokofiev--review to follow.) And even though my vacation is coming up, I had an idea for an article series: to write a comprehensive Superconductor guide to the ten major Wagner operas and then maybe use that as a launch point for the tricky business of writing about some of the great recordings I know and love.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview: Mostly Mozart

For its 50th birthday, Lincoln Center pulls out all the stops.
by Paul J. Pelkonen


Before Mostly Mozart came into existence half a century ago, the idea of staying in the city in its hottest months to listen to classical music performances was practically nonexistent. Birthed in the airy confines of what was then Philharmonic Hall at the newly constructed Lincoln Center, the Mostly Mozart Festivl rapidly grew into a cultural oasis for New Yorkers in the month of August. It remains today a celebration of all that is beautiful and good.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Opera Review: Fireworks Over Jerusalem

A concert Rinaldo strikes sparks at the Kaufman Center
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Armida falls in love with Rinaldo. Rinaldo and Armida, painting by Nicolas Poussin 1629

The 39 operas written by Georg Friederich Handel are a trove of great music that has only recently been explored by modern listeners. It is the ambition of conductor and harpsichordist Jennifer Peterson and her company operamission to correct that. Last week, at the Merkin Concert Hall, operamission presented their most ambitious show yet. This was a concert performance of Handel's fourth opera Rinaldo with a period instrument orchestra and an impressive cast. The work was presented complete and in concert, with the audience supplied with xeroxed librettos and plot summaries of the extensive recitatives.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Concert Review: Freedom For Free

The New York Philharmonic plays Central Park.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert (left) conducts soloist Anthony McGill (right) and the New York
Philharmonic (foreground) in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2016 The New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park are a proud 51-year tradition. This year though the concert took place under a cloud, and not the wispy bits of cirrus fluff that hovered high over the stage. The cloud: the June 12 massacre in Orlando, Florida.  At the start of this concert, Philharmonic music director  Alan Gilbert stepped forward to announce a program change for the evening. The loping, playful overture to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra ("The Thieving Magpie") had been scrapped in favor of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, in memoriam of the victims. The remainder of the evening: with a Mozart concerto and a Strauss tone poem, would proceed unaltered.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Opera Review: A Madcap Marriage, Minus Mozart

On Site Opera mounts Marcos Portugal's Figaro.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Oh, Susanna: Jesse Blumberg as Figaro in the kitchen of 632 on Hudson.
Photo by Rebecca Fay for On Site Opera.
On Site Opera opened the second installment of a planned Beaumarchais trilogy on Tuesday night, with the North American premiere of The Marriage of Figaro, a version of the Beaumarchais play set to music by the largely forgotten Portuguese composer Marcos Portugal. Portugal's version of the opera came nine years after Mozart's and has been all but forgotten. Like Giovanni Paisiello's Barber of Seville (staged by this company a year ago) this is a noble work and well worthy of performance and revival. Figaro is still Figaro, and his wedding is always worth attending.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Concert Review: "And it was bye-bye New Jersey..."

Jacques Lacombe ends his tenure with the NJSO.
by Paul J. Pelkonen



It can be argued that the six year tenure of conductor Jacques Lacombe has been a general success for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. On Sunday afternoon at NJPAC, Mr. Lacombe ended his term as music director with a stylish concert that played to his passions and strengths: new music, Romantic repertory and French music the early 20th century, here represented by a pair of pieces by Maurice Ravel.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Concert Review: The Sophomore Jinx

The second NY Phil Biennial comes to an end.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert and orchestra take the last bows of the 2016 NY Phil Biennial.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2016 The New York Philharmonic.
The NY Phil Biennial just wrapped its second run at Lincoln Center with a pair of concerts on Saturday, featuring musicians from the Aspen Music Festival and School, followed by the the orchestra itself. And yet, this was a subdued affair, offering somber and sobering reflection where two years ago, ebullience and energy reigned. Two programs paid homage to the late composer Steven Stucky, whose works were heard alongside those of Pierre Boulez, Per Nørgård and the festival's curator, Esa-Pekka Salonen.

On Orlando, the Opera and Growing Up in Brooklyn

A reflection on fear, terror and the massacre at Pulse.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Frame-grab from The Simpsons episode "Bart the Genius"
© 1989 Gracie Films/20th Century Fox.

When I was a kid, you didn't talk about going to the opera.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Concert Review: With a Slide and a Clatter

Two concertos debut at the NY Phil Biennial.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Percussionist Martin Grubinger was the featured soloist
in John Corigliano's percussion concerto Conjurer. 
The NYPhil Biennial, that exuberant, multi-borough celebration of modern music by America’s oldest orchestra entered its home stretch on Friday night, with the first of two orchestral concerts at David Geffen Hall. And yet, the orchestra’s Lincoln Center home was sparsely seated on this pleasant summer night, with the fire of enthusiasm that marked the 2014 edition strangely muted. Audience members were confined to the orchestra level seats and their ranks swelled by a visiting conference of trombone enthusiasts.

Happy Birthday, Herr Doktor Strauss

Today is Richard Strauss' birthday. So here's some music.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

I've loved and admired the music of Richard Strauss ever since I first saw Die Frau Ohne Schatten at the Met. I was 16--and had no idea what was going on in the opera, had no titles and didn't have a word of German. But his music communicated to me instantly and he became a deep favorite.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Opera Review: Nun of Your Business

LoftOpera dazzles Bushwick with an aerial Comte Ory.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Bed-shaped: Thorsteinn Arbornsson (left) Sharin Apostolou (center) and Elizabeth Pojanowski
negotiate in the final scene of Le Comte Ory.
Photo by Robert Altman © 2016 LoftOpera.
 
It all started with a pair of flying nuns.

On Thursday night in Bushwick, LoftOpera offered the penultimate performance of  Le Comte Ory at the close of the 2015-16 spring season. This wild Rossini comedy that, almost two centuries after its 1828 debut has finally found its audience in the 21st century. The nuns in question were aerialists Nicki Miller and Chriselle Tidrick. The venue was The Muse, a circus training facility by day and cabaret by night, located hard by the railroad on a stretch of Moffat Street where the sidewalk (quite literally) ends.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Concert Review: Notes from the Underground

The Attacca Quartet play Haydn in a crypt.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Members of the Attacca Quartet rehearse in the crypt of the Church of the Intercession.
Photo by Andrew Ousley.
The Church of the Intercession sits on the corner of West 155th and Broadaway, an imposing 100-hyear-old stone pile located across from the equally historic Trinity Church Cemetary. A fantasy of peaked Gothic arches and stone passageways, the church is now home to the Crypt Sessions, a recital series played deep beneath the earth in the church's crypt. On Thursday night, this unlikely venue hosted the Attacca Quartet, performing Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview V: Glimmerglass Festival

Cooperstown, NY is your summer home for opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sweeney Todd cuts heads at this year's Glimmerglass Festival.
Photo of the Alice Busch Opera Theater © Glimmerglass Festival.
Strong and fair, see it stand on the northeast bank of Lake Otsego, that famed body of water featured in the Leatherstocking Tales of James Fenimore Cooper. It’s the Alice Busch Opera House, home of the Glimmerglass Festival, Cooprstown, New York’s most significant contribution to the performing arts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview Part IV: Lincoln Center Festival

Steve Reich, Chinese opera and (as usual) serious fun.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
He's cooler than you: Steve Reich.
Photo © Nonesuch Records.
The Lincoln Center Festival is the most fluid of the major summer events that fall under the loose umbrella of "classical music festivals" in New York City. One year, it might be presenting the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, another a slew of Russian operas rarely seen and heard at Lincoln Center. This year, it's changed again, with a focus on the music of Steve Reich, the rare art of Chinese opera and...wedding music from the Balkans. Why? Read on.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Recordings Review: A Breakout Performance

Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads Die Entführung aus dem Serail
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Uncaged: new Met maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads Mozart's
Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
The eyes of the opera world are currently on Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the fiery Quebecois conductor who, just last week was announced as the successor to James Levine at the Metropolitan Opera. So perhaps it is fitting that the recording under consideration this week is the third in his ongoing cycle of "major" Mozart operas for Deutsche Grammophon made in association with the Baden-Baden Festival. It is a much-needed new recording of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail with a starry cast and a new orchestral collaborator: the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This two-CD set, released in 2015 fills a need. (The fourth, Le Nozze di Figaro, will be released July 8 of this year.)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview III: Bard Festival

Up the Hudson, the Bard Festival revisits Puccini.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Just a settin' on the lawn. No, that statue of Puccini isn't really there.
Original photo of the Fisher Center © A. Zahner and Co.
The third part of our Summer Festival Preview features the Bard Festival, that celebration of the forgotten and the unusual in symphonic and operatic music of the 19th and 20th centuries. Held on the sprawling verdant campus of Bard College and fcused around the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center For the Performing Arts, Bard has a reputation as one of the elite summer festivals, a grand day out at the opera that is worth the long trip.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The True North Strong and Free

The Metropolitan Opera has its new music director.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

A savior comes from out the skies: Yannick Néser-Séguinn takes over at the Met.
Canadian superhero "Guardian" copyright 1982 by Marvel Comics. I
mage from Alpha Flight Vol. 1 No. 26. Art by John Byrne.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the next music director of the Met.

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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.