About Superconductor

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, September 23, 2017

An Anthem of the Mind

Reflections on the National Anthem and the Trump presidency.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Three Flags by Jasper Johns from 1958.
Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In the last 24 hours of the never-ending cycle of news, tweets and sloganeering that has come to characterize American politics since the elevation of one Donald John Trump to the highest office in the land, another firestorm has erupted. The subject: Mr. Trump's decision last night to attack currently unemployed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his protest gesture of taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at NFL games.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Les contes d'Hoffmann

Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
I love you Miss Robot:  Erin Morley in a scene from Les contes d'Hoffmann.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Met revives Offenbach's final opera, a phantasmagorical tale about a writer trapped in stories of his own creation. Vittorio Grigolo is the hapless hero in this tragicomic classic.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Concert Review: Another Openin', Another Maestro

Jaap van Zweden opens the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jaap van Zweden accepts the "baton award."
Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 The New York Philharmonic.

The changing of the guard at any major symphony orchestra is a long and complicated process. For the New York Philharmonic, who are in the process of installing the Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden as its new music director, that process took another turn on Tueday night. Mr. van Zweden is not quite "here" yet. He will start his first official season with the orchestra in 2018 and conduct a few subscription concerts this year. Meanwhile, he will divide this season between New York, Hong Kong and Dallas, where he is in the final year of his contract.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Norma

A change of seasons and a change of divas for Opening Night.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sondra Radvanovsky (with knife) prepares for sacrifice in Norma.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 the Metropolitan Opera.

Norma is one of those operas that is all about the soprano singing the title role. In this case, the Metropolitan Opera opens its 2017-18 season with a new production by Sir David McVicar, starring Sondra Radvanovsky as the knife-wielding pagan priestess who reacts badly when she learns her boyfriend (the leader of the opposing Roman forces) is cheating on her....with her handmaiden.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The 2017-18 New York Philharmonic Season Preview

New York City's most prominent symphony orchestra unveils its new face.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The New York Philharmonic unveiled Jaap von Zweden (center) as its new Music Director.
Background art © 1983 Mad Magazine from Issue 259. Painting by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.
Photo butchery by the author.
The New York Philharmonic throws open its doors tomorrow night with a concert they are dubbing the Gala of 106 All-Stars. The program is unusual and heavy for an opening night: Gustav Mahler's burly five-movement Symphony No. 5. The real star of the show will be on the podium: Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden who is one year away from beginning his tenure as the orchestra's newest Music Director. This concert will be reviewed on Superconductor but if you're not going it will also be streamed live on Facebook.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Concert Review: A Precise Hit Will Start a Chain Reaction

The New York Philharmonic plays Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Three ships came back: the Rebels at the start of the Battle of Yavin.
Image from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope © 1997 Lucasfilm Ltd./The Walt Disney Company.

There would be no Star Wars without the music of  John Williams. On Friday night, the composer's stirring opening music sent hairs standing on end as the New York Philharmonic gave its second performance of the complete orchestral score of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Their task: accompanying George Lucas' 1997 remastered "Special Edition" of the beloved 1977 science fiction classic. This concert series will continue later this month with The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the most recent "official" episode in the series: The Force Awakens.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Head on the Block

Puccini's Turandot claims yet another victim.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Princess Turandot. Art from the original cover of the score as published by Ricordi.
The title character of Puccini's final opera Turandot is a fabulous Chinese princess, and possibly the most bloodthirsty heroine in opera. Y'see, Turandot, the daughter of the Chinese Emperor, is a single girl. And in a vow to her ancestor, she has her would-be suitors decapitated when they fail to answer three riddles. One could view this work as an exotic vision of ancient China through the eyes of a late Romantic Italian composer...or a game show gone horribly wrong.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Clown Shows in Brooklyn

Pagliacci postponed: gang of plucky kids may be responsible.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Actor Bill Skaarsgaard) visits LoftOpera.
Pennywise image © 2017 Lions Gate Studios. LoftOpera image © LoftOpera.
Photoshop by the clown that writes this blog.
Opera lovers may notice a gaping hole in the schedule this week. LoftOpera, that plucky and innovative company that mounts wonderful operas on the cheap has been forced to postpone   its planned production of Pagliacci, the bloody Leoncavallo verismo drama about a clown who goes berserk and murders his wife.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Concert Review: Naked Crunch

Apocalyptica celebrate 20 years of Metallica covers--on cellos. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The gentlemen of Apocalyptica: (l.r.) Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaasko, Paavo Lötjönen and Antero Manninen
in their video for "Battery." Image © 2017 Apocalyptica.

Twenty years ago, I was in the Record Factory in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn on a Saturday afternoon. The clerk, Fred showed me something "new and weird" that had just come in. It was by a band called Apocalyptica and was titled Plays Metallica for Four Cellos. Skeptical, I flipped it over. And that was when I recognized Eicca Toppinen, the Finnish cellist who is the band's leader and who I had met when he was playing in New York with the new music ensemble Avanti! the year before. Anyway, I bought it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Festival Preview: Star Wars at the New York Philharmonic

A long time ago, in a concert hall far away...
by Paul J. Pelkonen
His name is Lord Vader. Be extremely polite.
Star Wars art © 2017 Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and the Walt Disney Company,
used for purposes of promoting the New York Philharmonic only. 
In recent years, the New York Philharmonic has jumped squarely on the bandwagon of playing orchestral scores as accompaniment to popular films. This month though, America's oldest orchestra takes that experiment to hyperspace with the Star Wars Film Concert Series: performances of four of the seven films in the Star Wars franchise, with the orchestra thundering away (under the baton of David Newman) as the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia spool forth onscreen. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming out in December, this three-week cinematic marathon is just the place for Star Wars fans to get their inner Force into balance.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Opera Review: Minnie Shot First

The New York City Opera opens with La fanciulla del West.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A rootin'-tootin' romance: Jonathan Burton and Kristin Sampson in  La fanciulla del West.
Photo by Sara Shatz courtesy New York City Opera.

Of the mature operas by Giacomo Puccini, La fanciulla del West (English title The Girl of the Golden West) is unique. It was his first (and only) opera written for the American stage, premiering at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910 with Enrico Caruso in the tenor part and the composer in attendance. Based on a play by David Belasco, (he also provided Puccini with source material for Madama Butterfly) its ending preaches tolerance over tragedy. The final curtain descends on an ambiguous but generally happy note as the hero and heroine ride off into a new future. It was an inspired choice to open the second full season of the resuscitated New York City Opera.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Le Nozze di Figaro

Mozart's comedy of masters, servants and class warfare returns.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Ildar Abdrazakov and Isabel Leonard in a moment from Le Nozze di Figaro.
Photo courtesy the Metropolitan Opera.
The Met brings back its sparkling Figaro under the baton of English period performance maven Harry Bicket.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Hansel and Gretel

Cannibalism repurposed as holiday entertainment.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A delightful time for the whole family. Photo courtesy the Metropolitan Opera.

The Met revives Humperdinck's fairy tale (in English) in this fractured production by director Richard Jones. More cake?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Verdi Requiem

In place of the cancelled Forza, four concerts instead.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The subject matter of the Verdi Requiem, in one image.
Superconductor makes no endorsement of any one religion, belief or practice.
Giuseppe Verdi's setting of the Requiem Mass has been called his best opera that doesn't have a staging. Here, the Met offers this massive work as a substitute for its cancelled production of La Forza del Destino.

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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.