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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Opera Review: This...is...Jeopardy!

The Metropolitan Opera revives Turandot.
James Morris (center) celebrated 1,000 performances at the Metropolitan Opera on
Tuesday. Here he appears as Timur in  Turandot with Aleksandrs Antonenko (left) as
The Unknown Prince and Maria Agresta (right) as Liù in Puccini's opera.
Photo by Marty Sohl copyright 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.

Turandot is Giacomo Puccini’s final, unfinished work. It is a a grand fantasy of legendary China as reimagined through the lens of Italian romanticism. It is a farm tale, the story of an ice-hearted princess and the fearless Prince who wins her hand. It is seen (wrongly) as the end point of the genre of Italian opera. It is also, along with La bohème, the last of the Metropolitan Opera’s giant Franco Zeffirelli productions, crowded extravaganzas that evoke the opulence of a bygone era. (In this case, we’re talking about the 1980s.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Exterminating Angel

Thomas Adès' new opera arrives, where no-one is allowed to leave.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The party's not over: a scene from The Exterminating Angel.
Photo by Monika Rittershaus from the Salzburg Festival, courtesy the Metropolitan Opera.
A group of strangers are held in place by a mysterious force. Is it Stephen King's Under the Dome? The Eagle's "Hotel California?" No, it's The Exterminating Angel, a new opera based on the work that may have inspired those works of art,  The opera is based on the surreal 1962 film by Luis Buñue. At a strange dinner party, the guests find out that they are not allowed to leave. Their imprisonment turns comedy into drama and reveals the base nature of the many protagonists.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Opera Review: The Exes Mark the Spot

Vittorio Grigolo procrastinates through Les Contes d'Hoffmann.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Left behind: Stella (Anna Hartig, center) leaves Hoffmann (Vittorio Grigolo, left)
with the diabolical Lindorf (right) in the finale of Les contes d'Hoffmann.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
As a writer, it's hard not to have a soft spot for Les contes d'Hoffmann. No matter how many times this reviewer has seen it (ten), the final opera by Jacques Offenbach (English title: "The Tales of Hoffmann") never fails to move. Offenbach's opera, which was unfinished at the time of the composer's death, features the poet, composer and writer E.T.A. Hoffmann as the unwilling and unwitting protagonist of his own fantastical stories. He sits in a Munich tavern, drinking and telling tales of his past romantic affairs as he waits for his beloved Stella, an opera singer performing next door.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Concert Review: Earth-Shattering Kabooms

Paavo Järvi conducts the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Conductor Paavo Järvii led the New York Philharmonic this week.
Photo © Harrison  Parrott.
The New York Philharmonic is (finally) back from a galaxy far, far away. This week marked the orchestra’s second traditional program of the season, with guest conductor Paavo Järvi leading works by composer-in-residence Esa-Pekka Salonen alongside music by Rachmaninoff and Sibelius. For Mr. Järvi, son of a famed Estonian conductor and a maestro in his own right (currently with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo) this was a concert that played squarely to his strengths.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Concert Review: Where Science Has Lease

The Orchestra of St. Luke's opens its season at Carnegie Hall.
Pablo Heras-Casado.
Photo from the conductor's official website.
All entities must evolve to survive, and the Orchestra of St. Lukes has undergone some changes in recent years. The ensemble, which originated playing chamber music at the Church of St. Lukes in the Fields in Greenwich Village has had, since 2011,  a permanent address: the Dimenna Center on Manhattan's West Side. They are also about to change music directors again, with period performance expert Bernard Labardie slotted to replace Pablo Heras-Casado next season.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Concert Review: The Bleeding Hearts and Artists

The American Symphony Orchestra stands up for what's right.
Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland back in the day.
Photo from the estate of Leonard Bernstein.

A peculiar sense of existential dread hung over Wednesday night’s concert at Carnegie Hall, the first of the young season featuring the American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its long time music director Dr. Leon Botstein. For this concert, titled “The Sounds of Democracy”,Dr. Botstein chose 20th century music by Leonard Bernstein, Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland, leading lights of American music in the last century but now largely ignored by the fast-food reality-television culture of the 21st.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dmitri Hvorostovsky is Not Dead

Russian baritone "sleeping peacefully" at home.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Dmitri Hvorostovsky in his most recent appearance at the Met.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
Earlier tonight Superconductor posted that the 54 year old Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky had died. Apparently he is not dead, but sleeping peacefully next to his wife Florence at his London home. Earlier today, a Russian news website had reported his death.

Opera Review: Flowers in the Attic

Singing defeats spectacle in the Met's latest La bohème.
Angel Blue and Dmytro Popov share a tender moment in Act III of   La bohème.
Photo by Marty Sohl Copyright 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera’s Franco Zeffirelli production of La bohème is the company's biggest export. Seen in films and commercials, this series of ginormous Parisian picture postcards can swallow up singers. With 250 people onstage at one point in Act II and a huge simulated blizzard in Act III, this show risks rendering the love story of Rodolfo and Mimì redundant in the face of its spectacle. However, thanks to a stellar cast of young singers and a fresh face on the podium, this current revival is quite possibly the Met’s best Bohème in many years.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Moscow is Back on the Hudson

The Met and the Bolshoi prepare to make music together.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Going Vegas? Anna Netrebko's new Aida at the Met will be staged by Michael Mayer.
Here, the diva sings in front of the Luxor Hotel thanks to the magic of digital photo alteration.
Image © Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas. Image of Anna Netrebko © Salzburg Festival. Photoshop by Lord Voldemort.

The Metropolitan Opera has locked down its plans for three new productions between 2019 and 2021. The operas in question are Aida, Salome and Lohengrin Finally, these three new productions will be staged in collaboration with the Bolshoi Theater, the Russian-based opera and ballet company that is Moscow's biggest opera house. Each of these three premieres will feature soprano Anna Netrebko in prominent roles: the title role in Aida and Salome and as Elsa in Lohengrin.

Concert Review: Saving the Galaxy (and the franchise)

The New York Philharmonic ends its Star Wars marathon. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Adam Driver as the villainous Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Image © 2015 The Walt Disney Corporation used for promotional purposes only.
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII to fans) hit movie theaters in 2015, the franchise's fanbase had a right to be nervous. Would this new film, produced by Disney and set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi bring the Force back into balance? Or would it be another dark, turgid history lesson in the vein of the murky "Prequel Trilogy?" Happily, Force Awakens is the former, and the New York Philharmonic paid tribute to the next generation of Jedi with Saturday night's concert, the second of two complete performances of the John Williams score and the last in the orchestra's four-film cycle of Star Wars performances.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Turandot

Fantastical, phantasmagorical and faintly ridiculous.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
That's amore: Marcelo Alvarez (center) woos Turandot as thousands cheer.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Met's elaborate production of Puccini's final opera returns to the delight of people who like "Nessun dorma" and big, elaborate productions.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Concert Review: Of Intimacies and Mortal Thoughts

Mischa Maisky and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra open the 92nd St. Y season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Mischa Maisky. Photo © Deutsche Grammophon/UMG.
Ask a music lover (like your humble narrator!) what hall has the "best" acoustics in New York, and the response might well be the Kaufman Auditorium. This wood-paneled, intimate hall is the centerpiece of the 92nd St. Y, that educational and cultural center that stands foremost among such institutions on Manhattan’s swanky Upper East Side. In addition to its lectures, social events and educational programs, the 'Y' offers top-flight lieder, chamber music and occasional orchestral concerts, all of which are among the finest New York offers in terms of musical quality. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Concert Review: Four-Armed is Forewarned

The Philadelphia Orchestra opens Carnegie Hall
by Paul J. Pelkonen

The pianist Lang Lang. Presumably this is not how he injured his left hand before Wednesday night's season-opening Carnegie Hall concert where he played with Chick Corea and Maxim Lando. Photo © Sony Classical.

How do you get three pianists to play together?

That conundrum, explored by only a few composers over the centuries, was what faced Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra as they prepared for Wednesday night's concert opening the 2017-18 season at Carnegie Hall. The program featured two Leonard Bernstein works flanking George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. This was an important concert for the resurgent Philadelphians, who missed their chance to play opening night three years ago. It was also a crucial concert for music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, whose profile has risen in New York since he accepted the post of music director at the Metropolitan Opera, effective in the 2020 season.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Carnegie Hall 2017-2018 Season Preview

The Hall Where Music Lives sets the wayback machine.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Two visitors check out Carnegie Hall (left) in the 1960s.
Sherman and Mr. Peabody © Dreamworks Entertainment.
The science of time travel is not normally associated with the classical music business. And yet, one might argue that the finest time travel device in New York City stands not in some hidden laboratory but on the corner of 57th St. and Seventh Avenue. That's right, it's Carnegie Hall, whose 2017-18 season offers the intrepid listener a chance to travel between centuries and musical worlds.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Concert Review: Sometimes the Bad Guys Win

The New York Philharmonic plays The Empire Strikes Back.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The father-son reunion at the climax of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Image © 1980 LucasFilm, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is generally considered to be the best Star Wars film ever made. The dark middle chapter of the original trilogy came out in 1980 as the second movie released, and remains a firm fan favorite. It boasts an expanded universe, a complicated storyline alternating between the flight of Han Solo and Princess Leia from the evil and remorseless Darth Vader, and the Jedi training of Luke Skywalker at the hands of the diminuitive but wise Yoda.

Trending on Superconductor


Share My Blog!

Share |

Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

My photo

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.