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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 © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Figaro's barber shop is back in business.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee has an issue with the wig department.
Photo from Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
Although it was a complete and utter fiasco on its opening night in 1816, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia remains the heavyweight champ among operatic comedies. The adventures of Figaro and company have held the stage in one form or another for 198 years, and remains the composer's most famous work.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Aida

The Met goes back to Egypt in search of box office gold.
Tomb raiders: Aida (Liudmila Monastyrska, l.) emotes as Amneris (Olga Boridina) glowers in the Met's
latest revival of Verdi's Aida. Photo by Marty Sohl © 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.

Aida is an opera that people see for the spectacle, and for the grand illusion of Egypt that is conjured by Verdi's imaginative use of the orchestra and martial themes. It is also an intimate love story set against this grand backdrop, with two girls (who both happen to be princesses) in love with the same guy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Macbeth

The Met revives the Scottish tragedy (not Lucia) for Anna Netrebko. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A dame to kill for: a bewigged Anna Netrebko in Martin Kušej' Munich  Macbeth.
Photo © 2014 Bayerische Staatsoper.
The Metropolitan Opera is hoping that Giuseppe Verdi's operatic adaptation of Shakespeare's bloody tragedy will translate into good box office gold by casting Russian superstar Anna Netrebko in the key role of Lady Macbeth. The soprano recently sang the role in Munich at the Bayerische Staatsoper.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Ten Best Simpsons Classical/Opera Moments
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Scratchy (left) stalks Itchy in a scene from Roger Meyers' cartoon classic Scratchtasia.
Original image from The Simpsons episode Itchy and Scratchy Land © 1994 Fox/Gracie Films
I'm in the middle of two marathons right now. One is the 2014 Superconductor Metropolitan Opera Preview, our annual look at all the opera productions that the Met is mounting next season. As I'm writing, my efforts have been accompanied by The Simpsons Every Episode Marathon. So off the top of my head, here are the greatest "serious music" moments in the show's 552 episodes. Chronological order. (I had to look up the dates--my memory is good, it's not that good.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Snap Out of It! The Met Live in HD Festival

Opera company teases season with eleven days of outside broadcasts.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Opera lovers: Cher (left) and Nicolas Cage (right) in a production still from Moonstruck.
Image © 1987 MGM.
The Metropolitan Opera has settled its labor crisis, just in time for the company's annual 11-night celebration of general manager Peter Gelb's Live in HD series. This has been one of the better initiatives of the Gelb administration, an annual goodwill gesture inviting opera lovers to Lincoln Center Plaza to watch past broadcasts on a giant screen mounted on the Grand Tier balcony.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Opera Review: Not the Jack You Know

Dell'Arte Opera presents Antonio Salieri.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Windsor Forest in a wrestling singlet: Gary Ramsey (center) stars in Falstaff.
Photo by Brian Long © 2014 Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble.
Thanks to the 1984 Academy Award-winning film Amadeus, the composer Antonio Salieri is, to most people "the guy who killed Mozart."  Last week, the Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, currently in the middle of a festival celebrating operatic adaptations of the work of Shakespeare, chose to mount Salieri's 1799 opera Falstaff, ossia il tre Burle ("The Three Jokes"), providing some much needed healing for this unjustly ignored composer, whose forty operas lie mostly in the locked desk drawers of history.

Concert Review: The Hard Road to the Heavens

Mostly Mozart takes on Beethoven's Ninth.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Conductor Gianandrea Noseda returned to Mostly Mozart last week.
Photo © 2013 by Dan Porges.
The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra refocused itself on Beethoven last night, with the first of two concerts pairing the composer's rarely heard Overture for the Consecration of the House with the Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, at once the most difficult, radical and best known work in the entire symphonic repertory.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"And We Go Into Extra Innings!"

Early morning agreement may save the Met season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Deliberations continue as the Metropolitan Opera tries to avoid a lockout.
Image from the film 12 Angry Men © 1957 MGM/United Artists.
It looks like there may not be a lockout at the Metropolitan Opera.

In a story announced on Twitter at 6:58am by New York Times reporter Michael Cooper, the Metropolitan Opera and the two unions representing the orchestra, singers, dancers and chorus have reached a tentative agreement.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Lady Vanishes

Marina Poplavskaya fades out of Figaro.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Marina Poplavskaya has faded from the picture and stepped down from the 2014
Metropolitan Opera season opener. Photo of Ms. Poplavskaya from the 2013
production of Eugene Onegin by Ken Howard © 2013 by the Metropolitan Opera.
Photo alteration and solarization by the author.
The Metropolitan Opera, currently locked in a standoff with twelve of the sixteen unions that make up the workforce at America's largest opera house, has announced that Marina Poplavskaya has bowed out as the Countess Almaviva of the season-opening run of Le Nozze di Figaro.

The announcement from the Met press office arrived on Twitter yesterday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Opera Review: A Well-Dressed and Interesting Monster

Handel comes back to Mostly Mozart with Acis and Galatea.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Happy three: Thomas Cooley, Yulia van Doren and Michael Williams
in Acis and Galatea at the Mostly Mozart Festival.
Not every opera composer got to tell the same story twice.

Georg Frederic Handel did though, with Acis and Galatea, the sole operatic offering of this summer's Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. The opera contains some of the composer's most inspired late music for the stage and remains one of the composer's most beloved works.

Your Cure For a Bad Day in Three Minutes

An appreciation of Gassenhauer by Carl Orff.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The composer Carl Orff (right) in the classroom.
If, like me, you spend time in between interactions with this particular blog by watching too many movies, you may have at some point run across this short piece of music:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doomsday Postponed (Again)

Met extends lockout deadline by  one week. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The demon Surtur (right) prepares for Ragnarok in the pages of The Mighty Thor.
Pencils and art by Walter Simonson © 1983 Marvel Comics.
Here at Superconductor world headquarters (which rests mostly in the gelatinous mass of neurons between the ears of a portly 41-year-old Brooklynite with a penchant for James Bond movies, comic books and obscure Parsifal jokes) this otherwise pleasant August weekend (game night with close friends on Saturday, fantasy football draft and bar night on Sunday) was continually interrupted with thoughts of the Metropolitan Opera labor negotiations and what the result would be once an independent auditor completed his examination of the opera company's financial documents.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Concert Review: Future to Past

The violinist Christian Tetzlaff at Mostly Mozart.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The violinist Christian Tetzlaff. Photo © 2014 by Klaus Rudolph.
The month-long Mostly Mozart festival at Lincoln Center is usually where listeners go to escape accidental exposure to any works that might have been written in the past 200 years. The festival's focus is, after all Mozart with occasional leavenings of Beethoven and Bach. So it was a surprise that Wednesday's concert opened with a piece by...Alfred Schnittke?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Concert Review: Famous Last Words

The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra plays Beethoven and Haydn.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Watch out for that tree: pianist Steven Osborne.
Photo by Eric Richmond © 2014 from the artist's website 
The term "classical" music takes its name from the so-called "classical" era, from 1774 to 1827. This was a time where composers became interested in writing structured works that adhered to their perception of architectural perfection in the Greek and Roman ("classic") style. These composers, which include Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven became masters of putting beautiful content into strict form and their work still endures like those ruins in Italy and Greece.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Opera Review: A Girl with a Bad Reputation

Bard SummerScape presents Euryanthe.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Hand jive: Euryanthe (Ellie Dehn) and Eglantine (Wendy Bryn Harmer) face off in
a scene from Weber's romantic opera Euryanthe. Photo by Cory Weaver © 2014 Bard SummerScape.
Carl Maria von Weber's Euryanthe has finally beaten the odds.

The opera, which is running at the Bard Festival as part of that institution's SummerScape series, has overcome a bad libretto, a hard-to-pronounce title (it's "Oy-ree-an-theh") and consignment to the yawning void reserved for German romantic operas that were written before the rise of Richard Wagner. These performances, conducted by Bard president Leon Botstein at the helm of the American Symphony Orchestra mark the first fully staged performances of the opera in the U.S. since a brief run at the Met in the 1914-15 season.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Concert Review: The Prodigy as Prodigal Son

Mostly Mozart opens (formally) in style.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Conductor Louis Langrée returns to lead Mostly Mozart.
Photo © 2014 Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
The Mostly Mozart Festival is the oldest of Lincoln Center's summer performing arts extravaganzas. In recent years, the stewardship of music director Louis Langrée has led to a resurgence in quality. The addition of a special concert stage reconfigures Avery Fisher Hall into a more intimate venue. The audience is seated in part on the Philharmonic stage,  and the musicians play on a specially constructed platform under a set of baffles designed to brighten the sound of the room.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats