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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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Die Fledermaus

The Met revives the one about the guy in the bat costume. (Not Bruce Wayne.)
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Clock's already ticking: the dancers of Die Fledermaus.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera resuscitates its 2013 production of Johann Strauss Jr.'s most popular operetta Die Fledermaus. This is the frothy Viennese comedy: the story of a guy determined to cheat on his wife, a saucy maid out to have a good time, and the Italian tenor who winds up getting (accidentally) thrown in jail. The only hitch: a lurching, unfunny English libretto, which is a step down from the German original.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Concert Review: The Mountain of Madness

Daniil Trifonov closes out Rachmaninoff at the Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The young gun: Daniil Trifonov is set to take over the world
...and just joined the board of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo © 2015 Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Group.
It's been a good month for piano aficionados at the New York Philharmonic, where newly minted board member Daniil Trifonov is wrapping up a three-week overview of the career of Sergei Rachmaninoff, the tall, dour Russian virtuoso whose piano music combines lyricism and technical challenges in a way that makes his four concertos the equivalent of an expedition to conquer the Himalayas.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Opera Review: The World Has Gone Mad

A modern double bill opens Juilliard Opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"HALLO-HALLO!" The Drummer (Amanda Lynn Bottoms, right)
announces the Emperor's intentions in a scene from Der Kaiser von Atlantis.
Photo by Nan Merriman © 2015 The Juilliard School.
As I write this, our world as we know it is under siege. In Paris, religious fanatics fire machine-guns into crowds, punishing people for daring to go out-of-doors. Here in America, capitalist fanatics engage in racist rhetoric in  an attempt to become the leader of the free world. It is apt, then that the Juilliard Opera chose to open its 2015 season with a double-barreled blast of cynicism: Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

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Announcing our LOW Holiday Rates!

The holidays are here and what better way to show that you love your arts organization than by buying a reasonably priced banner or tile on Superconductor. We are once more offering reduced rates on our banner and tile advertising for the two weeks leading up to Christmas: with a special Messiah discount that' too hot to Handel!

Superconductor by Paul J. Pelkonen is a bespoke classical music and opera publication offering concert reviews, opera reviews, opinion, music commentary, news items and the occasional April Fool's post. Written and published by New York-based music journalist and critic Paul J. Pelkonen, Superconductor has drawn recognition for its coverage of major arts organizations in New York City and elsewhere.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Concert Review: Underdog Day Afternoon

Week 2 of Rachmaninoff at the Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The jaywalking virtuoso: Daniil Trifonov on his way to work.
Photo © 2015 The New York Philharmonic.
As a composer and touring soloist, Sergei Rachmaninoff was respected for his place as the last of the Russian romantic and loved for his fearsome piano technique. Although he remains one of the most popular composers of the 20th century, some of his vast catalogue remains off the radar of the music-loving public. This week, the New York Philharmonic sought to correct that oversight with the second set of concerts in their ongoing three-week celebration dubbed Rachmaninoff: A Philharmonic Festival.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Concert Review: The Duel of the Fates

The Berlin Philharmonic plays Beethoven at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sir Simon Rattle leads the Berlin Philharmonic.
Photo by Sebastien Grébille © 2014 The Berlin Philharmonic.
The Berlin Philharmonic has long enjoyed a sterling reputation as the crown jewel of German orchestras, helped by its location in that nation's capital and its hefty recorded catalogue under a succession of legendary music directors. Sir Simon Rattle is getting ready to wrap up his term as the orchestra's leader. And what better way to start his farewell than with all nine Beethoven symphonies, presented in a five-night marathon on the hallowed stage of Carnegie Hall? The Berliners took the stage to warm applause, with a packed house gathered to hear this venerable orchestra in the bright acoustic of Stern Auditorium.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La bohème

The timeless and much-repaired Zeffirelli production is back for three runs.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Upper West Side real estate. Sleeps four. Act I of La bohème.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.

To its credit, the Metropolitan Opera is pretty good about stocking its frequent revivals of La Bohème with solid casts of singers who do a wonderful job with Puccini's too-familiar score. This year's revival features three seperate casts, with Rámon Vargas and Bryan Hymel each taking on the role of the ardent poet Rodolfo who falls head-over-notebook for the seamstress Mímí in belle epoque Paris.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Concert Review: Magic In His Fingers

Daniil Trifonov opens the Philharmonic's Rachmaninoff festival.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
You gotta say yes to another excess: Daniil Trifonov.
Photo by Dario Acosta for Deutsche Grammophon/UMG 
Although he is just 24, Daniil Trifonov has established himself at the forefront of an impressive crop of pianists, young Steinway jockeys determined to return old-school virtuosity to the concert hall. On Wednesday night, Mr. Trifonov opened a three-week festival stand with the New York Philharmonic. The focus: the music of Russian composer and virtuoso Sergei Rachmaninoff, with three different conductors scheduled to take the podium in David Geffen Hall.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Opera Review: A Fatal Heroine Overdose

A new Lulu tears up the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

lu·lu: ˈlo͞olo͞o/ noun (informal), noun: lulu; plural noun: lulus
1. an outstanding example of a particular type of person or thing. Usage: "as far as nightmares went, this one was a lulu"
Smoking hot: Marliss Petersen as Lulu in the new Met production.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
Alban Berg's Lulu is an opera that lives up to the above definition. For his second and final opera Berg set two plays (Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora) by Franz Wedekind and set them to a dizzying score that uses a wide range of techniques: chromaticism, serialism, atonality and even jazz to a kaleidoscopic rush through the life of a femme fatale who destroys every man and woman who crosses her path. This new Met production (seen Monday night) is the second in the history of this illustrious company, who have made this kinky, knotty opera something of a specialty.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Concert Review: The Intimate Mozart

The New York Philharmonic goes all classicist.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The young composer uses Ultra-Brite™.
An all-Mozart program by a major symphony orchestra is an unusual undertaking in that it uses a proportionately small number of musicians playing on the vast stage of a venue like David Geffen Hall. For last week's concert, Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic chose an unusual program: setting aside the usual fare (opera overtures, piano concertos and symphonies) for lesser known works from the composer's enormous catalogue.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Opera Review: She's Bigger Than Life

Angela Gheorghiu brings her Tosca to the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The odd couple: Angela Gheorghiu (left) menaced by Željko Lučić in Tosca.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
A revival of the Metropolitan Opera's ugly and unloved Luc Bondy staging of Puccini's Tosca is not a cause to celebrate. However the appearance of Angela Gheorghiu in her first performances of the title role in New York City, is. On Monday night, Ms. Gheorghiu sang the second and last of her two Met appearances this season, in the title role of Puccini's most violent opera.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Concert Review: The 19-ton Orchestra

Christine Brewer and Paul Jacobs at Alice Tully Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
In recital: soprano Christine Brewer sang at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday.
Photo courtesy Lincoln Center.
Of the keyboard instruments, the pipe organ is the one that can approximate not only the sound of a full symphony orchestra, but the unique tone of the human voice as well. On Sunday afternoon, dramatic soprano Christine Brewer and organist Paul Jacobs gave a concert in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. This performance, part of the 2015 White Light Festival, paired Ms. Brewer's big, potent instrument with the Alice Tully Hall Organ.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats