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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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview II: Caramoor

The elegant estate in Katonah, NY has a full slate planned.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Baton out of nowhere: Gil Shaham in concert at Caramoor. The violinist will
close out the 2016 festival season Aug. 7. Photo © Caramoor Music Festival.
The Superconductor survey of the upcoming summer festival schedule moves just north of the city to Caramoor, an elegant, sprawling estate with shady, graveled walks, rolling grassy lawns and its own hedge maze. Caramoor also boasts a strong schedule of classical concerts, and the annual Bel Canto at Caramoor concert performances in the Venetian Theater are a magnet for Gotham opera-goers.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview I: The Met and the Philharmonic

Free concerts in the parks start the summer season right.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The New York Philharmonic in Central Park.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2015 The New York Philharmonic.
The summer is icumin in and Superconductor is your source for coverage of the festival events that will light up our city in the next three months. We begin with a look at free concert series by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera that will start the summer off right.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Season Preview: The Angels Take Manhattan

New York City Opera completes comeback with 2016-17 slate.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Ava Pine in a scene from the Fort Worth Opera production 
of  Angels in America.  

Before it went bankrupt, the New York City Opera would lead off each opera season with a new production. With the announcement of its five opera slate for 2016-17 on May 24, the City Opera has resumed its place at the top of next season’s proverbial batting order. This is a bold and exciting schedule with five brand-new opera productions.

This has been a rough decade for New York’s second biggest opera company, which declared bankruptcy in 2013, aborting its season and closing its doors after deciding to leave Lincoln Center three years before. The new City Opera had its maiden voyage this winter. On May 24 general manager Michael Capasso unveiled the plans for 2016-17.

City Opera will use a “split” schedule, with operas in the fall, winter and spring. The first offering is a bold double bill of one-act operas, pairing the New York stage premiere of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s first opera Aleko with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Like its better-known counterpart, Aleko is a story of betrayal, jealousy and bloody revenge, but without the greasepaint. It opens Sept. 8.

The Iraq War is the subject of Fallujah by Tobin Stokes, which arrives in New York in November. This 90-minute one-act chamber opera premiered at the Long Beach Opera in March of this year to good reviews. Fallujah will open Nov. 17.  The performance location is still to be announced.

In January, the opera company revisits its strong historic connection with direcor and choreographer Hal Prince. Mr. Prince will mount a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s opera Candide. The famous satire by French poet Voltaire springs to life once more, re-tellmg the story of a naïve bumpkin and his adventures through a dark and cynical world in pursuit of happiness.

The composer Ottoriono Respighi is known more for his tone poems depicting ancient Rome than for his operas. City Opera will attempt to change that perception with the New York premiere of La Campena Sommersa (”The Sunken Bell”) a fairy tale opera from 1927. This production bows at the Rose Theater on March 31, 2017.

In May the company will continue it's out reach to New York's Latino community with Los Elimentos by Spanish court composer Antonio Di Letres. This baroque opera written in am Italian style offers a musical analogy ofthe four classical elements of earth, air, fire and water. It will be produced at Harlem Stage in May of 2017.

The season ends with one of next years most exciting events: the New York premiere of an operatic adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. The opera, by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös, reduces the running time of the seven hour play to a manageable 3 1/2 hours without sacrificing the original dramatic genius of Mr. Kushner's work. Angels in America opens June 10, 2017 at the Rose Theater.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Concert Review: Are You Ready For the Summer?

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center wraps its spring season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Next to big companies like the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center sometimes gets overlooked. Each year, this gathering of top-flight musicians assembles a series of concert programs devoted to little more than celebrating the beauties of works written for smaller groups of musicians, usually ranging from duo to octet. On Tuesday night, the CMS musicians gathered for the last concert of the spring 2016 season, a program of Richard Strauss, Brahms and Dvorak that explored very different periods of each composer's career.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Concert Review: The Leading Edge of Life

The JACK Quartet opens the NY Phil Biennial 2016.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
They'll melt your face: the JACK Quartet.
Photo by Caroline Savage.
Every Biennial begins with a single concert. On Monday night, a crowd of cognoscenti seated in the upstairs auditorium of the 92nd St. Y heard the JACK Quartet open the NY Phil Biennial 2016, the New York Philharmonic's three-week festival celebrating the sharp leading edge of modern art music.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Concert Review: The No-Bell Prize

The MET Orchestra goes all-Strauss at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The ever-glamorous Renée Fleming sang Strauss Sunday afternoon at Carnegie Hall.
Photo by Andrew Eccles for Decca/Universal Music Group.
The starry career of soprano Renée Fleming has been associated for the past two decades with the operas of Richard Strauss, and specifically roles like the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, the title role in Arabella and the Countess Madeleine in Capriccio, all more or less a fit for her aristocratic stage presence and charm.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Concert Review: Bring on the Dancing Hippos

The New York Philharmonic plays Fantasia.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Hyacinth Hippo and Ben Ali Gator dance a pas de deux in Fantasia.
Image © 1940 The Walt Disney Company.
Outreach is vital for a great orchestra's survival. This weekend, the New York Philharmonic may have won itself a new and younger generation of concert-goers with its presentation on Friday and Saturday of three concerts featuring clips from the Disney films Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, accompanied by the full might if the orchestra under the baton of assistant conductor Joshua Gerstein. Saturday's evening concert, starting at a family-friendly 7pm had an audience including current  New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Concert Review: A Mighty Shout of Joy

Trinity Church ends its two-month Revolutionaries festival.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The logo of this year's Revolutionaries festival at Trinity Church.
© 2016 Trinity Church of Wall Street.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 should not be taken, or performed lightly. This unwieldly but popular symphony is an occasion piece, performed at the opening or close of a major festival or sung to commemorate an historic event. The performance Friday night at Trinity Church met both qualifications, as five ensembles pooled their resources to perform the Ninth alongside Alberto Ginastera's equally imposing setting of Psalm 150.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Concert Review: And So His Watch is Winding Down

James Levine, Evgeny Kissin and the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
James Levine in 2013, ensconced in his special motorized wheelchair on the stage of
Carnegie Hall. The Met's music director will step down this year after 40 years of service.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2013 The Metropolitan Opera.
The concerts played at Carnegie Hall by the Metropolitan Opera's pit orchestra (billed for these occasions by the marketing department of that august institution as "The MET Orchestra") are the brainchild of music director James Levine. Lately though, they've seemed more like a burden, more weight added to the workload of a conductor whose career is drawing to its twilight. Mr. Levine is still a vital musical force, but he is retiring because of physical issues that have threatened and impaired his performances. (This was his first concert in the newly created post of Music Director Emeritus.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Festival Preview: The Importance of Having Biennials

The New York Philharmonic gears up for its second NYPhil Biennial.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Refracted: NY Phil Biennial curator and Philharmonic composer-in-residence
Esa-Pekka Salonen gets Superconductor'd. 
Photo alteration by the author.
It is admirable for an orchestra to dedicate its time and programming, even for a short while to music of our time. That is the agenda for the second-ever NYPhil Biennial, which starts next Monday night at the 92nd St. Y and promises two weeks of cutting-edge music, contemporary performance ensembles and a slew of works receiving their world or New York premieres.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Concert Review: Due South vs. True North

1B1 plays Ginastera at Trinity Church.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jan Bjøranger (in black) leads the chamber orchestra 1B1 at Trinity Church. Photo by the  author.

When one thinks of an ideal location to hear art music in New York City in the middle of a busy Thursday afternoon, there are few better than Trinity Church. In recent years, the old church at the head of Wall Street has started shedding its reputation as a stolid bastion of Bach and Handel and started experimenting with modern music. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Concert Review: The North Remembers

John Storgårds debuts with the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Flying Finn: The conductor John Storgårds takes aim.
Photo © 2016 by Heiki Tuuli.
Dec. 8, 2015 marked the 150th birthday of  Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Since orchestral concert schedules do not always match up with the vagaries of the calendar, the New York Philharmonic has chosen the Spring of 2016 to celebrate the life and works of this important 20th century symphonist. This week, the celebration wrapped up with three performances of the composer's Symphony No. 2 along with an overture by Robert Schumann and a set of Wunderhorn songs by Gustav Mahler.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Concert Review: The Cooke, the Pianist, the Wife and her Mahler

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The top of his game: Yannick Nézet-Séguin onstage at Carnegie Hall.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2016 Chris Lee, Photographer.
The history of the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of a willingness to experiment with repertory and to perform works that lie outside the mainstream of a great composer's catalogue. On Wednesday night, the Orchestra and its music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin gave its last Carnegie Hall concert of the current season. The program paired Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1, that composer's Op. 1, with Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 10, presented in a version completed in the 1960s and revised in 1976.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Concert Review: Golden State Warriors

The Carnegie Hall debut of the Calidore String Quartet
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jeffrey Myers, Jeremy Berry, Estelle Choi and Ryan Meehan: the Calidore String Quartet.
Photo from the group's official website,
The arrival of a string quartet for its first performance at Carnegie Hall--here at the intimate upstairs Weill Recital Hall--is a momentous occasion, especially if that quartet is a group of talented and ambitious musicians. So it was on Tuesday night when the California-based Calidore String Quartet played a concert of works by Mozart, Hindemith and Mendelssohn at its first concert on W. 57th St.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Wheels Off the Bus Go Thump! Thump! Thump!

Superconductor breaks down the 2015-16 season at the Metropolitan Opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Politics behind the gold curtain at the Metropolitan Opera in a reworked 1990s movie poster.
Photos of James Levine and Peter Gelb © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
This was the year the wheels came off the bus at the Metropolitan Opera. Not just for the uneasy alliance between music director James Levine and general manager Peter Gelb, but for Superconductor, which only saw nine performances at the big house this season.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Concert Review: Revenge of the Nerds

Andrés Orozco-Estrada debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Talk to the hands: Conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada
made his Cleveland Orchestra debut this week.
Photo by Werner Kmetitsch courtesy the artist's website.
Things are changing at Severance Hall, the staid Egyptian-inspired concert hall that squats, temple-like at the side of the lagoon in eastern Cleveland, Ohio. On Thursday night, the lobby of Severance was decorated with a bright neon and incandescent sign: the word NERDS blazing red and green, inviting concertgoers to take selfies with this work of pop art.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Opera Review: Uneasy Lies the Tiara

Angela Meade returns in Parisina d'Este.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Soprano Angela Meade.
Photo from her website.
The 21st century has been one of revival and new vigor in the performance of bel canto opera, that peculiar 19th century Italian subgenre where the beauty of vocal tone reigned supreme. At the forefront of that music has been soprano Angela Meade, whose statuesque presence and creamy, agile soprano instrument has made her seem like a bit of a throwback to the divas of another age.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Opera Review: The Belmonte Stakes

The Met mounts Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
I've got a tenor on my shoulder: Hans-Peter König (left) clowns as Osmin as
Pedrillo (Brenton Ryan) tries to sneak past in a scene from Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
The James Levine era is ending at the Met. In fact, the company's current revival of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail is the last production that Mr. Levine will lead as music director before he adds "emeritus" to that title and makes way for a new conductor to take over his job. So it was an especially warm and appreciative audience that greeted him Tuesday nigh. It's fitting that Entführung is his last big show, it is an opera that he restored to the company's repertory after a 30-year absence, way back in 1979.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jump, They Say

Anna Netrebko to sing Tosca at the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Anna Netrebko (right) on the roof of the Castel Sant'Angelo,
practicing for her 2017-18 run as Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera.
Well, not really. It's a photo job by the author.
Although the Metropolitan Opera season is winding down this week, those planning to attend the 2017-18 season have a hot ticket to look forward to: Anna Netrebko's first Tosca.

Opera Review: Well, There's Your Lion

The Met brings back Bart Sher's Otello.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A rit of fealous jage: Aleksandrs Antonenko returns as Otello.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
At the Metropolitan Opera under the aegis of general manager Peter Gelb, it has become standard practice to open the fall season with a new production, and to bring that staging back in the spring for radio broadcasts, usually with a few casting changes. The current revival of this year's new Bartlett Sher Otello is back on the boards, and Superconductor finally had the opportunity to attend a live performance of this revival on Monday night.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Concert Review: The Bearable Lightness of Being

Alan Gilbert conducts his last program of the 2015-16 season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The amazing Carter Brey and his favored instrument.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2016 The New York Philharmonic.
For the past year-plus, the podium of the New York Philharmonic has been aswirl as the orchestra prepares to make a transition from the Alan Gilbert era to the leadership of incoming music director Jaap van Zweden. Although he has brought a welcome appreciation for modern music to America's oldest orchestra, Mr. Gilbert hasn't always seen eye to eye with traditional repertory, particularly Germanic music like Schumann and Brahms.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Opera Review: Après de La Belle Epoque

The Manhattan School of Music offers a French double bill.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Images related to L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (left) and Persée et Andromède
presented as a double bill this week by the Manhattan School of Music.
French opera in the 1920s was marked by a spirit of wild experimentation. Composers, shocked by the destruction of the First World War, explored subjects from childhood or Greek mythology in an attempt to reach some sort of musical truth. This week, the Manhattan School of Music presented a pair of these works from 1924: Jacques Ibert's Persée et Andromède and Maurice Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortileges, in the conservatory's final opera production of this current season.

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