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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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

There Ain't No Brotherly Love

The Philadelphia Orchestra strikes on opening night.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Update: the strike is over.
This is the only conductor appearing at Verizon Hall,
the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo alteration by the author.
The Philadelphia Orchestra, which began this decade mired in bankruptcy proceedings, went on strike tonight, effectively killing its opening night gala concert for attendees and donors. The musicians of the orchestra sent a press release to Superconductor at 7:10 this evening, announcing their decision. Tonight marked the official opening of the orchestra's season with a gala concert at the Kimmel Center. That concert, which would have featured works by Ravel, Gershwin and Ottorino Respighi's The Pines of Rome, was cancelled.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: L'Italiana in Algeri

Rossini's culture-clash comedy returns, conducted by James Levine.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Bass Ildar Abdrazakov is Mustafa in the Met revival of L'Italiana in Algeri.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
Although Il Barbiere di Siviglia is Rossini's best known comedy, L'Italiana in Algeri just might be his funniest. Ildar Abdrazakov is Mustafa, the Bey of Algiers opposite debut artists Marianna Pizzolato and René Barbera as the lovers Isabella and Lindoro. James Levine conducts the revival of this opera buffa rarity starring  in the title role. This is the first Met run of this opera since 2004.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Mozart Project: Don Giovanni

Comedy and terror walk side by side in Mozart's dramma giocoso.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The statue of the Commendatore (voice of John Tomlinson) makes his entrance in Don Giovanni as staged
by Twyla Tharp in the film Amadeus. Image © 1984 The Saul Zaentz Company.
For many writers, musicians and composers of the 19th century, Mozart's opera Don Giovanni stood at the very top of the operatic pyramid. It is amusing, terrifying, sexy, and deeply human. And it is unique among operas for its approach: rollicking comedy that is interrupted by the interference of a higher power, set to the scariest music that Mozart ever wrote.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Opera Review: Fireproof

Simon Keenlyside makes a comeback as Don Giovanni.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The statue of the dead Commendatore (Kwangchal Youn, left) takes Don Giovanni 
(Simon Keenlyside) down to Hell as Leporello (Adam Plachetka) cowers on the right.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera's current production of Don Giovanni, introduced at the opera house by director Michael Grandage in 2011 is an uninspired, ugly hash with a some impressive, yet noisy fire effects at the end. And yet, Mozart's opera remains immortal. Its music, when properly delivered, would work if the singers were in burlap sacks with paper bags over their heads, an image one must be cautious with lest it inspire some young theater director looking to mount Don Giovanni in the future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Opera Review: Spirits of the Vasty Deep

The Metropolitan Opera opens with Tristan und Isolde.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme are Tristan und Isolde in the Met's new staging.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.

Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is the most demanding of operas. The two leading parts demand tenacious singers who can stay the course for five hours of demanding music. The still-revolutionary score demands a conductor who can navigate its wide, intimidating oceans of chromatic sound, music that changed the way people heard music when the work premiered. Finally, the simple, intimate story demands a setting that makes sense of Wagner's concept: undying, illicit love that transcends marriage, law, life and finally, death. The Metropolitan Opera's new production, launched last night in a special 5pm premiere performance, had all these qualities and more.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Concert Review: A Journey in the Dark

Matt Haimovitz at The Crypt Sessions.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Candlepower: Matt Haimovits and friend at the Crypt Sessions.
Photo by Andrew Ousley for the Crypt Sessions.
The cellist Matt Haimovitz is one of the mavericks of his instrument, breaking new ground with each commission for solo cello and each group project. To celebrate the release of his new disc Overtures, Mr. Haimovitz agreed to play The Crypt Sessions, the chamber music series mounted deep beneath the Church of the Intercession at 155th and Broadway.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Concert Review: Settling Their Differences

The New York Philharmonic opens their 175th season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert is starting his last year as music director of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2016 The New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic opened its 175th season on Wednesday night with a concert built around Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, better known as the New World Symphony. The concert at David Geffen Hall marked the beginning of the orchestra's final season under the hand of music director Alan Gilbert, whose contract expires in June of next year. The concert was attended by music press, donors and glitterati, with the whole affair broadcast live on Facebook, another Philharmonic first.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Season Preview: It's a Bellwether Season!

The New York Philharmonic turns 175.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
No there really aren't giant bells hanging from the concert ceiling of David Geffen Hall.
That's photo alteration by the author.
Ring out the bells, real or imaginary: this is an important year for the New York Philharmonic. America's oldest orchestra celebrates 175 years of making music this year, even as it looks ahead to the coming renovations of David Geffen Hall and the end of an era as Alan Gilbert prepares to step down as music director.. The season opens tonight, so here's an overview of this exciting year to come.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Concert Review: Jukebox Heroes From Outer Space

Jeff Lynne's E.L.O. and the Attacca Quartet rock Radio City Music Hall.
Jeff Lynne (center, to the drummer's right) and E.L.O. perform "Telephone Line"
last night at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by the author.
Forty years ago, Electric Light Orchestra were one of the biggest bands on the planet. The group, brainchild of singer-songwriter Jeff Lynne conquered the world with brilliant pop songs and a sound that mixed the British psychedelic-baroque pop of The Beatles with actual orchestral instruments: violin and cellos that chugged along with the band onstage. In the '80s, they ditched the strings for synths, calling it a day in the middle of the "me" decade. This led to Mr. Lynne taking a 25-year break from the rigors of concert touring. In the late '80s and '90s, he applied his producer's touch to projects by Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison, ultimately founding the five-piece supergroup The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Concert Review: The Insider's Guide to the Orchestra

InSight Concerts offer a unique listening perspective.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Conductor Roger Nierenberg led the InSight Orchestra concerts this weekend at the DiMenna Center.
Photo © 2015 The Music Paradigm.
You learn more sitting in the orchestra.

That's the theory anyway behind the work of conductor Roger Nierenberg. Mr. Nierenberg leads The Music Paradigm, which offers team-building and training seminars to executives looking to improve their leadership skills by working with a classical orchestra. On Saturday night, Mr. Nierenberg applied his principles to a regular classical music concert, leading the first of two InSight concerts in Mary Flagler Cary Hall, the downstairs performance and rehearsal space in the DiMenna Center for Classical Music.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Opera Review: Mozart Before the Wrecking Ball

LoftOpera tackles Cosí fan tutte.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sisters are doin' it for themselves: Dorabella (Sarah Nelson Craft) and Fiordiligi (Megan Pachecano)
in a scene fron LoftOpera's Cosí fan tutte. Photo by Robert Altman © 2016 LoftOpera
The dark, shadowy streets where Williamsburg abets Bushwick are deserted at night. That is, unless you count the musicians, patrons and Mozarteans who flocked to last night's opening of LoftOpera's latest production. This new staging of Mozart's Cosí fan tutte occupied one quarter of an enormous old warehouse at 101 Varick Avenue, a desolate property that is scheduled for sale, demolition and redevelopment in the near future.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Movie Review: It's Like a Kind of Torture

Meryl Streep is Florence Foster Jenkins.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
She's the queen of the night: Meryl Streep vs. Mozart in Florence Foster Jenkins.
Photo © 2016 courtesy Pathé Pictures.
Every opera lover eventually learns the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the matronly New York heiress whose charitable activities were equalled only by her own ambitions to become a leading coloratura soprano. In 1944, Mrs. Jenkins even gave a memorable recital at Carnegie Hall, that met with gales of audience laughter and lashings of critical scorn. She died soon after, and her ghost haunts every hoot, squawk and false note uttered by today's singers on the stage. She lives on as a kind of patron saint of poor performance and noble effort.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Opera Review: A Total Eclipse of His Art

Rod Gilfry is the loser in David Lang's new opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alone in the dark: Rod Gilfry in the loser.
Photo by Richard Termine for the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The BAM NextWave Festival opened last week with the world premiere of David Lang's new and thoroughly unconventional opera the loser. Starring veteran baritone Rod Gilfry and pianist Conrad Tao, this probing monodrama casts a scathing narrative eye on the merits of the quest for artistic perfection and the narrow world of virtuoso pianists in waiting, preparing for a hoped-for launch into the stratosphere of the classical concert circuit. This writer saw the second performance on Thursday night.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: I Puritani

A bel canto favorite returns to the big stage.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A scene from I Puritani. Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.

Diana Damrau and Javier Camarena return to lend heat to the Met's serviceable but decidedly antique staging of Vincenzo Bellini's final opera.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On That Day

Brief Reflections on September 11.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

There's no escaping what day this is. This is the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, the day that terrorists hijacked four jet planes and destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon. This is always a hard day for us New Yorkers.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Opera Review: A Tale of Two Opera Companies

The resuscitated City Opera offers a verismo double bill.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
That's show biz: Canio (Francesco Anile) menaces his unfaithful Nedda (Jessica Rose Cambio)
in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Photo by Sarah Shatz © 2016 New York City Opera
Those who have followed the New York City Opera through its recent cycle of death, rebirth and reincarnation know that the man at the helm of this new version of New York's "other" opera company is Michael Capasso. For many years, Mr. Capasso helmed Dicapo Opera, a boutique company on the Upper East Side that provided a welcome alternative to New Yorkers not wanting to make the pilgrimage to Lincoln Center. His company folded in 2013, around the same time that City Opera did, and it makes a kind of sense that he is the head of that larger company's revival effort.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Obituary: Johan Botha (1965-2016)

The South African tenor was beloved in Verdi and Wagner.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Johan Botha as Otello. Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
The year of 2016, that has seen the deaths of so many musically talented individuals, has now claimed the life of tenor Johan Botha. The South African singer, who was mounting a comeback following a battle with cancer and a seven-month hiatus from the stage, died yesterday. He was 51.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Superconductor Preview: September, 2016

We launch a new monthly preview feature...right now. 
(isn't that exciting?)
by Paul J. Pelkonen
We at Superconductor celebrate a new monthly preview feature launching with a....

The clock of the classical music season starts running early this month, just two short days after Labor Day. As we prepare to fire the starting gun on the 2016-17 season here are five don't miss events for September, 2016.

BAM NextWave: the loser
David Lang's one-act opera about a pianist who happened to be in the same competitions as Glenn Gould is the opening work of the 2016 BAM NextWave Festival. Starts Sept 7. at the Howard Gilman Opera House.

New York City Opera: Aleko/Pagliacci
The resurgent New York City Opera launches its first fall season since 2009 with this twin bill, pairing Rachmaninoff's first opera Aleko with the classic Leoncavallo work. The story of a vendetta among Gypsies should dovetail nicely with the familiar tale of a knife-wielding clown on a killing spree. At the Rose Theater in the Time Warner Center, starting Sept. 8.
An iconic shot from Woody Allen's Manhattan.
© 1979 Woody Allen, MGM/UA

New York Philharmonic: The Art of the Score
The Philharmonic season actually opens with a gala concert on Sept. 21, but that will be prefaced with the annual The Art of the Score film festival, featuring the orchestra playing Leonard Bernstein's score for West Side Story (Sept. 13-15) and the George Gershwin-fuelled score of Woody Allen's black and white classic Manhattan. (Sept. 16)

LoftOpera: Cosí fan tutte
For some opera companies, the season never ended. LoftOpera returns with their stripped-down and saucy version of Mozart's Cosí fan tutte, mounted at its new location 101 Varick Ave. in  East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Stage image from the Met's new Tristan und Isolde.
Metropolitan Opera: Tristan und Isolde
The Met opens its season Sept. 26 with the ultimate feel-bad Wagner opera, a tragic love story here presented in a new production. If you can't get tickets for the opener, go to Times Square and watch it for free on the giant televisions, where Wagner's music should stun a few tourists. Other early Met shows this year include Don Giovanni and the perennial revival of La bohéme.

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