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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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Entry of the Xenomorphs into Valhalla

Wagner and Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"One wrong note eventually ruins the entire symphony."--Walter, Alien: Covenant

Piano android: Michael Fässbender in Alien: Covenant.
Photo © 2017 20th Century Fox.
The search for the meaning of mankind's existence may have inspired the creation of that greatest of operatic works, Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. It also is a central thread of Alien: Covenant, the new film in the Alien franchise that serves as a sequel to the 2012 Prometheus and as a lead-in to the original 1979 horror classic Alien. Unexpectedly, it starts with...Wagner.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Opera Review: The Day-Glo Ultraviolet Alert System

New Opera NYC hatches The Golden Cockerel.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Tsar wars: Mikhail Svetlov as King Dodon in  The Golden Cockerel.
Photo courtesy New Opera NYC.

In New York City it is a rare pleasure to hear Russian opera that isn't by Tchaikovsky or Mussorgsky. So it was a treat to learn that the plucky New Opera NYC, founded three years ago by director Igor Konyukhov chose to mount The Golden Cockerel, the final stage work by composer Nokolai Rimsky-Korsakov as part of the ongoing New York Opera Festival. Friday night’s show was the second of five at the Sheen Center, a converted vaudeville house on Bleecker Street that works perfectly well for opera on a modest scale.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Concert Review: Because It's There

Kyung-Wha Chung plays Bach.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Mountan ear: Kyung-Wha Chung and friend.
Photo from ICA courtesy International Classical Artists.
When Johann Sebastian Bach, a superb violinist, wrote the six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, he intended for these works to be an instructional tool, a manual to challenge students and further their abilities on the stringed instrument. It was not until the 19th century (when the works were first published) and the rise of the string virtuoso that playing all six works, in a public recital became a challenge that appealed to every violinist looking to establish or further their reputation.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Concert Review: Let Me Drown

Novus NY plays Become Ocean.
(This review is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell.)
The composer John Luther Adams who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean.
St. Paul's Chapel, located in the long shadow of the World Trade Center is one of the oldest and most historic churches in New York. On Thursday afternoon, the last matinee concert of the annual music series sponsored by Trinity Church featured another historic occasion: the second New York pperformance of Become Ocean, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition by John Luther Adams. This concert, featuring contemporary orchestra Novus NY under the baton of Trinity Church maestro Julian Wachner, paired Mr. Adams' creation with works by contemporary composers Luna Pearl Woolf  and Jessica Meyer. All three composers were in attendance,

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Contender from Philadelphia

Yannick Nézet-Séguin hire is the best thing about the Met season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Gloves off: Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the new "creed" at the Met.
Photo alteration by the author.

The Metropolitan Opera bounced back this year, delivering an artistically satisfying season that nonetheless failed to set the box office on fire. The biggest news though is the long-awaited end of the James Levine era, as conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin has been tapped as the company's new music director. Mr. Nézet-Séguin's term does not start until the end of this decade but he brings something new to this massive opera operation: hope.

Here's the wrap-up of the season, in which your not-so-humble critic saw twenty performances of twenty different operas. Superconductor, which relies on the generosity of press tickets from arts organizations in order to operate, still does not receive them from the Metropolitan Opera. Hopefully that will change.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Concert Review: It's All About the Oils

The triumphant New York return of Australia's greatest band.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
In the valley he walks: Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett.
Photo from YouTube.

If you're a reader expecting today's edition of Superconductor to be a roundup of the recently ended Metropolitan Opera season or a CD review, this is not that column. (Rest assured, those are coming.) No I'm here to talk about Saturday night at Webster Hall and the first Midnight Oil show in New York show since the band’s 2002 tour supporting their last record, Capricornia. Since then, “The Oils” have been on hiatus, as lead singer and political firebrand Peter Garrett served in the Parliament of the bands native Australia, putting his energies into politics instead of rock and roll.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Concert Review: The Power and the Passion

Leon Botstein wrestles Elgar's The Apostles.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Leon Botstein. Photo by Kallaher for Bard College.
It is never a good idea to follow in the footsteps of Richard Wagner. That truism could easily be applied to Edward Elgar's long-neglected oratorio The Apostles. Elgar conceived The Apostles as the first part of a planned trilogy of stage works based on the New Testament, following a visit to Bayreuth in 1902. However, this piece, played at Carnegie Hall on Friday night by Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra, is problematic at best.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Opera Review: Digging in the Dirt

On Site Opera puts on Mozart in a community garden.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Gardening at night: Ashley Fox is Lady Violet in Mozart's The Secret Gardiner.
Photo by Fay Fox courtesy Unison Media.
On Site Opera has built its reputation by staging unusual works in some decidedly odd locations around New York. On Thursday night, Eric Einhorn's little opera company invaded the West Side Community Garden for the first of three performances of The Secret Gardener. A co-production with Atlanta Opera, this is an adaptation of Mozart's opera La Finta Gardeniera, written for the Munich stage when the composer was just 18. It is one of his important early opera buffa, and its rapid succession of arias and ensembles (there is no chorus) hints at the brilliance that was to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Concert Review: Lamentations and Fabulous Triumph

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Messiah complex? Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Photo from the conductor's official website.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin is riding high as the 2016-17 season gallops to a close. The French-Canadian conductor is in the middle of his first New York Wagner run, leading Der fliegende Holländer at the Metropolitan Opera, where he is scheduled to become the company's next music director in the 2020 season. On Tuesday night, Mr. Nézet-Séguin returned to his other job, leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in the last of their spring concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Opera Review: This Ain't the Golden West

Utopia Opera digs up The Ballad of Baby Doe.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The prize: H.A.W. Tabor (Jack Anderson White, standing) bejewels his beloved Baby Doe
(Angela Dinkelman) in the Utopia Opera production. Photo by William Remmers

Sometimes an opera is so closely connected to a particular singer that their retirement causes it to vanish from the stage. That's what happened to Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, which vanished from the New York City Opera when soprano Beverly Sills left the stage for a management role with the company. This month, the small and scrappy Utopia Opera company is mounting Baby Doe at Hunter College with two casts, trying to prove that this is more than just a one-diva opera. The spare production by Gary Slavin was mounted in the Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College. It uses title cards and four chairs on a bare stage, all to good effect.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Concert Review: Finding Joy at Last

Alan Gilbert conducts Beethoven and Schoenberg.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee for the New York Philharmonic.
Since its beginnings in 2009, Alan Gilbert's tenure at the helm of the New York Philharmonic has been characterized by bold programming initiatives and a strength in the music of the 20th century. However, there have been mixed results with works of the core repertory of the 19th century, particularly in the symphonies of Beethoven. On Friday night, with his tenure nearing its end, Mr. Gilbert showed mastery of that most knotty of Beethoven symphonies: the No. 9 in D minor.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Opera Review: The Unknown Nose

The Met ends its season with Cyrano de Bergerac.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The rapier wit: Roberto Alagna as Cyrano de Bergerac.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 the Metropolitan Opera.
In the closing month of the Metropolitan Opera season, the company's renaissance of French opera is in full swing. The reason: the company's first revival of its 2005 production of Cyrano de Bergerac, with Roberto Alagna as the swashbuckling swordsman whose enormous nose arrives 15 minutes before he does. Mr. Alagna is a proven star, but Cyrano is an unknown opera. Written by Franco Alfano (himself best remembered as the unlucky soul assigned to complete Puccini's Turandot) it had the misfortune to debut in 1936, as the clouds of World War II gathered and people didn't seem that interested in opera.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Opera Review: Winged Mercury, Orbiting Venus

Joyce DiDonato sings Ariodante at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Joyce DiDonato sings "Scherza infida" in Act II of Handel's Ariodante
with Harry Bicket (seated at keyboard) at Carnegie Hall. Image © 2017

Joyce Di Donato has had a mercurial rise in this decade. The Kansas City mezzo-soprano is equally at home in bel canto and the high baroque, coupling her talent with a friendly yet regal demeanor that makes her in demand around the world. On Sunday afternoon, Ms. DiDonato joined Harry Bicket and The English Concert for Ariodante at Carnegie Hall, singing the title role as part of her residency at that august institution. The entire performance was broadcast live on Medici.TV.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Concert Review: His Way

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen. Photo by Silvia Lelli for the Salzburg Festival.
When the New York Philharmonic went through the torturous process of choosing a music director to replace Alan Gilbert, the Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen was very near the top of the list. On Saturday night, Mr. Salonen, who is the orchestra’s current composer-in-residence, led the last of three concerts this week featuring a new horn concerto by Tansy Davies, flanked by the music of Stravinsky and Richard Strauss.

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