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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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Great Opera Performances: Spring 2018

Here's the best of the best from the second half of the season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

This was an incredibly busy and fascinating few months in the New York opera community. Big houses like the Met sailed forth with good efforts even as they found themselves in a swirling sea of scandal. The Prototype Festival had a strong showing, and a performance of Tristan und Isolde gave compelling reasons to travel to Cleveland, Ohio. Here's the best of 2018 so far.

Prototype Festival: Fellow Travelers
"As Laughlin, the starry-eyed Fordham graduate who discovers his sexual identity after falling hard for Hawkins, Aaron Blake simply excels. This is a complicated, multi-faceted performance, going from gormless kid to sadder and wiser adult. Mr. Blake's light, soaring tenor is most  agreeable o the ear. His acting lends a genuine quality to what could be a contrived, stock figure, lending him a grace and delicacy to the character that escalates the work to a level of grand tragedy."

Metropolitan Opera: Parsifal
"The opera started in hushed silence, the sound of the first wind notes climbing upward on a delicate lattice of strings. Certain key moments were played so softly as to be almost inaudible, while the big orchestral and choral swelled and ebbed from the pit, lapping at the ears much like Mr. Girard's 1,250-gallon lake."

English Concert: Rinaldo
"Armida's spectacular entrances (by a flaming chariot drawn by dragons) are met with thrilling orchestral passages, and her role as one of the first great villainesses of baroque opera was relished by Ms. Archibald. There were even a few stage effects (like Armida changing shape into Almirena) that were pulled off simply in this concert setting, and remained dramatically effective. "

Bayerische Staatsoper: Der Rosenkavalier
"Angela Brower was a brash and funny Octavian, freed of the constant costume-switching that is required of this complicated character. She embodied youthful energy and raging hormones in the first act and yet also brought across the sense of magic and instant connection with Sophie von Faninal in the Presentation of the Silver Rose. In that disastrous Act III date, the singer broke the fourth wall, and gawped at the sold-out Carnegie audience and the beauty of the hall itself. Brilliant."

Metropolitan Opera: Luisa Miller
 Sonya Yoncheva did an admirable job of fulfilling the title role. She sang sweetly in the first half of the opera but her voice gathered force, volume and size in the second as Luisa faces betrayal, crisis and death."

Cleveland Orchestra: Tristan und Isolde
The first act belonged to Nina Stemme. Her Isolde was a slow-burning fuse that exploded into fusilades of sound over the vast, rolling wave of the orchestra. She brought a laser focus to her outbursts of rage against Tristan, the man who killed her lover and was now bringing her to Cornwall for an unwanted marriage with his uncle King Marke. Ms. Stemme raged, stormed and blustered, answered with raging breakers of sound rolled forth by Mr. Welser-Möst.

Bronx Opera: Der Freischütz
"Conductor Michael Spierman showed a certain affection for this score that came out in every bar.  The orchestra were put the the sorest test in the famous Wolf's Glen scene, a tour de force where Max and Kaspar cast the super-bullets: this dark tone painting evokes the supernatural with minor-key winds and groaning strings."

New York City Opera: Brokeback Mountain
"As they climbed their lonely, windswept hillside mountain, set up their little tent and munched burnt prop toast, Mr. Allen and Mr. Oklutich spoke in grunts and short asides. The lyricism came later, as their loneliness, mutual need and precarious living situation brought down the societal barriers that existed against homosexual love in Wyoming in the 1960s."

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