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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 © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Concert Review: Listening to Ecstasy

The Cleveland Orchestra plays Messiaen.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Ecstasy: Franz Welser-Möst (on podium, back to camera), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (left) and Cynthia Millar (right)
and the Cleveland Orchestra play the Turangalîla-symphonie.
Photo by Roger Mastroianni © 2018 The Cleveland Orchestra.
The music of Olivier Messiaen has never been an "easy sell" to the average concert-goer. Performances of his works remain infrequent, partially because of his own status as an outlier among the creative minds of the 20th century and partially because of the massive demands these pieces place on both performers and audience. It is a state of unfortunate neglect, one that the Cleveland Orchestra corrected on Wednesday night with a performance of Turangalîla-symphonie, the huge ten-movement piece commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1949.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Concert Review: The Next Giant Steps

Lawrence Brownlee in a fierce Liederabend at Zankel Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee explored 19th century and contemporary song at Zankel Hall on Tuesday night.
Photo by Shervin Lainez for Opera Philadelphia.
The American tenor Lawrence Brownlee has emerged in the past decade as one of the leading lights of the bel canto revival that has swept operatic stages in this young century. He is possessed of a memorable stage presence, formidable technique, a plangent, sweet tone and a powerful, nimble insrument. On Tuesday night, a packed Zankel Hall got to see a different side of Mr. Brownlee, as he led an exploration of the art of the song at the Carnegie Hall venue.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Verdi Project: Rigoletto

In which our composer creates a sensation and changes the world of opera, forever.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Tito Gobbi (with Renata Scotto) looking suitably demented in a scene from Rigoletto.
There are Verdi operas and then there are those that stand as immortal pillars of the repertory. It is the opinion of this writer that the greatest of these is Rigoletto, a shattering tragedy that has captured the imagination of the public since it first took the stage in Venice in 1850. Verdi's fifteenth opera changed the art form permanently, and established him as the most beloved composer in Italy.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Verdi Project: Stiffelio

Verdi battles the censors with an opera about religion.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Preacher man: José Cura as Stiffelio at the Metropolitan Opera.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.
(Note: This article was originally going to be about Luisa Miller, which is a Verdi opera of some considerable interest and importance. However, with the recent Metropolitan Opera Preview and review of that work on Superconductor in recent weeks, we thought it might be interesting to look at a lesser known (but very important) Verdi work.)

There are twenty-eight canonical operas in the Verdi canon, and some of them have had to wait longer than others to be discovered and performed in the standard repertory. None waited longer than Stiffelio, the opera that Verdi composed for the stage in Trieste. Chopped by the censors and revised twice into operas with very different titles, Stiffelio finally became a stage success in 1968. (An approved critical edition of the score, drawn from Verdi's own papers did not appear until 1993, when it was staged at the Metropolitan Opera. It has been revived a few times since.)

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.