About Superconductor

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 © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Les contes d'Hoffmann

Is it really happening or is it all just fantasy?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
I love you Miss Robot: Vittorio Grigolo hits on Erin Morley in a scene from Les contes d'Hoffmann.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Met revives Offenbach's final opera, a phantasmagorical tale about a writer trapped in stories of his own creation. Vittorio Grigolo is the hapless hero in this tragicomic classic.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Met Al Fresco: Summer Live in HD Festival

A look ahead at next month's Peter Gelb film festival in Lincoln Center Plaza.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Eric Owens in L'Amour de Loin.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 the Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera returns to its tradition of showing reruns to an adoring public at Lincoln Center plaza in the late summer. This year the company offers screenings of eight operas plus filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's version of The Magic Flute. Why only eight operas, you ask? Because one of them, Wagner's four hour epic Tristan und Isolde is being split into two nights.

All the screenings will be held on Lincoln Center Plaza, with the 3,000 FREE seats filled on a first-come first-serve basis. Programs and playbills will be provided.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Norma

A change of seasons and a change of divas for Opening Night.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Priestess in distress: Sondra Radvanovsky is Norma.
Photo by Paola Kudacki © 2017 the Metropolitan Opera.
Norma is one of those operas that is all about the soprano singing the title role. In this case, the Metropolitan Opera opens its 2017-18 season with a new production by Sir David McVicar, starring Sondra Radvanovsky as the knife-wielding pagan priestess who reacts badly when she learns her boyfriend (the leader of the opposing Roman forces) is cheating on her....with her handmaiden.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Concert Review: Outside it May Be Raining...

Beating the heat with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Partners at work: David Finckel and Wu Han.
Photo from the artists' website.
Most summer music festivals take place under hot tents or purpose-built structures open to the elements. Neither are conducive to good music-making, although the combination of grassy swards, majestic trees and a good bottle of cab. franc makes up for any unpleasantness. The Chamber Music Society's summer series, which gave the second of three concerts on Wednesday night, offers a comfortable alternative: the air-conditioned acoustic excellence of Alice Tully Hall.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Follies on the Roof

Tosca star, conductor take the act to Tanglewood.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jump they say: Karita Mattila in a promotional shot for the Met's old production of Tosca.
Image © 2009 The Metropolitan Opera

Those wanting to see the original conductor and soprano scheduled for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Tosca should head to Tanglewood in Lenox, MA. on August 26. Conductor Andris Nelsons and his wife Kristine Opolais will perform Act II of the opera in a special opera gala at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's annual summer festival.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Concert Review: When the Typewriters Talk....

Lincoln Center Festival does Naked Lunch.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Liquid courage: Peter Weller drinks up in Naked Lunch.
Image Copyright 1991 201th Century Fox.
Ornette Coleman carved his own path as a composer. As he burst upon the scene, he epitomized the atonal explorations of free jazz and then developing his own musical system of “harmolodics” to express himself with saxophone and pen. On Tuesday night, the Lincoln Center Festival kicked off its week-long Coleman tribute with a screening of Naked Lunch, the surreal, disturbing and very funny David Cronenberg film for which Coleman supplied part of the soundtrack.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Orpheus in Thuringia

Why did Wagner choose to set Tannhäuser?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
This isn't exactly what happens in Tannhäuser but to be fair
it is a long opera. Art by John Byrne from The Incredible Hulk No. 315 © Marvel Comics.
Of the thirteen operas that Richard Wagner brought to the stage, it is his fifth, Tannhäuser that creates the most headaches for singers, conductors and directors. It is a Germanic update of the the Orpheus myth. Wagner distilled his libretto from theee separate medieval legends, creating a complex and flawed work that meditates on the dichotomy between reason and passion, between celestial fate and earthly lust, with an artist and musician trapped in the middle.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Transformative Alchemy: Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.

An analysis of the Pastorale Symphony.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
 Beethoven and Nature.
Detail from the painting by N.C. Wyeth.

What is program music? This is a question that musicians and music critics have been wrestling with (and generally losing the match) for 200 years. The debate started in 1808, the year that Ludwig van Beethoven premiered his Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the Pastorale. While it would be Hector Berlioz who created the first detailed program for a symphony 22 years later in his Symphonie-fantastique, Beethoven pointed the way forward by substituting movement titles for the usual tempo markings. 

Recordings Review: One Man Against the World

Jonas Kaufmann sings Mahler solo.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The mysterious Jonas Kaufmann.
Photo by Julian Hargreaves for Sony Classical.
How does a singer start his next act? If you're Jonas Kaufmann, the heartthrob tenor who is known for his good looks, stage presence and (more recently) frequent cancellations, you do it on record. Mr. Kaufmann is known for the lighter Wagner tenor roles (Lohengrin, Parsifal) as well as heroic parts in the operas of Puccini, Bizet and Massenet. However his newest recording, released this spring by Sony Classical is something different: a solo flight through Mahler’s autumnal epic Das Lied Von der Erde.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Opera at Random: Pelléas et Mélisande

A walk in the dark woods with Claude Debussy.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A scene from the (rather beautiful) Robert Wilson staging of
Pelléas et Mélisande from the Opera de Paris. Photo courtesy medici.tv.
Like the forests of Allemonde, Superconductor was dark for the last week as I rested, recharged and figured out what direction I want to take this blog in next. Today, I borrowed an idea from the composer John Cage: indeterminacy. Using the shuffle function on my old 160GB iPod Classic to decide which composer I'm writing about. And the winner is: Claude Debussy and his lone opera: Pelléas et Mélisande.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Five Great Opera Performances: Spring 2017

Here are five memorable operas from the spring of 2017.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Does this really need a caption? Photoshop by the author.
This is a fertile time for opera in New York, with singers, conductors and impresarios exercising imagination and daring to bring lesser known operas before an enthusiastic public. From the daring new music of the PROTOTYPE Festival to the lesser-known stage works of Rossini and Rimsky-Korsakov, our city is a cornucopia of operatic opportunity.

Here are five of the more impressive opera performances reviewed on Superconductor in the spring of 2017.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Lincoln Center Festival

No symphonies. No concertos. No opera. No problem?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The legendary saxophonist Ornette Coleman's spirit lives on at this year's Lincoln Center Festival.
The Lincoln Center Festival continues to push the cutting edge, leaving symphony, concerto (and yes, opera) behind for a bold poutpurri of world music, electronica and one of the most innovative voices in American jazz: Ornette Coleman.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Tanglewood

Another summer under the trees offers gods, rainbows and Mahler.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Koussevitsky Concert Shed at Tanglewood, guarded by a really big tree.
Photo courtesy the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Whisper the name "Tanglewood" and you will tickle the conscience of the novice classical music-goer, and fire the memories of those who have walked its grassy paths and visited the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Located on a sprawling estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, this is the Cadillac of summer festivals, offering symphonies, chamber music and opera to a throng of devotees who make the pilgrimage again and again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Five Best Orchestral Concerts: Spring 2017

We look at the five best concerts of the spring season that was.

As I'm on vacation this week, we're going to be looking back at some of the most memorable performances of the year 2017 (so far, anyway.) Here are the best symphonic concerts, from shows seen at Carnegie Hall (including Daniel Barenboim's nine-concert Bruckner cycle) to as far away as Osaka, Japan. Oh yeah. I went to Japan in February. Anyway, here's the reviews, all written by yours truly.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Bard SummerScape

False Tsars and Polish piano mastery mark this year's festival.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Murder of the False Dmitry by Konstantin Makovsky
gives some idea of the mayhem to come at this summer's Bard Festival.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The rolling greens of Bard College, located just off the Hudson River in the quaint but practical little town of Annandale-on-Hudson, welcome music lovers once more. The attraction: Bard SummerScape, offering six weeks of classical music, academic programming and as always, a unique opera that you probably won't hear anywhere else anytime soon.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Opera Review: Of Chickens and Eggs

Apotheosis Opera explores Richard Strauss' Capriccio.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Friendly rivals: Olivier (Wayne Hu) and Flamand (Joe Palarca) square off in Capriccio.
Photography by Steve Malinski for Apotheosis Opera.
Capriccio, the fifteenth and final opera by Richard Strauss, is usually mounted by a large company (in a too-cavernous house) as a vehicle for a star soprano who wants to add Countess Madeleine to her resumé (presumably to stand next to the Marschallin and Arabella in a gallery of elegant Strauss heroines.) On Thursday night, a scrappy new production by Apotheosis Opera  revealed depth and charm in what is too often dismissed as a supercilious and superficial work.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Concert Review: Exit Under Fireworks

Alan Gilbert leads the Concerts in the Parks.
by Paul J. Pelkonenppelkonen@gmail.com
And he's out. Alan Gilbert gave his last Central Park concert as music director
on Wednesday night. Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 New York Philharmonic.
Alan Gilbert gave his final New York concerts as music director of the New York Philharmonic this week, leading the annual Concerts in the Parks series in four boroughs. Wednesday's concert on the Great Lawn of Central Park was blessed with magnificent weather: clear skies and 80 degrees. Perfect.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Opera Review: Wings Without Zing

The New York City Opera offers a bland Angels in America.
by Paul J. Pelkonenppelkonen@gmail.com
All night angel wrestling match: Angels in America at New York City Opera.
Photo by Sarah Shatz for New York City Opera.
It takes some guts to put on an adaptation of a popular contemporary play, especially a loaded and political work that unflinchingly addressed the AIDS crisis in the 1990s. That's the challenge facing New York City Opera with its last production of the season: Peter Eötvös' 2004 adaptation of Tony Kushner's award-winning two-part play Angels in America. Unfortunately, this version of Angels, seen here in its New York premiere, dilutes the play instead of distilling its message.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Concerts in the Parks

The New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert offer free music.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert (standing) leads the New York Philharmonic
at the Concerts in the Parks. Photo by Chris Lee.
The New York Philharmonic subscription series is ended, and with it the 2016-17 classical music season. However, we're not quite done yet. Tuesday night marks the start of the week-long Concerts in the Parks series, the last of Alan Gilbert's official duties as the orchestra's Music Director.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Concert Review: Exit in a Blaze of Glory

Alan Gilbert ends his tenure with Mahler’s Seventh.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert. Photo by Chris Lee. Photoshop by the author.
When it comes to the exit of Alan Gilbert from the post of Music Director after only eight years, the New York Philharmonic has put on its bravest face.  This week’s season-ending series of concerts, (promoted as “A Concert for Unity”) have featured starry opening acts for America’s oldest orchestra. Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble played Thursday night. On Friday, jazzmaster Wynton Marsalis took the stage, backed by a piano trio. (Saturday's concert, broadcast live on Facebook, featured the orchestra al fresco.) These concerts also mark the launch of a new orchestral initiative by Mr. Gilbert. A collaboration with the United Nations, this is the latest effort at bringing international musicians together in a search for better communication and diplomatic understanding.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Caramoor

The stately festival in Katonah prepares for changes.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The big tent at Caramoor and at one end, the Venetian Theater.
Doings are a-transpiring at the Rosen Estate, the stately faux-Italian Renaissance manor house in Katonah, NY that is the home of the Caramoor Festival. Caramoor is the summer home of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and is reknowned for its series of chamber music, orchestral concerts and opera performances.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Concert Review: Now We Can Play the Forbidden Music

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the MET Orchestra end the Carnegie Hall season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
In flight: Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Photo by Nicolas Brodard © 2017 the Philharmonia Orchestra.
The Carnegie Hall subscription season ended Tuesday night with an epic concert featuring conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, the MET Orchestra and a heaping program of four works by Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius. These two composers remain touchstones of Mr. Salonen’s long and successful podium career. With bold repertory choices (including a Mahler piece that, unaccountably, may have had its Carnegie Hall premiere at his very concert!) and a starry pair of guests, this proved a revelatory and engrossing evening.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Concert Review: Tomorrow's New Country

Gregg Kallor and the Attacca Quartet play new music. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Five alive: Gregg Kallor (left) and the Attacca Quartet in concert at the Sheen Center.
Photo by Andrew Ousley.
Even as towers of glass and steel encroach upon the quiet streets of the East Village, the spirit of musical experimentation lives on. One of its exponents is composer pianist Gregg Kallor. On Monday night at the Sheen Center, Mr. Kallor and the Attacca Quartet gave a joint recital that featured the world premiere of Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow. This was the centerpiece of the evening: a new work for piano and string quartet inspired by  the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Opera Review: Exit Over the Rainbow

Alan Gilbert's valediction continues with Das Rheingold.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The gods have a strategy session in Das Rheingold as Alan Gilbert (right) conducts.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 The New York Philharmonic.
It wasn't even supposed to be Wagner.

A week ago, Michael Cooper of The New York Times wrote a lengthy feature about Alan Gilbert, the conductor who is in the midst of saying goodbye to the New York Philharmonic after eight storm-tossed years at its helm. This year, Mr. Gilbert had planned to present Olivier Messiaen's epic opera Saint-Francois d'Assisse giving New Yorkers a chance to hear this great work with Eric Owens in the title role.

This never happened.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Concert Review: Between East and West Lies the North

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen in flight. Photo © Radio France.
In 2009, Esa-Pekka Salonen stunned the music world when he announced that he would step off the podium of the Los Angeles Philharmonic to devote his life to his first love, composition. Thus, a Salonen concert (at least one that does not include his own compositions) is a rarity in New York, happening only a few times per season. On Saturday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, an eager audience gathered to hear his take on two repertory warhorses: Schumann's Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish") and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a sprawling, valedictory work that was almost catalogued as that composer's Symphony No. 9.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Concert Review: An Exit Through the Wings

The Philharmonic plays Brahms and Salonen.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

(Superconductor makes an effort to publish in a timely manner. However, my rustic holiday proved more rustic than planned as there was almost no internet access. Here's the review from two weeks ago, cleaned up from a rough draft and posted for your enjoyment.--Paul)
Alan Gilbert calls a halt. Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 The New York Philharmonic.
There is no delicate way to put this. The New York Philharmonic is an organization in turmoil. Its music director is leaving. Its future and the essential renovation of its hall are underfunded. And next year will have  a succession of guest conductors as the orchestra prepares for the arrival of Jaap van Zweden as its music director. For now though, the orchestra is markin gthe departure of Alan Gilbert with yet another series of custom made concerts from the imagination of a maestro with a vast spectrum of tastes.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Well Hello Again

Superconductor is back from vacation.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

In case you haven't noticed, this blog has been quiet. Very quiet. I gave myself two weeks of vacation, badly needed. We go back into business tomorrow, with two performances in the city: the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Das Rheingold with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic.

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 Medici.tv.

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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Opera Review: When Her Ship Comes In

The Met revives Der fliegende Holländer.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
I will leave you, loudly: Amber Wagner and Michael Volle in a scene from
Der fliegender Holländer. Photo by Richard Termine © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.

There's been a lot of excitement about the Metropolitan Opera's late-season revival of Der fliegende Holländer ("The Flying Dutchman") which opened last week and was seen by this writer at Saturday's matinée performance. This revival marks the first Wagner excursions at the Met for both Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the company's newly anointed incoming music director, and baritone Michael Volle, who has been tabbed by general manager Peter Gelb as both Wotan and Hans Sachs in seasons to come.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Opera Review: The Treasure Hunters

Manhattan School of Music unearths Die Zigeunerbaron.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
True love wins the day in the last scene if Die Zigeunerbaron.
Photo courtesy Manhattan School of Music.
Johann Strauss Jr. was the most popular composer of the Austrian Empire, and his waltzes still provide the social soundtrack of Vienna for the tourists that visit that city every year. However, with the exception of Die Fledermaus, his stage works have disappeared from the operatic repertory. This is a reflection of the general state of light opera and the changing tastes of a fickle public. The Manhattan School of Music has taken a huge step to correct this by choosing to end their spring season with Der Zigeunerbaron (”The Gypsy Baron”) an energetic operetta that is rarely seen anymore outside of a Viennese theater.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Cyrano de Bergerac

"And all you can come up with is 'Big Nose.'"
by Paul J. Pelkonen
This isn't The Nose: Roberto Alagna as Cyrano de Bergerac.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
Franco Alfano is remembered today as a footnote. He's the guy saddled with the unenviable task of writing the final pages of Giacomo Puccini's last opera Turandot in 1924. That completion was dismissed in 1924 by Toscanini himself. However, his six operas survive. This is the first Metropolitan Opera revival of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Concert Review: The Price of Reinvention

Soprano Natalie Dessay returns to Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Natalie Dessay. Photo © Sony Classical.
Natalie Dessay is no stranger to adversity. Throughout her career, the French soprano has battled ahead, undergoing surgery to keep her voice in fighting trim and dazzling audiences with a high coloratura that was at home in Donizetti, Mozart and Richard Strauss. Ms. Dessay retired from the operatic stage in 2013, with her last Metropolitan Opera appearances coming in a tumultuous run of Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto. Four years went by until her return, which came on Wednesday night upon the hallowed boards of Carnegie Hall.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Opera Review: A Volga Display of Power

Juillard Opera mounts Kat'a Kabanova.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Bad romance: Boris (Gerard Schneider, left) woos the heroine (Felicia Moore) in Juilliard's Kát'a Kabanova.Photo by Hiroyuki Ito for the Juilliard School. 
In retrospect, it is a pity that the Czech composer Leos Janacek did not find fame and fortune as an opera composer until the 1916 premiere of the revised version of Jenůfa, when the composer was 62. Káťa Kabanová, based on a Russian play, was written five years later. On Tuesday night, at the third of three performances at Peter Jay Sharp Theater, the Juilliard Opera showed that this rarely performed tragedy remains one of the composer's most potent creations.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Concert Review: Up the Down Banister

The noisy return of the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J, Pelkonen
Pianist Jonathan Biss doing what he does.
Photo from Onyx Records.
The New York Philharmonic are back from their 2017 European tour. Thursday night marked the ensemble’s return to its home stage at David Geffen Hall with a program of heavyweight orchestral works by Berlioz and Elgar, flanking a pair of interconnected piano concertos with soloist Jonathan Biss. At the podium: the young Irish conductor Courtney Lewis, making his subscription debut.

His Last, Bigliest Bow

Donald Trump brings back Luciano Pavarotti.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
This didn't really happen....or did it?
Luciano Pavarotti sings with Donald Trump.

An unexpected gaffe by United States President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon may lead to an unexpected career spotlight for Luciano Pavarotti, the beloved opera tenor who died in 2007.

Today, speaking at the White House in a joint press conference with Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, Mr. Trump said: "Through the ages your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement. That continues today."

He then referred to Mr. Pavarotti and his friendship--twice: "From Venice to Florence to Verdi to Pavarotti--friend of mine," President Trump said. "Great friend of mine," he added.

Monday, April 17, 2017

On Recordings, Diversity and Bigger Hard Drives

Or maybe I'm just getting less picky.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
You try sorting this out....
When I was setting out to build a classical music library, it was a very exacting process. Every recording that I bought, with my limited grad school budget, had to be perfect. Of course none of them were. But I well remember an insane bike trip through the Back Bay fens and down Charlesgate to trade my copy of the Bernard Haitink Ring in for the Solti and obsessing over various Aidas before discovering that I liked Claudio Abbado's. Hey, I was 22.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Opera Review: The Last Waltz

Many partings mark the Met's new Rosenkavalier.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Kiss the girls: Octavian (Elīna Garanča) woos the Marschallin (Renée Fleming) in Act I of Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
 The end of an era is the subject of Robert Carsen's fascinating new production of Der Rosenkavalier which bowed at the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday night. Updated to Vienna in 1910 (the year of the opera's genesis) this show crackles with nervous energy, a wild party on its final round of the night. Fittingly, this show also marks Renée Fleming's final appearances as the Marschallin in this opera, a part she has played at the Met since the year 2000.

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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.