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  • richardmitnick 2:31 PM on October 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Metropolitan Opera, ,   

    From The New Yorker: “The Metropolitan Opera and The New York Philharmonic” 

    new-yorker-bloc-rea-irvin
    Rea Irvin

    From The New Yorker

    October 4, 2018
    Alex Ross

    1
    Anita Rachvelishvili as Amneris in Verdi’s “Aida.” Not all the sounds she made in her magisterial performance were beautiful, but all had dramatic point.
    Photograph by Marty Sohl / Met Opera

    October 4, 2018
    Alex Ross

    The opening of the Metropolitan Opera House on Monday evening seemed rather a social than a musical event,” a critic wrote in 1883, after the company’s inaugural performance. The same words apply to the Met’s hundred-and-thirty-fourth opening night, on September 24th. The gilded world of the Morgans, the Roosevelts, the Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys has largely vanished, but the tradition of a Monday opening lingers, together with whatever remains of high New York society. Christine Baranski was there. Don Lemon was there. Ariana Rockefeller wore a blush-tone gown by Bibhu Mohapatra, according to Vogue. The occasion seldom lends itself to statements of artistic ambition, and the Met took no risks in that direction. Saint-Saëns’s “Samson et Dalila,” the opera on offer, packs Biblical romance, bacchanalia, rousing choruses, and sumptuous arias into a relatively tight span of three hours.

    Even by the lowered standards of a gala opening, though, this “Samson” was dim and inert. Once again, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, has hired a Broadway-oriented production team that seems stymied by opera’s internal dynamics. The director is Darko Tresnjak, who won a Tony Award for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”; the sets are by his regular collaborator Alexander Dodge. They conjure an ornate Middle Eastern fantasy that aspires to the aesthetic of Cecil B. DeMille. The vast Met stage usually responds well to this kind of thing, but Dodge’s sets have a hulking quality that restricts singers’ movements. The color scheme was vibrant but jumbled. I thought back fondly to the glowing desert hues of Elijah Moshinsky’s “Samson,” which opened the Met season twenty years ago. When you replace a successful old production, you shouldn’t offer something that looks like a chintzy knockoff.

    The singing, too, marked a decline from the Met’s last “Samson.” In the fall of 1998, we had Plácido Domingo as the long-haired hero and Olga Borodina as his sultry seducer—voices of real power and distinction. This time, we had Roberto Alagna and Elīna Garanča: the one a stylish but increasingly uneven veteran, who lost his top notes in the final act; the other a coolly bewitching presence who issued gleaming tones in her upper range but failed to hit the gut on the lower end. There was no real heat between the leads. In the pit, the orchestra made a luxurious sound for Mark Elder, but electricity was missing there, too.

    The Met would have been better off dropping the pretense of saying something new and opening the season with “Aida,” which rumbled onstage two nights later. This is the colossal Sonja Frisell show that has been drawing a steady traffic of horses, chariots, and bare-chested soldiers to Lincoln Center since 1988. It makes DeMille look like a subtle miniaturist, but it serves as a handsome foil for singers of stature. Anna Netrebko proved equal to the title role, emitting full-bodied, rich-hued tone from the top to the bottom of her capacious voice. More than that, she fashioned a rounded, affecting portrayal of the Ethiopian princess, transcending the array of bravura gestures that have characterized much of her past work. Aleksandrs Antonenko, as Radamès, lagged far behind in artistry but held his own on the decibel meter.

    What made this “Aida” indelible, however, was Anita Rachvelishvili’s magisterially hell-raising performance as Amneris. The young Georgian mezzo-soprano, noted for her Carmen, has a huge, piercing voice, and she isn’t afraid to sacrifice purity of technique for the sake of intensity of expression. Not all the sounds she made were beautiful, but all had a dramatic point. A sign of her charisma is that during the final tableau, as Aida and Radamès are expiring in the tomb, Amneris continues to transfix the attention: even when she isn’t singing, she dominates the stage. The Met should let her do whatever she wants: artists of this calibre are the reason opera exists.

    If the Met began its season in an atmosphere of retrenchment, the New York Philharmonic took a bolder tack, kicking things off with Ashley Fure’s “Filament,” as experimental a work as the Philharmonic has attempted since Karlheinz Stockhausen invaded the premises in the early seventies.

    Ashley Fure by Robert Gill

    Fure, a blazingly inventive young American composer, transformed Geffen Hall into an open-ended experimental soundscape, in which the orchestra trades timbres with a trio of soloists—the double-bassist Brandon Lopez, the trumpeter Nate Wooley, and the bassoonist Rebekah Heller—and fifteen singers who are dispersed around the hall. Stretches of charged near-silence alternate with sudden storms of white noise. From time to time, the musicians converge on a single burning tone, only to spiral back into primordial chaos. All of this went over surprisingly well with the crowd. A subscriber offered a review on the subway afterward: “There was a totally modern piece—by a woman! And I loved it!”

    The inclusion of a female composer on the first concert of the season—including the opening-night gala, where the usual rule is to avoid surprises—made one reflect on the gender imbalance that continues to reign elsewhere on Lincoln Center Plaza. The current Met season, like the last, has no female composers, no female conductors, and no female directors in charge of new productions. Just before the season began, Gelb and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the company’s incoming music director, announced that they would take belated steps to address some of that imbalance, commissioning operas from Jeanine Tesori and Missy Mazzoli. A production of Mazzoli’s gritty, fraught chamber opera “Proving Up,” at Miller Theatre, last week, confirmed that she is a major new dramatic talent.

    From 2009 to 2017, under the enlightened leadership of Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic made considerable strides in modernizing its repertory. Jaap van Zweden, the stubby, spirited Dutch conductor, has now taken over as music director.

    Jaap van Zweden Director of the New York Philharmonic by Marco Borggreve

    Whether he will be an equally insistent champion of new and twentieth-century fare remains to be seen, but he threw himself energetically into the Fure, and was even more visibly engaged in Conrad Tao’s “Everything Must Go,” which appeared on the following week’s program.

    Conrad Tao–Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

    Tao is only twenty-four, and also has a flourishing career as a pianist. Van Zweden commissioned him to write a prelude to Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, which occupied the remainder of the concert. Tao supplied a flickering nebula of material from which Bruckner’s stately forms seamlessly emerge. This week, van Zweden presents the world première of Louis Andriessen’s “Agamemnon,” a variously propulsive and meditative evocation of the House of Atreus.

    Although the Philharmonic has cancelled two of Gilbert’s initiatives—the “Contact!” new-music series and the NY Phil Biennial—it is instituting two new series, “Sound ON” and “Nightcap,” both oriented toward living composers. The first “Nightcap” took place after one of the Bruckner concerts, in the Kaplan Penthouse, above the Lincoln Center complex. The setup inevitably recalls Mostly Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” series, which takes place in the same time slot and in the same venue, with the audience seated club-style, at tables. Tao presented a diffuse but diverting hour of electronica, piano solos, free-form tap dancing (by Caleb Teicher), and avant-garde vocalism (by Charmaine Lee), all of it intermittently related to Bruckner’s choral works. The evening was long on stage patter and short on musical focus.

    In the standard repertory, van Zweden is an assertive presence, not always to satisfying effect. He has a habit of overmilking fortissimos: this happened last season, in Mahler’s Fifth, and it happened again last week, in “The Rite of Spring.” The Bruckner, though, showed an impressive control of slow-building processes. I especially liked the differentiation of instrumental voices: this was a living, moving Bruckner, not a faceless monument. David Cooper, who played French horn under van Zweden at the Dallas Symphony, sat in as principal horn, and sounded splendid. The orchestra was generally at or near its best. There is no way of knowing how conductor-orchestra relationships will turn out—an orchestra, too, can be “rather a social than a musical event”—but van Zweden has made a buoyant start.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:45 PM on August 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Night at the Opera: Free Film Screening—Summer HD Festival, Metropolitan Opera   

    From The Metropolitan Opera: ‎”A Night at the Opera: Free Film Screening—Summer HD Festival” 

    From The Metropolitan Opera:

    The Metropolitan Opera‎-A Night at the Opera: Free Film Screening—Summer HD Festival

    1

    See the full article here .

     
  • richardmitnick 5:25 PM on March 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Così fan tutte, , , , Metropolitan Opera, , , , ,   

    From WQXR: “Mozart as Sideshow: The Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’” 

    WQXR

    Does Mozart’s Così fan tutte really need the kind of the help it received from the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday?

    The new production by Phelim McDermott felt like a sequel of sorts to the so-called Rat Pack Rigoletto that reset Verdi’s opera in modern-day Las Vegas. Mozart’s comic tragedy about a pair of guys who test the fidelity of their fiancées by seducing them in disguise was updated to 1950s Coney Island, with amusement rides, starry nights and a flock of sideshow types (fire-eaters, a bearded lady, a snake handler). It has been the subject of a season-long advertising campaign showing stars Christopher Maltman and Kelli O’Hara grimacing in disagreement.

    The production team bowed without the boos that often greet outside-the-box productions on opening night. It’s a success — not a roaring one — that uses wildly colorful visual vulgarity as a ticket to fresh, forward-looking theater. Many are likely to ask if that price is too high.

    1
    A scene from Act I of Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte.’(Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.)

    The argument against such high-visual-traffic productions is that the music tends to recede to the background. More than most of Mozart’s masterpieces, this one’s original setting (18th-century Naples) is frequently translated to vernacular settings. On Thursday, all sorts of comic business started immediately during the overture, with sideshow denizens carrying signs that signal what’s to come. No respect for the music? Well, it was witty, and the overture isn’t among Mozart’s best.

    The opera itself — the final collaboration between Mozart and his great librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte — has had a long road into the standard repertoire, partly because of the moral issues it raises, but perhaps more because it’s not the most theatrically-dynamic opera: Its seductions have more delayed gratification than Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Arias are luxuriously long. Recitatives are loquacious. Act II arias that have been cut by some in the past were maintained here. But with the help of swift, clean tempos from conductor David Robertson (uncluttered by vocal ornaments), McDermott and set designer Tom Pye kept the stage in a constant state of visual evolution.

    2
    A scene from Act II of Mozart’s Così fan tutte with Serena Malfi, Adama Plachetka, Kelli O’Hara, Christopher Maltman, Amanda Majeski and Ben Bliss. (Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera.)

    Visual references went well beyond Coney Island, ranging from Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks to Steve Martin in his Wild-and-Crazy-Guy period. One long aria was sung from the basket of a hot-air balloon drifting this way and that. Giant carnival swans and spinning tea cups externalized the kind of artificial fantasies that accompany naive love. An onstage motel provided numerous doors and windows for the singers to travel between and peak through, while their arias reiterated their homilies on the nature of desire. Sometimes, the stage was just crowded with carnies that the scene didn’t need. Good ideas, yes, but in need of editing.

    3
    Ben Bliss as Ferrando, Amanda Majeski as Fiordiligi, Serena Malfi as Dorabella, and Adam Plachetka as Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. (Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.)

    Behind all of that production was a solid directorial sense of the characters and their relationships. The normally aristocratic fiancées — Fiordiligi and Dorabella — are portrayed here as middle class, staying in a roadside motel. But the opera’s class distinction is maintained by Despina, reincarnated here as the modern motel maid, being at their service while she undermines their engagements. In fact, the stage direction was musically and dramatically astute, as well as attuned to the projection needs of the individual singers. Nonetheless, the singers gave surprisingly impersonal dress-rehearsal performances. Too much scenery to navigate? Were tempos too fast?

    The most questionable casting was the greatest triumph, and that’s O’Hara. Her trained voice has been great for Broadway revivals of South Pacific, but can she be heard in the twice-as-large seating capacity of the Metropolitan Opera? From my seat, I heard her just fine. The voice loses some of its individuality at higher volume levels, but her characterization of the Italian text was vivid and smart, and her physical agility was wonderful in scenes where she is disguised as a doctor and lawyer (that latter being in a rhinestone cowboy outfit). Also remarkable was her silence: At the end of the opera when she realizes she has been part of a scheme she didn’t understand, her what-have-I-done body language projected as loudly as anybody’s high note.

    4
    Christopher Maltman as Don Alfonso and Kelli O’Hara as Despina in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. (Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.)

    Among the more operatically-oriented singers, Amanda Majeski was a brainy Fiordiligi who was too intellectual to capitulate immediately, though lush-voiced Serena Malfi told you from the beginning that she would readily gravitate toward whatever romantic heat was nearby. Ben Bliss has something close to an ideal Mozart tenor voice, though he’s still finding his way into the role’s emotional depths. Adam Plachetka was a salt-of-the-earth Guglielmo, prone toward extremes of egotism and outrage. There’s a potential here for character differentiation underscored by distinct vocal personalities.

    Most important was baritone Maltman who (like O’Hara) achieved great physical agility — though sometimes at the expense of vocal composure — as Don Alfonso, the plot’s puppet master. Maltman careens around the stage in what looked like zoot suit stolen from Cab Calloway, though you occasionally caught subtle word coloring of the sort you hear in his art-song recitals. Early on in the first scene, Maltman established his character’s cynicism with a near-Wagnerian fortissimo (also heard on his recent recording of the opera), which reminded you this isn’t just a romantic comedy. Some might even say Così fan tutte is a tragedy with comic surfaces. By the end of the evening, the overall production felt like 70 percent comedy and 30 percent tragedy. I’d prefer 60/40 — but can live with that 10 percent difference.

    Così fan tutte plays in repertory through April 19.
    Find ticket information here.

    See the full article here .

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    It is owned by the nonprofit New York Public Radio, which also operates WNYC (820 AM and 93.9 FM) and the four-station New Jersey Public Radio group. New York Public Radio acquired WQXR on July 14, 2009, as part of a three-way trade which also involved The New York Times Company – the previous owners of WQXR – and Univision Radio.[1] WQXR-FM broadcasts from studios and offices located in the Hudson Square neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York City, and the transmitter is located atop the Empire State Building.

     
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