|William Kentridge's Wozzeck, photo @ Ken Howard|
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Thursday, December 19, 2019
|Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker, photo @ Christopher Duggan|
Last night at the Joyce Theater, Michelle Dorrance was the latest choreographer to throw her hat into the Nutcracker ring. There have been countless balletic versions, hip hop Nutcrackers, burlesque Nutcrackers, so many different Nutcrackers that it begs the question: does the world really need another Nutcracker? Turns out the answer is yes, if it's as clever and well-done as Michelle Dorrance's version.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Sunday, December 8, 2019
|Lise Davidsen and Yusif Eyvasov, photo @ Ken Howard|
One dilemma Met operagoers love to fret about is how new productions inevitably sell well, but revivals quickly become tired and poorly attended. This season new productions of Porgy and Bess and Akhnaten were sold out but revivals of Manon and Orfeo ed Euridice played to half-empty houses.
The answer seems to be: inspired casting. This afternoon's performance of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades was pretty sold out despite the production being nearly 25 years old. The cast ranged from good to great. The production by Elijah Mohinsky is nothing fancy but tells the story well and effectively creates a doom-and-gloom mood. There was nothing tired about this revival.
Monday, November 25, 2019
|Jessye Norman Memorial|
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
|Solea Pfeiffer as Eva Peron, photo @Sara Krulwich|
I can't believe I'm using Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as examples of skillful dramaturges but Evita was everything that Akhnaten wasn't. Tim Rice was not afraid to paint his own picture of Eva Perón which mixed fact with fiction. Webber's music portrays the different facets of Perón-- her naked ambition in "Goodnight and Thank You" and her shiny charisma in the anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." So I know that Philip Glass is a much superior composer to ALW, but Evita was engaging in all the ways Akhnaten wasn't.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
|Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten, photo @ Karen Almond|
Akhnaten (1984) is the last opera of Philip Glass's "Portrait" trilogy. The others are Satyagraha (about Mahatma Gandhi) and Einstein on the Beach (about, well, Einstein). Akhnaten in the14th century B.C.E. upended the ancient Egyptian religious system for a monotheistic religion that focused on the sun-god "Aten." For the libretto of Akhnaten Glass drew upon primary sources from the Amarna period. He even insisted on presenting most of the opera in ancient Egyptian with no surtitles.
Monday, November 11, 2019
Sesame Street turned 50 this week. The beloved children's television program has made kids laugh and learn for half a century. In addition to teaching kids the alphabet, phonics, basic math and some Spanish Sesame Street has never made any bones about pushing a larger social message of inclusiveness and cultural education. The show takes place on a large urban street and the characters reflect the diversity of NYC. The furry monsters co-existed despite having their own personalities, quirks, and (this is important) different fur color. Sesame Street did not dumb down its material for children -- its skits taught children not just the ABC's but how to settle conflict, how to express affection for each other, and how to deal with difficult issues like death. They even had an episode that addressed 9/11.
But you already knew all that. What I didn't realize was the wonderful arts tributes Sesame Street included over the years. I went on YT and found a goldmine.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
|Lifar and Danilova in the original Apollon Musagete|
Sunday, October 27, 2019
|Lisette Oropesa, 2019 Richard Tucker winner|
Because of who happens to be in NY this time of year the lineup was less starry than usual. But there were no cancellations, so there's that.
Friday, October 18, 2019
|Alonso in 1949|
Instead as I'm home yet again because of an awful ankle injury, I'm looking at Alicia Alonso films and comparing them to the written word. Alonso was a favorite subject of famed critic Edwin Denby and trying to compare what Denby thought with video evidence is important, because Denby saw her in her absolute prime in the 1940's.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
|NYCB dancers in Summerspace, photo @ Erin Baiano|
|Meet the Macbeths, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
|Norman and Obama. Ah, a time when a president could do these things|
Sunday, September 29, 2019
|Oropesa and Fabiano, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Saturday, September 28, 2019
|Porgy and Bess, photo @ Paola Kudacki|
Therefore my reaction to the Met's new production of Porgy and Bess is going to sound green. In fact I know I'm going to embarrass myself. But this experience was so memorable that it's worth writing about, even as I'm about to probably make some embarrassing newbie mistakes.
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
|Domingo at his 50th anniversary gala last season|
Thursday, July 18, 2019
|Pamina and Papageno, photo @ Michael Daniel|
One of the few things operaphiles can agree upon is that the Met is a terrible venue for Mozart. The size swallows up the intimacy and charm of Mozart’s music. The Magic Flute has had a really rough go of it in recent years as it is almost always presented in the shortened English version. Julie Taymor’s production is colorful but vapid. Therefore opera lovers owe it to themselves to go to the smaller David K@&! Theater to see the Mostly Mozart Festival’s presentation of Barrie Kosky’s mostly magical production of The Magic Flute. The smaller theater works wonders -- I was up in the front row of the fourth ring but felt closer to the singers than I often do in the orchestra of the Met.
Monday, July 15, 2019
Thursday, July 4, 2019
|Sarah Lane as Aurora, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor|
Friday, June 21, 2019
|Bolle's curtain call, photo @Kent G. Becker|
ABT's spring season is now officially into warhorse territory. Last week we had Le Corsaire, which I reviewed for bachtrack. (In a sign of the times Le Corsaire now comes with a disclaimer in the program.) I was lucky enough to see Daniil Simkin's Ali before he got injured. Last night ABT said farewell to longtime danseur noble and uber-hunk Roberto Bolle. The ballet: Kenneth MacMillan's L'Histoire de Manon, which is actually the first ballet I ever saw Bolle dance (he was partnering Alessandra Ferri in her first "farewell").
Friday, June 7, 2019
|Father and daughter in To Kill a Mockingbird, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Saturday, June 1, 2019
|Ratmansky's The Seasons' final tableau, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor|
ABT continued its Ratmansky Ballet Theater season with a triple bill: the pretty but somewhat bland Songs of Buklovina, the pseudo-dram-ballet On the Dnieper, and his new work The Seasons. I reviewed the program for bachtrack here. Everyone loved The Seasons -- I'm not there yet. To me it lacks the tight organization that is a hallmark of classical ballet. As I said on bachtrack:
The Seasons is overstuffed, uneven and way too busy. There are so many steps, but they rarely made me "see the music". It's also confusing; one had to keep glancing down at the program notes to keep track of who was supposed to be representing what. It was a frustrating ballet, with so many lovely moments that were less than the sum of its parts.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Mearns and Ramasar in the Rondo of Brahms-Schoenberg
|ABT's Harlequinade, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
|Tanowitz's Bartok Ballet, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
First of all, as you all might know, I've been writing more for bachtrack, and so two of the performances I attended this spring at NYCB are at bachtrack. One is the opening night performance of Pictures at an Exhibition/Oltremare/Rodeo. Review can be found here. The other is my review of the Spring Gala which had a Justin Peck premiere (the six minute, pleasant, and forgettable Bright), a Pam Tanowitz premiere, and the classic Tschaikovsky Suite #3. Review can be found here. However my review was extensively edited and they took out my favorite line about the disappointing Pam Tanowitz piece, so I'll quote it here:
Bartók Ballet reminded me of why I rarely enjoy Asian fusion restaurants. To me Asian fusion restaurants don't satisfy the appetites of those who want authentic Chinese food, authentic Japanese food, etc. By trying to be everything, it ends up being nothing. Tanowitz's Bartók Ballet tries to fuse modern dance with contemporary ballet and the hybrid was just confusing.
Saturday, May 4, 2019
|Dialogues des Carmelites, photo @ Ken Howard|
Poulenc's masterpiece Dialogues des Carmelites only has three performances at the Met this season. Which means ... you should definitely try to catch one of the two remaining performances either in person or in HD, because opera does not get more devastating than this. I went in only having seen the opera on video. Nothing could have prepared me for the impact of seeing it live in person. This is the sort of opera that makes you unable to sleep at night.
Sunday, April 28, 2019
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice inspires great operas. There's Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (or Orphée et Eurydice), Offenbach's parody operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, and now to that list we have to add Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown. Because make no mistake -- Hadestown might be playing at the Walter Kerr theater and be advertised as a musical, but it is an opera from curtain to curtain. Its appeal lies not in the usual musical theater tropes but in its operatic scope and scale. This is a work that goes from the heart to the heart.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
|The Carney clan, photo @ Joan Marcus|
I recently finally saw The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth's lauded play about the fortunes of a large Northen Irish family in 1981. The play received near-unanimous acclaim in both the West End and Broadway. It won a bunch of Oliviers and seems on track to pick up a bunch more Tony's. I didn't see the original "Irish" cast that opened the play, but the replacement American cast. There are some OBC holdovers, like Fionnula Flanagan as Aunt Maggie from Far Away and the brood of Carney children.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
|The rifles, the chili, the playbill|
Saturday, April 6, 2019
|New cast of Traviata, photo @ Ken Howard|
When Michael Mayer's new La Traviata production starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey premiered last December it was quite the hot ticket. Performances were sold out, and there were fierce online debates about the merits and demerits of Mayer's rather traditional production compared to the previous Willy Decker production.
What a difference a few months make. The spring revival with a brand new cast premiered tonight and while it was has fine voices there were many empty seats in the house and each act had more attrition. And truth be told, it was a rather sleepy performance that never took flight.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
|Grimsley and Goerke, photo @ Richard Termine|
I'd normally be skeptical of such a gushfest when said singer posting the gushfest is the Brünnhilde of the production. Of course she's going to tell people to come see her sing! But after tonight's performance of Die Walküre I felt the same sense of awe that Goerke expressed. Because the cast was amazing, the conductor led a gripping, thrilling performance that made the five hours fly by. And get thee to a movie theater on Saturday March 30 for the HD because if you don't, you're really missing out.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Roundabout Theatre's revival of Kiss Me Kate is actually my first live experience with this musical. I of love the original Broadway cast recording, the film adaptation. I was really looking forward to seeing the classic Cole Porter lyrics and score and the book by Sam and Bella Spewack onstage. And of course, let us not forget the Bard. The afternoon did not disappoint.
Monday, March 4, 2019
|New Leaders of NYCB|
Friday, February 22, 2019
|Indiana Woodward and Anthony Huxley, photo @ An Rong Xu|
Natural Auroras in Sleeping Beauty are surprisingly rare for a ballet that's performed so often, all over the world. Many ballerinas try it, many ballerinas can do the steps, but very few ballerinas have that combination of charm, radiance, joy, AND classical technique to really pull off the transformation from a sixteen year old in the birthday party to the regal monarch in the wedding scene. Margot Fonteyn was a legendary Aurora. A film made when she was 50 showed that she could still nail all the Rose Adagio balances and be a remarkably convincing teenager. In my live ballet-going experience, Alina Cojocaru, Diana Vishneva, and Sterling Hyltin are/were wonderful Auroras. Well tonight I can add another natural Aurora to this very small list: Indiana Woodward.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
|Benanti as Eliza in the Ascot scene, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Friday, February 8, 2019
|Fille du Régiment, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Donizetti's delightful comedy La Fille du Régiment made a much-welcome return to the Met last night. This was one of those evenings that was such a delightful performance overall that the flaws hardly mattered. The Met has assembled a wonderful cast for this revival, and Laurent Pelly's ubiquitous production remains as fresh and funny as ever. My first ever Fille was unforgettable -- Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in the lead roles. I remember the pandemonium during that performance -- the screaming, shouting, and stomping. If this performance didn't quite have the same raucous energy it was still one that made you leave the theater grinning from ear to ear.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
|The ladies of Principia, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
Sunday, January 27, 2019
|Stanley as Apollo, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
Everyone already knows about Apollo and how it's the oldest Balanchine ballet to survive in the repertoire. And almost every balletomane has strong feelings about how Apollo and the muses should be interpreted. In my relatively brief shelf-life as a hardcore balletomane I'd say two Apollos were masterful: Adrian Danchig-Waring and Robert Fairchild. Alas, Danchig-Waring is injured and Fairchild no longer with the company. The other two Apollos (Chase Finlay and Zachary Catazaro) were fired after the infamous photo sharing scandal.
Sunday, January 13, 2019
|George Stinney Jr.|
This horrifying, egregious miscarriage of justice is now the subject of an opera that was presented at New York's Prototype OperaFest, an annual festival of contemporary and experimental opera. Indeed, Stinney: An American Execution is not even presented as a complete work. The program says it's a "work-in-progress." Composer and librettist Frances Pollock wrote in the liner notes that she first presented the work in 2015 in Baltimore and insists that this is still a "reading." The opera (about 2 and a half hours) was done as a semi-staged concert, with orchestra, chorus and soloists sitting in rows on a small platform stage. One of the more disconcerting parts of the performance was that the background gave subtitles AND the libretto's stage directions, but the stage directions were only intermittently followed by the performers.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
|Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, and Anita Rachvelishvili, photo @ Ken Howard|
|Tebaldi as Adriana with a young Domingo|
Therefore the new production of Adriana Lecouvreur that was mounted for Met superdiva Anna Netrebko breaks a sort of curse. Netrebko is not singing Adriana because she is losing her upper register. This is not the desperate demand of a soprano with rapidly disappearing high notes. Netrebko's Adriana is a symbol of her power -- in Peter Gelb's Met, what Anna wants, Anna gets.
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