Saturday, February 29, 2020

Agrippina: In Which I Brave Baroque Opera Seria

Evil, evil people. Photo @ Marty Sohl
Some people are afraid of snakes. Other people are afraid of heights. Me? I have another phobia: baroque opera seria. Nothing strikes more fear into my heart than hours of da capo arias. Listening to those ornate A-B-A melodies is more intimidating than twelve-tone music, more intimidating than John Cage's "random sounds," more intimidating than a root canal. But life is all about conquering fears, and today I sat through Handel's Agrippina. I was buoyed by good reviews and also the availability of cheap rush tickets on HD day.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

La Traviata's Second Cast is First Best


Oropesa and the rest of the Traviata cast, photo @ Richard Termine
In a Met season there always is an unspoken pecking order regarding revivals. Some revivals are heavily promoted with lots of press, sometimes a New York Times or Opera News profile and an HD transmission. Others are quietly tucked into a season and come and go with no fanfare.

The second cast of the Met's revival of La Traviata seems to have fallen to the bottom of the totem pole -- it didn't even merit a promotional video on the Met's Youtube channel. Too bad, because it's the strongest revival of the year. It surpassed the first cast (starring Aleksandra Kurzak, Dmytro Popov and Quinn Kelsey) in every way. From curtain to curtain it was just a very well-sung, moving performance. Even Michael Mayer's shallow, gaudy production looked better with performers as sincere as Lisette Oropesa, Piero Pretti, and Luca Salsi. (Germont's silent daughter popping up in inopportune moments is a directorial conceit that unfortunately has not been 86'ed.)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

West Side Story: Total Momsical Failure

Tony and Maria pulled apart, photo @ Sara Krulwich
Every year I try to take my mom to one Broadway musical. My mom requires two things: 1) it be a classic musical; and 2) it's not R-rated. So this year I bought tickets to Ivo van Hove's highly discussed revival of West Side Story. When it was over my mom beat a hasty retreat out of the theater. I asked her what she thought. "I wanted to see West Side Story, not a home video of West Side Story!"

Friday, February 7, 2020

NYCB's Episodes Wakes Up Sleepy Winter Season

Paul Taylor in Episodes
NYCB's Winter Season is usually a big gathering of dance fans who crave 'real dance' after Nutcracker season. Yet after three weeks of Winter Season it's hard to ignore the empty auditorium, the tepid crowds, and the feeling that for whatever reason the company is in a rut.

It's a strange feeling because the programming has been strong. The dancing has rarely been outright bad. And there have been excellent performances: Tiler Peck (paired with the virtuoso Roman Mejia) losing a bit of her speed but none of her brilliance in Allegro Brillante, Joseph Gordon soaring in the variations of La Source and remembering to point his feetthe delightful Emma von Enck charming the audience as the solo girl in La Source. Teresa Reichlen and Ask La Cour have been having the seasons of their lives -- they were gorgeous sculptures in Momentum and all twisted angularity in Movements, and both of them danced a Firebird that was beautiful, mysterious, and surprisingly heartrending.

Balanchine's Nutcracker pops up ... everywhere

It's December 2020 and the world is going through a furious, deadly second wave of the covid pandemic. Most performances have been cance...