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Once More Unto the Breach

On New Year’s Eve, 1991, the Berlin Philharmonic gave its annual New Year’s concert in the city’s Schauspielhaus. The Wall was still fresh in the minds of Berliners from both the former West and East; the two cities had only resorbed as one a little over a year earlier. Under the baton of Claudio Abbado, […]

Posted inEssay

On the Other Hand

In the days following Leon Fleisher’s death, at the age of 92, I’ve found myself listening to his Bach. They’re few compared to the pianist’s more notable repertoire of Beethoven and Brahms, but two can be found on his 2004 album, “Two Hands.”   It was a recording that was also something of a rebirth (how […]

Posted inHistory

Engineered Consent

In 1905, two years after his Met debut and two minutes into an interview with the New York Times, Enrico Caruso came tantalizingly, presciently close to coining the term “fake news.” Over oysters and martinis, the first question launched, the Neapolitan tenor looked at his interviewer incredulously: “Dolls? Dolls? Ma che? What dolls do you […]

Posted inEssay

Notes on Birdsong

1. “During this pandemic, I’ve been feeling … particularly drawn to birding,” Joan Walsh wrote for The Nation. “You can hear the birds better without the city noise, and Central Park feels wilder, Edenic. Birding’s careful, meditative rhythms seem a cure for pandemic jitters.” New York in the time of COVID-19 has largely been talked […]

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Women In Love

I first learned about opera’s tradition of trouser roles from a trio of puppets. As a toddler, I’d often watch the 1972-73 series “Who’s Afraid of Opera?,” which featured a trio of audience members created by puppeteer Larry Berthelson: Rudy the Lion, Sir William the goat, and Billy, the baby goat nephew of Sir William. […]

Posted inOpinion

Color Blind

We can’t cancel Anna Netrebko. But one of the Russian soprano’s recent Instagram posts, taken backstage during a performance of “Aida” at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and showing off the diva’s makeup-darkened skin, may have been enough to get most any other opera singer to file for moral bankruptcy. “Beautiful singing!” wrote one follower under […]

Posted inEssay

Origin Myths

Illustrations Olivia Giovetti Nearly a century ago, when my ancestors landed in the United States as a family of Syrian refugees, my great-grandmother Nabiha’s name was changed to a more Americanized “Mona.” The story was always relayed in my family with matter-of-fact pragmatism, though no one caught the irony that the new name has its […]

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End Transmission

Early on in her debut essay collection, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Alice Bolin gives us a definition of the Dead Girl genre: highlighted by the dark specter of a deceased female character—more often than not murdered—who is depicted with an alternating degree of mature sexualization and infantilizing naiveté that earns her […]

Posted inReview

Deep Listen: Kaija Saariaho

Confession: As a music lover, one of my least favorite things to do is actually go to a live performance. Not because of the performance itself, but for the hell-is-other-people experience of being in an audience and the unspoken sense of competition that seems to come through in the concert hall. One evening, as a […]