Posted inEssay

Before Leaving this Place

When Gounod brought his “Faust” to London five years after its world premiere in 1859, there was one devil lurking in the details: venerated baritone Charles Santley was singing Valentin—the soldier brother of Marguerite who is killed by his sister’s lover (and the work’s title character)—but despite his fame he had no aria to sing. […]

Posted inEssay

A Cold War

When he was 16, Wolf Biermann emigrated from his hometown of Hamburg to the German Democratic Republic. The year was 1952 and the young man, whose father was a staunch Communist and killed in Auschwitz, was welcomed in the East. Less than 25 years later, Biermann, now a rock star—his apartment, dubbed “the waiting room […]

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My Father, The Flying Dutchman

Time is often the unspoken main character in opera. The drama of “Don Giovanni” stems from the plot unfolding in just one day. Orpheus’s tragic downfall is being unable to avoid gazing at Eurydice until they’ve left the underworld. And the plot of “Der fliegende Holländer” is cut short if Daland doesn’t seek shelter from […]

Posted inReport

Music for a New World

On Streaming and Piracy By · Illustrations Stallio (CC) · Date 03/03/2016 Technology is changing the recorded music business, as it is changing all businesses. 10 years ago, music piracy was seen as the great threat to the future of music. It’s since been largely replaced by music streaming—in the minds of many musicians, not […]

Posted inReview

Chorus and Orchestra of Generals

On North Korean Opera By · Date 02/18/2016 Kim Jong-il, the late Dear Leader of the People’s Republic of Korea, wrote six operas in two years. Not only that: according to one version of his official biography, they are all “better than any in the history of music.” Even accounting for the immodesty of dictators, […]

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Inside an Organ Workshop By · Photography · Date 01/21/2016 There’s something about an annoying office job that makes you idealize working with your hands, even if you have—like me—no aptitude for it at all. Last winter, I applied for an apprenticeship at the organ builder Orgelbau Scheffler, in the tiny, former East German village […]

Posted inHistory

The Pianist’s Eye

Lilian Kallir’s Musical Alexia Author · Date 01/21/2016 The pianist Lilian Kallir was a formidable sight-reader who could easily play a Mozart Piano Concerto on the first reading, though she was mostly known for the instinctive musicality, tonal beauty, and precocious maturity of her playing. In 1991, presented with a last-minute change in a program, […]