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 Love, Anger, Agency

Kate Molleson begins Sound within Sound: Opening Our Ears to the Twentieth Century with a loud call for change. “I write this book out of love and anger. The love, because I want to shout from the rooftops that classical music is gripping, essential, personally and politically game changing. The anger, because I can’t shout proudly about a […]

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Song of the Goats

Watching a Yorgos Lanthimos film invariably leads to esoteric questions. Via “Dogtooth”: Why are you calling an armchair a “sea”? From “The Lobster”: If you had to be irreversibly changed into an animal, which one would you pick? And, thanks to Lanthimos’s new short, “Bleat,” co-commissioned by the Greek National Opera and cultural nonprofit NEON: […]

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Infiltrating Justice

Heartbeat Opera’s adaptation of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” achieves what many well-meaning, ostensibly “woke” contemporary music ensemble efforts fail to accomplish. Artistic Director Ethan Heard’s retelling engages directly with the marginalized population it seeks to draw attention to: The “Prisoners’ Chorus” is sung by incarcerated individuals from prison choirs across the United States. Although the opera was […]

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On the Stuplime

On September 25, under a ruined proscenium, on a parking deck, among ravers, punks, scenesters, and opera-lovers, as champagne for spent performers flowed nearby—grace arrived. Nine singers, four actors, a 15-member orchestra, and a conductor had been looping the same 150-second passage from “Le nozze di Figaro” without pause for 11 hours and 50 minutes, […]

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Communist Dissonance

At the beginning of the Chinese Communist Party propaganda movie-musical “The Wings of Songs,” a tune is playing, and there are attractive people frolicking. But, unlike “The Sound of Music,” the frolicking and the music never match. We have just been introduced to three boyish members of a band, the film’s protagonists, who are performing […]

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The Society of the Spectacle

Modernist literature has a special fascination with Wagner. The voices of “Das Rheingold” and “Tristan und Isolde” drift across T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Virginia Woolf’s The Waves bears the imprint of the composer’s motivic method, along with the symbolism of the “Ring” Cycle and “Parsifal.” A lusty Wagnerian atavism is stamped all over […]

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Far Away, So Close

In this pandemic, with its necessity of physical distancing, opera—known for large-scale, human-intensive productions and larger-than-life immediacy—faces particular challenges. Many companies’ creative approaches to COVID-friendly performance have drawn on the past few decades of live broadcasts to bring their productions to house-bound, worldwide audiences. At the end of this first year, filmed opera produced during […]

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We Got Drunk and Listened to Jonas Kaufmann’s Christmas Album

Considering the bleak happenings that have defined 2020, we can all be thankful for one grand unifying event that restored a little bit of our faith in humanity: Jonas Kaufmann released a Christmas album. Not just any Christmas album: a two-hour, 42-track deluxe set of everything from traditional Alpine tunes (“Es wird scho glei dumpa”) […]

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The Ecstasy of Knowledge

Early in Wagnerism: Art and Politics In the Shadow of Music, a history of the cult of fandom devoted to the operas of 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner, Alex Ross drops a charming anecdote from the 1850s. Poet and critic Auguste de Gasperini told of being “subjugated” by Wagner’s music, suffering what Ross calls “an […]

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Depressuring

The first ever Andermatt Music Winter Festival took place between January 15 and 19, 2020. Three young Englishmen curated the program for the new concert hall: symphonic and chamber music, lectures, and a recital. It was to be a mountainous excursion, with Daniel Barenboim and Beethoven. By Katharina Thalmann · Translated from the German by […]

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