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The Architecture of Experience

Attendees of the Ultima Oslo festival took cover from the rainy September weather at venues that ranged from a railway underpass to a waste water purification plant to a mausoleum in the woods. These soundscapes often provided a physical refuge from the gloomy dampness, but simultaneously unsettled and destabilized aesthetic norms. Wading around town in […]

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Is An Opera An Opera An Opera?

Dazzlingly abstruse and brimming over with surreal touches, “The Mother of Us All,” an opera with music by Virgil Thomson and a libretto by Gertrude Stein, is an idiosyncratic choice for an experiment in community building in Hudson, New York. The work tells the story of Susan B. Anthony, or something like it. At one […]

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Two Sides Of A Concert, Part II

The new John Adams opera “Girls of the Golden West” depicts the Gold Rush, an iconic moment in California history when people of different backgrounds suddenly came to live in the same place. With Adams, director Peter Sellars constructed much of the libretto from the letters of Louise Clappe, an educated woman who wrote under […]

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Two Sides of a Concert, Part I

Naively in retrospect, I came to the Deutsche Oper’s recent production of “Elektra” with an expectation that its reception would be mostly positive. The work is a staple of German opera, staged at a respected German opera house, seasonally appropriate with blood and gore in October, and featuring a world-renowned Wagnerian soprano, Catherine Foster, in […]

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Two Sides Of A Concert, Part III

I rang in the new year at the San Francisco Symphony, interviewing audience members about the evening’s entertainment: Seth MacFarlane. The creator of the popular TV series “Family Guy” and “The Orville,” among others, MacFarlane is also a baritone. On December 31, he sang jazz standards and Broadway numbers under the direction of Edwin Outwater. […]

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When Is The Real Reopening?

And so, at long last, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden has reopened its doors to the public, its resident company’s long exile—seven years—in Charlottenburg’s Schillertheater over. It will close again at the end of the week, to re-reopen, as it were, in December, some final work to do, but let us not worry too much […]

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Disappearing Act

The rarely performed music of Horatiu Radulescu, the iconoclastic Romanian composer and self-described founder of spectralism, will be at the center of an ambitious upcoming three-day festival at Acker Stadt Palast in Berlin on October 19-21. Organized by Iranian composer and conductor Arash Yazdani and his Ensemble for New Music Tallinn (ENMT) in honor of […]

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Nestled

Heinz Holliger sits on the edge of his seat, moving his hands knowingly to the atonal wanderings of Frédérique Cambreling’s harp. His face cycles between anticipation, excitement, and a little thrilled relief. Holliger is watching the world premiere of the full version of his Partita No. 2 for Harp, which is stretching both the limits […]

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Playing God With Sound

In film and childhood memories, concert halls darken and the audience murmurs. They begin exerting force on you long before the first note is played. So why can watching a live orchestra—with its reverent circumstance—feel a little like sitting in an elaborate wedding cake or complicated wicker-basket? Maybe it’s because getting acoustic music to fill […]