Posted inReport

Built and Abandoned

Georg Friedrich Haas’s new orchestral work opens at the void. A solo contraforte—a sort of improved contrabassoon with a more focused, melodic tone—holds a low F#. A solo violin looks down on it from far above, playing close, dissonant intervals in the high reaches of the harmonic spectrum. Slowly, the violin descends. The orchestra begins […]

Posted inReview

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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Collective Breath

Singing, as a teacher of mine once disarmingly put it, is simply “an exhaling of sorts.” For most people, the mechanisms of breathing are hardly noticed unless they stop working as intended. That caveat has become more present in the last year, with the nature of COVID-19 leaving us paying more, and more nervous, attention […]

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How to Eat

One chapter in Virgil Thomson’s 1939 book, The State of Music, is titled “How Composers Eat, or Who Does What to Whom and Who Gets Paid.” Thomson identified the subsequent means both clearly and derisively: “A surprisingly large number of composers are men of private fortune… the number of those who have married their money […]

Posted inInterview

Fighting Windmills

The doors of the Berlin Philharmonic closed to the public on March 11, 2020. They won’t open again this season, making the coronavirus closure the Berlin Philharmonic’s longest break in its 138-year history. Instead of the musicians, it’s the construction workers who now have the run of the house, with improvements taking place on the […]

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temporarily unavailable

Leigh Mesh is associate principal bass at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His wife Nancy Wu is associate concertmaster. They’ve been playing in the orchestra for a combined 58 years, and have both been making do without their regular incomes since March 31. On June 1, in the New York Times, the Met announced its earliest […]

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Live, From New York

As I write this the first weekend in May, the rate of new COVID-19 cases here in New York City, where some 20 percent of the population has caught the virus, has remained level for a week. Far from the recent peaks of infection and death, the numbers are nowhere near what’s needed to return […]

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Can Met Musicians Survive The Furlough?

On March 19, as the COVID-19 virus spread rapidly in New York City, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it was suspending paychecks indefinitely for its orchestra, chorus, and stagehands, effective March 31. One month later, the members of its renowned orchestra are staring into the financial abyss. Just two days after the furlough was announced, […]