Posted inBreaking

The Politics of D Major

Like a panel of elementary-school teachers, music critics weren’t mad—just disappointed yesterday. That was when the Staatsoper Unter den Linden announced that conductor Christian Thielemann would replace Daniel Barenboim as music director starting with the 2024-25 season. Stern and badly-spelled I expected better of yous rang out across the land, directed at the city’s center-right […]

Posted inInterview

A Hero’s Journey

Editor’s note: A few weeks after announcing his retirement from the opera stage due to incurable bile duct cancer, tenor Stephen Gould died at the age of 61 on September 19, 2023. Gould met with VAN writer Volker Hagedorn in early 2019 while headlining “Tannhäuser” at the Dresden Semperoper. In honor of the singer, much-loved […]

Posted inReview

Smeared in Gold

In his program interview with theater writer A.J. Goldmann, Barrie Kosky described his new production of the Royal Opera House “Ring” cycle as “stripping opera back to the quintessential human condition,” taking inspiration from the distilled purity of Greek dramas over the expanse of Norse and Germanic myths. This spare, brutal, yet lubricious production sets […]

Posted inOpinion

The Problem with Peter

Rain is hardly a deterrent in Paris. It’s opening night for a new staging of the John Adams warhorse “Nixon in China,” and the imposing stone walls of the Opéra Bastille are framed by a quickly-brewing storm. Under trickling March skies, the house bears an uncanny resemblance to the military stronghold from which it gets […]

Posted inReview

Indifferent Flying Objects

Art is augmented reality. So when Bayreuth stages an AR “Parsifal,” to curiosity, doubt, disgust—the whole spectrum of emotions from desire to hatred—it’s worth taking a step back.  Opera as a genre already augments reality. Janáček’s Katya Kabanova wonders why normal people can’t fly, opera lovers wonder why the same normal people don’t sing their […]

Posted inRankings & Roundups

The Opera Fuckboy Matrix

What, exactly, is a fuckboy? When I asked people on what remains of classical Twitter to tell me about their favorite fuckboys in opera, the responses I received showed that, even after a nearly-decade-old debate around the word’s manifold meanings and usage, we’ve yet to reach a consensus.  I’m not here to define the fuckboy. […]

Posted inStuff I’ve Been Hearing

Symmetries of Desire

There are tenors who fuck, and then there are tenors who fuck. Sure, hearing Jonas Kaufmann pump out “Winterstürme” is good for some heady thrills, and I wouldn’t not tuck Jussi Björling’s “Ch’ella mi creda” in my hope chest. But let’s talk for a moment about the ténor de grâce. At first blush, they may […]

Posted inInterview

Trust the Truths

Can an opera album stand on its own as an opera? I listened to Christopher Cerrone’s 58-minute “In a Grove” while walking in Nebraska. I passed a deserted main street, barking dogs tied to porches, children learning to bike, and Trump 2024 signs, while listening to the story of a murder. Based on the Ryūnosuke […]

Posted inProfile

“What Do You Do with It When You Go Home?”

It’s hard to look at Joyce DiDonato as she sits on the stage of Athens’s Megaron Concert Hall, surrounded by 77 children, and not think of Maria von Trapp. “We’ll sit like this, because I want to sing something just for you,” she says during a rehearsal for that evening’s concert, speaking to the children […]

Posted inReview

Indeterminate Openness

As music director of the Vienna State Opera and then (briefly) of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Gustav Mahler was steeped in the form. Despite this, he never wrote an opera. The closest Mahler came is probably the hour-long finale of the Eighth Symphony, which sets the final scene from Part Two of Goethe’s “Faust.” The […]

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