Posted inInterview

Thousands of Changes

In February, Andris Nelsons told VAN about conducting Wagner in Bayreuth: “You enjoy it masochistically.” On June 30, he asked to be released from his contract, with the festival citing “a differing approach in various matters.” The performance artist and provocateur Jonathan Meese, the director for this year’s production of “Parsifal,” was let go. It’s […]

Posted inEssay

Mezzo-sopranos from Outer Space

In 2015, the writer Lisa Bolekaja published a short story in Uncanny, a magazine for science fiction and fantasy, called “Three Voices,” inspired by the Morton Feldman piece of the same name. At the climax, a vocalist’s skin pigmentation drains from her body and her eyes pop out. “How could she sing with no head?” […]

Posted inProfile

Just Like A Concert

Lukhanyo Moyake was the first singer I heard at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition last June, which for the first time in its 35-year history held rounds in Cape Town, South Africa. Still bleary-eyed from the day-long flight, I quickly regained my senses upon hearing the first phrase of his aria, “Ella mi […]

Posted inOpinion

Redundant Space

On June 19, I saw the English National Opera’s production of “Tristan und Isolde.” Besides the cast, the house advertised its collaboration with the British-Indian artist Anish Kappoor, who doubled as the production’s set designer. Employing a famous artist as a set designer is an appealing double whammy for opera houses, promising both creative constructions […]

Posted inProfile

Mythology Of Our Time

This Tuesday, I spoke with John Adams by phone from his studio, in Northern California. He will be the Artist in Residence at the Berlin Philharmonic next season, and I thought I’d give him some unsolicited advice about techno music here. Does he listen to it? “Sometimes.” Berlin also has a reputation as a paradise […]

Posted inReview


I honestly thought I knew all about the New York City opera scene. I tracked Opera On Tap. I had been to LoftOpera in Brooklyn. I spent years going to local opera competitions and all levels of the Met’s National Council Auditions. I was up to date on New York City Opera’s finances—hell, I was […]

Posted inReport

I Am Singing About Myself

Introduction On a late night this past spring, I saw a headline in The Independent that would soon provoke exasperation in parts of the opera world, outrage in others: “Otello: Why is a white tenor leading the Royal Opera House’s new production?” I was troubled, too: the headline I’d expected to see was, “ ‘I […]

Posted inPlaylist

Chains Are My Reward

While awaiting his execution by firing squad, the painter Cavaradossi sings, “I die in despair, and never before have I loved life so much!” It’s an aria of reverie, lament, and implicit protest against his captors. In this opera, Puccini’s “Tosca” (1900), power and evil aren’t abstractions: the chief of secret police has arrested and […]

Posted inInterview


Elīna Garanča stunned audiences when I saw her in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Roberto Devereux” in March, with a memorable performance even against Sondra Radvanovsky’s history-making role. She received an Opera News Award along with Waltraud Meier at the Plaza Hotel in New York on April 10, where we spoke to her about new versus old […]

Posted inInterview

Depth Psychology

The German mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier performed her last Kundry, a complex figure from Wagner’s “Parsifal,” on March 28 at the Staatsoper in Berlin. On April 10, she will receive one of five Opera News Awards at The Plaza in New York. We spoke with her, in the middle of her final preparations, about Wagner, “updated” […]