Posted inInterview

Natural Consequences

English countertenor Tim Mead’s voice is clean, serene, and direct, with a chameleon-like ability to remain subtly expressive in music from Handel to George Benjamin’s opera “Written on Skin,” in which Mead sings a queasily erotic and effective Boy. When I talked to Mead this month, he had just finished singing a project in Malta, […]

Posted inReview

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 […]

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 […]

Posted inReport

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 […]

Posted inReview

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”) […]

Posted inInterview

Healthy Confusion

Alex Ross’s Wagernism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music was released in September to wide acclaim. In VAN, Alison Kinney described the book’s complex, nuanced approach to art and morality: “Ross recognizes, and reshapes, the world of Wagnerism as it is, for good and for bad, and makes room for the inadequacy of […]

Posted inReview

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 […]

Posted inHistory

Engineered Consent

In 1905, two years after his Met debut and two minutes into an interview with the New York Times, Enrico Caruso came tantalizingly, presciently close to coining the term “fake news.” Over oysters and martinis, the first question launched, the Neapolitan tenor looked at his interviewer incredulously: “Dolls? Dolls? Ma che? What dolls do you […]

Posted inReport

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 […]