Posted inReview

Bursting Through Confines

The first thing I saw was groups of soldiers. Aix-en-Provence, a wealthy tourist resort and college town, is not their primary target, and France is only the latest in a long series of countries to be occupied by the French military. But they were everywhere: at the airport in baggage claim, flanking the exit to […]

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Uncanny Songs

Before she moved to London as a third-year undergraduate student less than a decade ago, Na’ama Zisser had never even been to the opera. This week sees the production of her very own, “Mamzer Bastard,” by London’s Royal Opera House at the Hackney Empire. Taking place within an orthodox Hasidic community and featuring Jewish cantorial […]

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Sudden Shattering

In May, a new staging of Handel’s “Semele” premiered at the Komische Oper in Berlin. Allan Clayton, in coattails, a three-piece suit, and pink socks, played a sprightly Jove, who has just fallen in love with a mortal woman. When he sang the lines “Where’er you tread the blushing flow’rs shall rise / And all […]

Posted inOpinion

Shush Money

In December, James Levine was fired from his emeritus music directorship at the Metropolitan Opera, after five men stepped forward to credibly accuse him of sexual assault when they were teenagers and young adults, over a period ranging from the 1970s to the 1990s. Some might have expected him to recede into the background. Instead, […]

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The Calibrated Voice

The voices of singers tend to call forth abstract, flowery adjectives. But when you hear the baritone Matthias Goerne, it’s easy to point out the specific moments that distinguish his art. As Wotan from Wagner’s “Ring,” he sings about the castle of the gods as if it were a tender memory from Schubert’s “Winterreise.” In […]

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Heels of Fortune

Opera so often has an aftertaste of evil. The character of Osmin in Mozart’s “Entführung aus dem Serail” is an embarrassing Middle Eastern caricature absurdly obsessed with blood and gore. Wagner’s knights and gods like to address their female counterparts simply as “woman.” Blackface still makes regular appearances in contemporary stagings of Verdi’s “Otello.” In […]

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Opera Vernacular

Leonard Bernstein‘s centenary has been particularly healthy for his legacy as a composer. While “West Side Story” has been an uninterrupted success since its premiere in 1957, it also became almost like a mortgage that Bernstein spent the rest of his years paying off with other creative struggles. His compositional talent, which lay in a […]

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The Art Of Somebody Else

Donald Runnicles is an imposing man, he stands tall and has a booming voice with a slight Scottish accent. Music director of the Deutsche Oper since 2009, when he arrived in the middle of a financial crisis in which the house was almost merged or downsized, he has attracted rave reviews for new productions of […]

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Awful Magic

Our times are full of peculiar things,” Carlotta sings in the first act of Franz Schreker’s 1918 expressionist psychothriller, “Die Gezeichneten.” She is referring to a woman who paints hands—delicate ladies’ palms, fat workingmen’s fists—but by the end of the evening she will have found herself (at least in Calixto Bieito’s new staging at the […]

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Buried Treasure

In June 2013, the Aldeburgh Festival celebrated the centenary of its founder, Benjamin Britten, by brutalizing his music. “Grimes on the Beach,” a production of the opera “Peter Grimes” that was performed over three nights on the very shoreline that first gave George Crabbe, and then Britten, a setting for their stories of Suffolk fisherfolk […]