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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 […]

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Singing Within

I had tea with the tenor Mark Padmore one recent afternoon, backstage at the Berlin Philharmonic as it rained and hailed outside. He wore a black sweater over a light gray dress shirt and a sleek bronze bracelet, and had just finished a rehearsal with the violinist Pekka Kuusisto and members of the Karajan Academy, […]

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Make It Hurt

On October 26, 2017, the alto Wiebke Lehmkuhl sang a note—a G or an E flat, if I’m not mistaken—that was so quiet and smooth it sounded more like a boy than many boy sopranos do. The piece was Bach’s Mass in B Minor, conducted by Ton Koopman at the Berlin Philharmonic, penultimate movement, the […]

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Before Leaving this Place

When Gounod brought his “Faust” to London five years after its world premiere in 1859, there was one devil lurking in the details: venerated baritone Charles Santley was singing Valentin—the soldier brother of Marguerite who is killed by his sister’s lover (and the work’s title character)—but despite his fame he had no aria to sing. […]

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Phantoms

Pauline Oliveros’ last work, “The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera,” is coming to life thanks to the work of her partner and close collaborator of more than 30 years, Ione—an acclaimed author, playwright/director, sound/text artist, and dream specialist in her own right. The joint production between Experiments in Opera, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), […]

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A Catalyst

On October 7, National Sawdust celebrated the CD release of Du Yun’s Pulitzer-prize-winning opera “Angel’s Bone” with a performance of excerpts from the work. The concert was preceded by a panel during which ethnomusicologist Lara Peligrinelli moderated a discussion between Du Yun, librettist Royce Vavrek, and conductor Julian Wachner. Through vocal, acoustic, and electronic sound, […]

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When Is The Real Reopening?

And so, at long last, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden has reopened its doors to the public, its resident company’s long exile—seven years—in Charlottenburg’s Schillertheater over. It will close again at the end of the week, to re-reopen, as it were, in December, some final work to do, but let us not worry too much […]