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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 […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

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Silent Valley

Last month, the librettist and Anglican priest Alice Goodman told the New York Times of her text to the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer,” “Anything I might say about the controversy”—she was accused of anti-Semitism in her depictions of Jewish characters—“would pour gasoline on the embers.” She went on, “I doubt I’ll ever write anything […]

Posted inReport

Rage and Cringe

In our time, a unique jargon has developed for talking about internet memes. This jargon correlates with certain pop cultural tendencies; it expresses emotions people have felt before, but have never been able to convey as concisely as they can now with a new set of colloquialisms. Probably the most affective and distinctive emotion is […]

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Beckmesser’s Dream

A pogrom unfolds on the streets of Nuremberg. It’s the end of Act II of Barrie Kosky’s new production of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” at the Bayreuth Festival. Elsewhere in the piece, Hans Sachs sings that “all poems and verse are just the interpretation of dreams.” In some sense this production represents Beckmesser’s dream, or […]

Posted inEssay

Limits of Perspective

In Franz Lehár’s 1929 operetta “Das Land des Lächelns,” a Viennese lady, Lisa, loves a Chinese diplomat, Sou-Chong. She follows him back to China and marries him, only for them to ultimately be forced apart by Chinese custom. In 1929, this was a plea for tolerance by its two Jewish librettists. But today, its depiction […]

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