Posted inInterview

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, […]

Posted inInterview

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

A Cold War

When he was 16, Wolf Biermann emigrated from his hometown of Hamburg to the German Democratic Republic. The year was 1952 and the young man, whose father was a staunch Communist and killed in Auschwitz, was welcomed in the East. Less than 25 years later, Biermann, now a rock star—his apartment, dubbed “the waiting room […]

Posted inEssay

Against The Grain

The last time I visited my family in Atlanta, I stumbled across an answering machine in the closet while hunting around for a beach towel. It took me a moment to place the clunky black object, but as soon as I pieced together what it was, I hurriedly plugged it in. The voice of my […]

Posted inInterview

Sensitivities

I met the soprano Kristine Opolais for this interview at her hotel in Leipzig. It was a hot, overcast day, so we sat outside. A few drops of rain fell periodically. When she laughed, she’d lean forward and create a triangle from her shoulder to her hand with her left arm, bending her wrist. We […]

Posted inProfile

I’m Not Doing Anything

It wasn’t Helga Davis’ idea to have a podcast named after herself. Nor was ending up on the radio in the first place. At WQXR, the most listened-to classical station in the United States, Davis is among a cohort of contributors—including violist Nadia Sirota, composer Nico Muhly, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas—who conjure art both […]

Posted inInterview

Singing By Radar

I met Thomas Hampson for an interview before the meeting of a Munich opera club, where he was scheduled to speak. He was only very slightly late, but the well-meaning members of the of the club seemed worried. “Thomas Hampson never shows up alone,” I was told. At one point in our conversation, a painting […]

Posted inInterview

What Isn’t Art

The morning after a concert—with the Freiburger Barockorchester, in Cologne—I meet the German baritone Christian Gerhaher for an interview in a hotel lobby. We keep talking in the car on the way to the airport, and then in the terminal. A concert in the evening means that no energy can be wasted during the day. […]

Posted inEssay

Strange Dissonance

Goethe’s “Erlkönig” is one of the most horrifying poems in all of world literature. At its center is an unspeakable tragedy, the death of a child. Also shocking is the language of the poem: it omits any description of the boy’s suffering. The very objectivity of Goethe’s language is chilling. In Schubert’s setting of “Erlkönig,” […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Barbara Hannigan Playlist

On February 4, 5, and 6, the soprano Barbara Hannigan will perform Hans Abrahamsen’s “let me tell you,” with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons, conductor. Here is her introduction to this playlist, which she uses to inhabit her role of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. “For many of the major pieces I perform, I make a […]