John Masko, a native of the Providence, RI area, is an orchestral conducting master’s student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During his undergraduate years at Yale College, John was active in student opera both as a music director and vocal coach, working on productions of Die Fledermaus, Dido and Aeneas, Castor et Pollux, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado. After he graduated with a double major in history and music in 2014, John’s diverse interests led him to a two-year international politics research and writing position at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, while he simultaneously studied the art of conducting. He is winner of the 2016 Rubin Institute Audience Review Prize for music criticism.
In have a special admiration for singers who can perform well in French. The reasons include both a personal bugaboo (I can remember almost choking over the word gloire the first time I ran across it in a choral piece), and the technical difficulties that the language imposes on any singer. Executing the complex range of dark vowel sounds and schwas requires near perfect control over vowel shape and inflection, even as the high dramatic content of so much of the French repertoire gives a singer plenty of other things to think about. Read more »
Kevin Puts’ Silent Night is an anomaly for high-level “classical music” in our times: its style is listenable and unpretentious, its emotionalism unfettered and raw. The opera, which had its west coast premiere of this opera in San José on Sunday, is in a sense a giant middle finger raised against the conventional wisdom that musical sophistication requires inscrutability. (In fact, this opera was an ideal antidote to my unsettling Friday, when I heard Ted Hearne’s The Source in San Francisco.) Read more »
Reviewing a new opera offers the opportunity to review not only the performance but the composition itself. And in certain newer compositions, like Ted Hearne’s opera/oratorio The Source, the two elements are inseparable. Read more »
It is a good rule of thumb that if you emerge from a massive grand opera like Aida feeling any less than overwhelmed, you have a right to be somewhat disappointed.
In one important respect, a great production of Puccini resembles a great production of Wagner.