Cher Public

John Yohalem

John Yohalem’s critical writings have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, American Theater, Opera News, the Seattle Weekly, Christopher Street, Opera Today, Musical America and Enchanté: The Journal for the Urbane Pagan, among other publications. He claims to have attended 628 different operatic works (not to mention forty operettas), but others who were present are not sure they spotted him. What fascinates him, besides the links between operatic event and contemporary history, is how the operatic machine works: How voice and music and the ritual experience of theater interact to produce something beyond itself. He is writing a book on Shamanic Opera-Going.

No retreat, Nono surrender

When a premiere is a succès de scandale, it is hard to be certain (57 years later) whether it was the music or the politics that made the rumpus. Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza (as the publishers prefer to call it nowadays, a more universal focus than Intolleranza 1960, the original title) was howled out of La Fenice by angry crowds in 1961 (someone shouted “Viva la polizia!”), and was not produced again in Italy for 30 years. Read more »

Stout fellow

Luckless Otto Nicolai belongs to the large company of opera composers who never reached forty. Barely out of his twenties, he went south to Milan and scored a palpable hit, Il Templario, based on Ivanhoe. On the strength of this, he was offered a confused but epic libretto, a Biblical farrago entitled Nabucodonosor. He turned it down, and the impresario gave it to an even younger composer named Verdi. When this came to the stage, Nicolai said, “I told you no one could write music to that libretto,” and returned to Prussia.  Read more »

Take this ‘Job’ and stage it

Sumerian wood sculptures of a man in torment alternate with electric iconostases.

“Iyov” is Hebrew for “Job,” as in the Biblical Book of Job. There is some difficulty in describing just what IYOV the musical occasion is—and I’ll take refuge in calling it a musical work in the current PROTOTYPE Festival, through Saturday at HERE, on Dominick Street, between Soho and the Holland Tunnel.  Read more »

A little Proust

Though the novel’s structure and texture are often compared to musical forms such as Wagnerian music-drama, who would attempt to turn Proust’s A la Recherche de Temps Perdu into opera?

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Well-trod cinders in fitting slippers

Forgotten operas when revived may prove to be only their own reward.

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What’s at stake for a soul on fire?

Norman Dello Joio, who was knocking about winning prizes for film and TV scores, composed The Trial at Rouen, his second opera on the subject, for NBC.

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Kiss the pearls goodbye

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s spectacularly colorful and glitzy new production of The Pearl Fishers opened on Sunday.

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Girls on horseback

It’s a fairly traditional post-Patrice-Chereau Ring, set during the Industrial Revolution.

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Allowing the birds to nest in your hair

In the seventies and eighties Dominick Argento (who turned ninety this year) was one of the most oft-performed of American opera composers.

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The last ruse of summer

Flotow’s Martha, a work of 1847 that was popular around the world for a hundred years.

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