Tonight’s program at the New York Philharmonic, Arthur Honegger’s massive oratorio dramatique Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher, has been an occasional visitor to the orchestra’s repertoire starting with the performance conducted by Charles Munch in January of 1948. Despite its slight 70 minute running time, it’s a vast polyphonic work that attracts that certain species of conductor who enjoys showing off the adroit command of large forces both orchestral and choral. As well one can hardly imagine the near electro-magnetic tug actresses must feel at the opportunity of playing one of the most mythic women of the middle ages and not get scorched by the process. Read more »
“As Italo Calvino has been widely quoted, ‘A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.’ That’s certainly true of a classic in non-literary form, the musical Show Boat, presented in concert format last week by the New York Philharmonic. Musical theater fans have lived with this show all their lives, and so have a couple of generations before them, but the piece continues to communicate, even in the less than perfect circumstances of this latest revival.” [New York Observer]
If you are of the belief that Show Boat can stand on its own as a classic score and thus doesn’t need the trappings of musical production, you’ll love the New York Philharmonic’s “semi-staged” production. Conductor/director Ted Sperling presents the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein classic as almost entirely a concert opera. Only a thin backdrop of an old-fashioned river-boat set the scene. The singers and dancers were dressed in modern evening wear, and the action is limited to the thin apron of the Avery Fisher Hall stage. Sperling uses the entire Philharmonic, instead of the usual pared-down orchestra that’s typical for these musical presentations. Read more »
“The finale of Sweeney Todd left the stage of Avery Fisher Hall littered with corpses, but the evening, for all its flaws, felt vibrantly alive.”
Our Own JJ has been spending a lot of time outdoors lately, which is such a novelty for him that he felt he really must write about it.
I had every reason to think I’d love the New York Phil’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen as much as I did their staging of Le Grand Macabre with the same creative team.