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.


Sir Arthur Sullivan, the son of an Irish father and an Italian mother, studied Mendelssohn’s composition style in Leipzig. He was therefore, inevitably, the supreme English theater composer of his day, and his often Mozartean style of melody is not out of place in a bel canto festival. After all, in the fourteen operettas he…

on June 26, 2011 at 11:04 PM

Not everything a genius creates is … a work of genius. Y’know? Mozart, for example: Sure, he was a prodigy at four, and at ten, and even at fourteen, but did he actually compose anything spectacular before he turned, say, seventeen? I’m thinking of “Exultate, Jubilate,” if you want to know. 

on May 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM

We’re going to be hearing a lot about pasticcios in the next seven months, as we run up to The Enchanted Island at the Met. We’d better get used to the idea, and what better way to do so than to go hear a home-made pasticcio at far lower prices? 

on May 13, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Pornography being the seminal [sic] art form of our time, through which every other art is interpreted (I lament this, but what can you do?), and opera being in one of its periodic up-cycles, new ones being composed and premiered, old ones being dusted off for re-use, and stage directors feeling impelled, as they do,…

on March 21, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Among symbolic classical tropes, one of my favorites (perhaps because only another classicist will understand it) is Nessus’ Shirt, an emblem of glory (a promotion, say, or an expensive luxury) that destroys you.

on March 10, 2011 at 2:03 PM

The moral of Lohengrin is clearly set out: Don’t talk on your wedding night. Even more important, don’t sing. Happily, at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Johan Botha in the title role and Amber Wagner as Elsa of Brabant ignored this advice. 

on March 09, 2011 at 4:08 PM

What do opera composers do on vacation? If the researches behind this performance at the Rossini in Wildbad Festival are correct, they gather their nearest and dearest and dash them off a quickie opera for performance en famille. That, in any case, is what Giovanni Pacini did during down-time between presenting seventy-odd operas to the…

on February 14, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Blazing Jupiter, the Jovial Star, my personal magical azimuth, plus Perseid meteors wafting about, burning out as do our souls, as we arrived home from Seattle Opera’s new production of Tristan und Isolde.

on August 14, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Some composers write as if the dividing line between instruments that play notes and the voice, which usually sings a text and takes some of its attitude towards the music from that text, were not an all-important factor.

on January 12, 2010 at 5:21 PM
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