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.


It’s not easy being Greek It’s not easy being Greek

Sergey Taneyev, pupil of Tchaikovsky and teacher of Scriabin and Rachmaninov, composed just one opera, Oresteia, premiered in 1895 when he was 39.

on July 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM
Monkey business Monkey business

East is West and West is East—the border ever less easy to fix.

on July 10, 2013 at 4:41 PM
Les vêpres de Westchester Les vêpres de Westchester

The big news from Bel Canto at Caramoor’s presentation of Les Vêpres Siciliennes last Saturday is far from unexpected.

on July 07, 2013 at 3:56 PM
Fleur du mal Fleur du mal

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the repentant Puritan—that is, he repented that his family had once been Puritans—describes the voice of Rappaccini’s Daughter, Beatrice, as “rich as a tropical sunset, … which made Giovanni, though he knew not why, think of deep hues of purple or crimson and of perfumes heavily delectable.”

on June 18, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Servant of new masters Servant of new masters

Morningside Opera’s ¡Figaro! (90210) is a staging/translation (into English, Spanish, et al.) of Le Nozze as if in contemporary Beverly Hills (as if!), and it’s playing at the NSD Theater on Bank Street near the Meatpacking District through next Sunday.

on June 12, 2013 at 6:32 PM
With a little bit of Gluck With a little bit of Gluck

The best joke in Offenbach’s delicious Orphée aux Enfers is the opening premise: Orphée and Eurydice are miserably married, due to her utter boredom with his old-fashioned music.

on March 31, 2013 at 12:02 AM
One from the vault One from the vault

There has never been a successful vampire musical—so they say. But that’s just not true.

on March 18, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Alcoholics astonished Alcoholics astonished

Christoph Willibald Gluck wrote some fifty operatic works, not counting revisions and translations, and in every form extant in the two cities, Paris and Vienna, in which he made his career.

on March 17, 2013 at 9:52 PM
Down Argentine way Down Argentine way

It has always puzzled me—and I’m not the only one—that so few successful operas have been composed in Spanish.

on March 16, 2013 at 4:44 PM
Queen of the Maybe Queen of the Maybe

“I didn’t think anything could be campier than Adriana. But this is nothing but camp. Adriana at least has tunes.”

on March 05, 2013 at 9:38 AM
Bly spirit Bly spirit

In any narrative, the unmentioned—the unmentionable—will always be more alarming than that which is carefully described.

on February 25, 2013 at 4:04 PM
Equal rites Equal rites

As with all good myths, certainly all the myths at the heart of Wagner’s operas, the juggling of symbols and archetypes and themes in Parsifal opens the piece to a great variety of interpretations.

on February 21, 2013 at 11:41 PM
State of Her Grace State of Her Grace

Like Miss Adelaide the well-known fiancée in Guys and Dolls, the New York City Opera may be down but she’s not flat as all that.

on February 17, 2013 at 11:12 AM
The Prince of Alice Tully Hall The Prince of Alice Tully Hall

Either you adore “The World Is but a Broken Toy” from Act II of Princess Ida and have always wanted to hear it sung by voices of operatic quality… or you don’t… and you haven’t.

on January 18, 2013 at 1:07 AM
No place like Rome No place like Rome

Love grand opera but wary of a six o’clock curtain with five hours of music behind it? (And nothing is grander than Berlioz’s Les Troyens, eh?) Your dilemma has been solved. Show up at the Met at 7:30 or 8:00, whenever they have the first intermission.

on December 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM
Water stories Water stories

You can see the logic of it: The Juilliard School wants to show off its opera program, the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, which is (on the evidence) brim-full of talent.

on December 13, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Bea in the bonnet Bea in the bonnet

Everyone who revives Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, as the Collegiate Chorale did at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday night, calls the piece an “overlooked masterpiece.”

on December 06, 2012 at 11:54 AM
The Beatrice generation The Beatrice generation

Beatrice di Tenda was a problem child, Vincenzo Bellini an alternately protective and disparaging parent.

on December 04, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Death, warmed over Death, warmed over

Kaiser Overall—the name is intended to be sung in English, though the opera is in German—is probably mad, though perhaps no madder than anyone else.

on November 18, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Shipshape Shipshape

Italo Montemezzi’s La Nave, premiered in 1918 and not performed anywhere since 1938, concerns itself with nautical power, male and female archetypes, love and hate conjoined, sex and death, the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire — and the visionary future of Old Venice.

on November 02, 2012 at 12:45 PM
The odd Pasquale The odd Pasquale

At the age of thirty, Donizetti was already the experienced composer of about eighteen operas, both serious and farcical, but as Olivo e Pasquale (currently undergoing its American premiere run at Amore Opera) makes clear, the comic works were no slight matter.

on October 24, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Joy cometh in the mourning Joy cometh in the mourning

Is the threnody, the lament over a beloved corpse, the oldest form of song? Surely it is among the oldest; one of the most widespread and stylistically various, millennia before opera was devised.

on July 21, 2012 at 5:54 PM
Conquering Ciro Conquering Ciro

By the time Rossini was 20, he had produced six operas, most of them brief, comic and slight. He admitted to admiring Mozart (not then well known south of the Alps), but the melodies of his early works show more of the influence of Paisiello.

on July 09, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Renaissance: fair Renaissance: fair

On this Gay Pride weekend, I remember my late friend Robert Chesley, activist and playwright (Stray Dog Story), who had also been an elementary schoolteacher.

on June 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM
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