Cher Public

Who’s that woman?

silja_behrensFaithful and sharp-eared member of the cher public reedroom notes, “…an observation about the Levine 40th Wozzeck CD (Anja Silja/Jose van Dam)—the second CD (acts 2 and 3) has to be a different performance, different cast and different year. It is undoubtedly Hildegard Behrens on the 2nd CD. I don’t know who the baritone is but it is NOT van Dam. The orchestra/stage balance is different on the 2nd CD and it sounds like a “better” orchestra too.  Am I nuts? ” Read more »

Lavender lady

pilou_thumbAccording to Mary Garden’s autobiography, Claude Debussy first encountered the Scottish-born diva at the Opéra Comique.  After rehearsing her at the piano in a few scenes from his newly completed opera, Debussy said to Garden:  “To think that you had to come from the cold far North to create my Mélisande.”  He then turned to the theater’s impresario and exclaimed:  “I have nothing to tell her.”

This 1983 Met broadcast of Pelléas et Mélisande (included in James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met – CD Box Set), features an Egyptian-Greek enchantress whom Debussy may also have found similarly beyond reproach:  lyric soprano Jeannette Pilou.   Read more »

The last days of disco

Stratas_thumbThe Met’s 1979 telecast of Mahagonny exposed one of the lesser-known factors contributing to the demise of disco:  the global supply of eye shadow, rouge and lip gloss was exhausted for the next decade by a cast featuring Klara Barlow, Louise Wohlafka, Nedda Casei, Gwynn Cornell, Joann Grillo and Isola Jones—and stilettos, garter belts and hairspray were pretty hard to come by, as well!  (Ethel Merman had already cleaned New York City out of reinforced girdles, so the Met was left to its own devices.)   Read more »

Royal Hunt

Les Troyens is one of those things, or often two of those things, that should be a big event or it practically needn’t happen at all.* The keynote is grandiosity in the best way, from the subject to the musical demands (let’s include the implicit challenge of one singer performing both Cassandre and Didon—not because it happens often, but because it’s hard not to think about it simply on account of its ever having happened.)

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“Ghosts” of honor

John Corigliano‘s first and second symphonies won the Grawemeyer and the Pulitzer, respectively; the premiere of his Third Symphony wasn’t even reviewed by the Times. His score for The Red Violin won an Oscar™; his score for Edge of Darkness ended up on the cutting room floor. Is there an American composer at once more decorated and dismissed? Ghosts of Versailles is another case in point. It’s difficult to imagine an organization committing more resources to a commission than this luxuriously cast, lavishly produced performance, but the Met’s latest revival got the axe in favor of the now-infamous Leonard Slatkin […]

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Jewfro meets tone row

“I just saw a woman upstairs,” said poet/translator Richard Howard, “wearing a very large pair of sunglasses that made her look for all the world like a great dragonfly.” “Upstairs” was the balcony at the Met; at the time, I was taking Howard’s lecture on the subject of frivolity in literature, and so when I spotted him at the Lulu intermission I went up to say hi and grin vapidly, which is what I tend to do when I run into a dazzlingly smart person. “And as she was sort of flitting about,” he continued, “she saw me standing there, […]

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Igor Stravinsky was a bit of a musical shapeshifter in his day, especially when compared to his contemporaries in early 20th century Europe. Given, the time in which Stravinsky was living in Europe was one of the most dynamic periods in recent history, but few were able to consistently generate music of such varying style as effortlessly and beautifully as he. This mastery of diversity can been seen clearly in the triple bill of Stravinsky works which was presented at The Met in 1984 titled simply: Stravinsky.

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Mad about the boy

It’s easy to see why the Met has chosen to include this 1982 performance of Der Rosenkavalier in their James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met – DVD Box Set: the marathon evening is a triumph for Levine from the frenzied blend of waltz melodies in the overture to the final, birdsong-like notes of hope at the end of Act III. Levine is confident and animated throughout the performance, which is spread out over two DVDs. Of course, Levine is always an excellent musician, but this Rosenkavalier reminded me how exciting he and the Met orchestra can be when […]

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