Philharmonie de Paris vs. Salle Pleyel: Sudden Death Play
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!The long-delayed Philharmonie de Paris is on target to open January 14. But a sudden divorce court action threatens the non-compete stipulation, a linch pin of the hall's operating budget.
Not just another French strike
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!Unemployment benefits for performers and other show people help make France a cultural mecca. Will reduction of these benefits decimate France's rich arts offerings?
Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Voice Motet: sound as matter
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!A lone alto intones the opening notes, gradually joined by single voices emanating from nearby speakers, sound reverberating against the stone as the texture thickens. So begins Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff currently on offer in the Fuentaduña Chapel of the Cloisters in upper Manhattan.
Back in Business — Hours TBD
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!Wagner's 200th birthday gala concert in Bayreuth was broadcast on the French-German ARTE TV network. After taking the stage will the orchestra want to return to the covered pit? Christian Thielemann led a crackling performance.
Another Stab at Popularizing Classical Music — French Style
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!Once again French TV stupifies. Tuesday night 2 1/2 hours of prime time on the major French network channel France 2 were devoted to La Grande Battle, a "reality" competition to choose the best interpreter of a theme from classical music. Nagui, the game and genial MC, clearly not a classical music lover, managed three panelists, including tenor Rolando Villazon, an orchestra of young conservatory grads lead by a cute female conductor , a genial co-host who provided music appreciation
If You Build It, Will They Come?
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!Valery Gergiev certainly believes so. In a move to expand audience capacity and enhance the appeal of St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky Theater is set to open its new opera house just six months from now. The new theater, across the canal from the existing 19th century house, will double the seating capacity for opera and ballet while further increasing capacity with its expanded behind-the-scenes facilities. Not halfway through Naomi Lewin's interview with Maestro Gergiev, everyone in the room was plotting how to swing a
Bayreuth for Beginners III: Where Are the Spear-Toting Ladies in Helmets?
You're not going to see anything like a traditional production on the Green Hill. On the contrary, the Festspiel has a reputation for hiring the most forward-looking stage directors in the business. In a mini press conference with critics during the second intermission of Sebastien Baumgarten's controversial Tannhaüser, Eva Wagner-Pasquier declared, "We should be an example for the world in the interpretation. Of course, tradition is very good, but if you say a ‘new tradition’ it has to be
Intermezzo: Le Poeme Harmonique at Miller Theater, September 14
Baroque music performed by candlelight sounds better than it looks: that is, the idea is more imaginative than practical, and the musical experience is likely to be more alluring than the visual. Case in point: when I saw Cavalli's Egisto at the Opéra Comique in Paris last January, I wanted to run down from my perch in the front row of the third balcony seat and demand of Vincent Dumestre exactly what he was thinking, staging an opera in a 1250-seat house and lighting the stage only with candles? Even
Popularizing Classical Music – French Style
Once again French TV stupifies. Tuesday night 2 1/2 hours of prime time on the major French network channel France 2 were devoted to La Grande Battle, a "reality" competition to choose the best interpreter of a theme from classical music.
Bayreuth for Beginners
By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!Opera lovers world-wide travel to this remote corner of Bavaria to experience Richard Wagner's work in the house the Meister built to give his works in ideal conditions. But the would-be Wagner pilgrim will find that off-stage drama of history colors the Bayreuth experience as much as the music.
Just For Fun: Mark Twain’s ‘At the Shrine of St. Wagner’
From a letter published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, December 6, 1891. Long, but worth it. "It was at Nuremberg that we struck the inundation of music-mad strangers that was rolling down upon Bayreuth. It had been long since we had seen such multitudes of excited and struggling people. It took a good half-hour to pack them and pair them into the train--and it was the longest train we have yet seen in Europe. Nuremberg had been witnessing this sort of experience a couple of times a day for about two weeks. It
Do You Want to Sell Tickets or Not? – A Rant
In my fourth season of regular attendance at the Paris Opera, I've recently had some, ah, interesting experiences buying tickets. I bought a fairly last minute seat, at the box office, to a performance of Salome on September 14. I asked whether there were any discounts for regular customers but was told no, so I paid rather more than I wanted to just to satisfy my curiosity about the soprano (scroll down to read my post from 10/19/11). The show wasn't a complete disaster, but on the whole I wish I'd saved my
NY City Opera presents Prima Donna at BAM
You've probably heard: Canadian folk-rocker and opera fan Rufus Wainwright wrote an opera. Prima Donna opened its third run in New York City Opera's production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Sunday (February 19). It's better than I expected but still a mixed bag. It's the story of a reclusive semi-retired diva's attempted comeback in the commissioned opera which, confusingly, was both her greatest triumph and her downfall, as she lost her voice during its single performance
Sleepers of 2011
The expectations we carry into a performance inevitably influence our response to that event. In 2011 I spent many wonderful evenings in concert halls and theaters, but sometimes the show felt perhaps not as special as I wanted, simply because I expected so much. However, I had a number of happy surprises, when I dragged into a concert or opera almost reluctantly and the evening turned out to be quite special. So instead of a Top 10, here in chronological order are ten "sleepers": performances that I attended with little
Siegfried at Oper Frankfurt
The final Sunday performance (Nov. 27) of Siegfried at Oper Frankfurt was delayed by about 10 minutes because of "technical difficulties". Amid the politely agitated buzz that greeted the announcement I wondered whether the Met's machine ills (see previous post) were contagious. No worries--the show actually did begin within a few minutes and ran without noticeable mishap. The updated production plays with contemporary references while avoiding the gratuitously outrageous conceits.
Burning Love: Siegfried at the Met
Flames weren't meant to rage for the entire final scene of the Met's new Siegfried, but during the scenic transition from forest to mountain, as Siegfried was about to climb through the inferno to find his well rested Brunnhilde, Robert Lepage's infamous stage machine halted mid-rotation with a tremendous crash. And there it stayed, girders criss-crossed, serving as a screen for projected flames, like a giant Yule log video. Instead of being revealed asleep in a raised clearing, Deborah Voigt finally
Opera de Paris — La Rentree
Opéra de Paris has done some clean-up over the summer. At the Palais Garnier a restaurant has opened in the back of the building, facing the Apple Store across the street. The controversial design features walls of undulating white marble, red upholstery, and vast expanses of glass that somehow met the approval of the historic monuments people. Food and service have pleased the critics somewhat less, though it seems to be crowded whenever I walk by. More pleasingly, the Chagall gracing the ceiling of the
La Vie Boheme: Tannhauser at Paris Opera
My intention for this season was to move away from straight reviews, but finally I've seen a production that inspires a few words. The revival of Robert Carsen's production of Tannhäuser currently playing at Opera de Paris is that rare beast: an updating which reveals new meaning without being ridiculous. Tannhäuser is a painter, Venus is his inspiration, and his studo, Venusberg, overflows with the fruits of his creativity--the stage is empty but for a bed, which sees plenty of