Around the U.S.

Didactic, Sanitized Staging Abducts Mozart’s Seraglio

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By Arthur Kaptainis

TORONTO – Wajdi Mouawad’s politically proper staging revisions and Emannuel Clolus’ dreary set design hamper the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Abduction from the Seraglio. Vocal satisfactions are partial.

Low Brass Quartet Sings From Depths In Novel Concerto

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By Nancy Malitz

CHICAGO – Jennifer Higdon’s new concerto for two trombones, bass trombone and tuba received its world premiere by a foursome of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which brings the work to Carnegie Hall on Feb. 9.

A ‘Too Emotional’ Violin Concerto, Played To The Hilt

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By Jason Victor Serinus

SEATTLE – Violinist Vilde Frang, conductor Cristian Măcelaru, and the Seattle Symphony invested Elgar’s concerto with surges of passion that conveyed the whispered intimacies of a private relationship.

For Beleaguered San Antonio SO, Hope In A Restart

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By Mike Greenberg

SAN ANTONIO – Facing half empty houses and near death, the orchestra has found fresh vitality under new leadership that has rallied the city with savvy and resolve. A report that the season “is moving forward” brought cheers.

What’s A Caprice? Koh Envisions It As Shared Madness

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By Kyle MacMillan

CHICAGO – Violinists have long sought out composers to write showpieces for dazzle. Now Jennifer Koh is touring with dozens of short new takes on the capriccio in support of a unique sound investment she calls “Shared Madness.”

Pair Of California Candides Prove No Two Are Alike

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By Richard S. Ginell

REVIEW – One version of Leonard Bernstein’s ever-morphing masterpiece was performed by the San Francisco Symphony; another was by the Los Angeles Opera (right). The differences between them abounded.

From A Fragment, Ruzicka’s Elegie Explores Wagner

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By Chuck Lavazzi

ST. LOUIS – David Robertson led the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in the American premiere of Peter Ruzicka’s Elegie: Remembrance for Orchestra, based on a 13-bar scrap that Wagner penned near the end of his life.

Rising Star Barton, In Opera Timeout, Shines In Recital

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By Janelle Gelfand

CINCINNATI – Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who this season has earned accolades for her Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma at the Met, teamed with pianist Kathleen Kelly and focused on women composers to great acclaim at Memorial Hall.

Hymns And Bands Thrive In Concert Devoted To Ives

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By William Albright

HOUSTON – As part of their tour featuring Ives sonatas for violin and piano, Stefan Jackiw and Jeremy Denk are ceding the stage to a vocal quartet that performs songs the composer wove so creatively into the scores a century ago.

Four Wild Nights In A Brooklyn Music Incubator

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By Anne E. Johnson

BROOKLYN – The 2018 Ferus Festival in National Sawdust was wild in various senses: unrefined, coming from nature, daring, and slightly magical. British-Bengali composer-performer Bishi opened the bash.

In The Echo Drift, Singer And Moth Step Out Of Time

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By Leslie Kandell

NEW YORK – In its premiere run at the Prototype Festival, Mikael Karlsson’s high-tech opera mixes references to Barber, Poulenc and Kafka as it delves into the imagination of a convicted murderer in solitary confinement.

Fellow Travelers: Credible Romance As Eclectic Opera

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By Susan Brodie

NEW YORK – The new opera, by Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce, at the Prototype Festival, combines sentimental and historical elements to create a compelling love story in a chilling setting with contemporary resonance.

In Graceful Debut, Dudok Foursome Thaws Winter Fest

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By Kyle MacMillan

EVANSTON, Ill. – Unlike some modern quartets that put a premium on muscularity and punch, the fast-rising young Dutch ensemble called the Dudok Kwartet, in its North American debut, conveys more of an Old World sensibility.

Violinist Hadelich, Seattle SO Plumb Ligeti’s Concerto

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By Jason Serinus

SEATTLE – A collaboration between soloist Augustin Hadelich and the Seattle Symphony under music director Ludovic Morlot transformed Ligeti’s Violin Concerto into a deeply moving, heartfelt journey.

New Tosca Launch At Met Survives Sweeping Exodus

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By Susan Brodie

NEW YORK – New Year’s Eve marked the Metropolitan Opera’s 951st go at Puccini’s “shabby little shocker.” There was nothing shabby about David McVicar’s grandiose production. The shock: that it came off as well as it did.

Manze Infuses Messiah With Expressive Detail

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By Susan Brodie

NEW YORK – As offered by the New York Philharmonic and Westminster Symphonic Choir under Andrew Manze, Handel’s oratorio sounded middle-of-the-road but stylish. Ben Bliss was stellar in the tenor solos.

Springing Across Epochs And Styles On Harpsichord

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By William Albright

HOUSTON – Mahan Esfahani’s recital on the Da Camera series ranged from William Byrd to Steve Reich, with stops along the way for music by Cowell, Takemitsu, and Ralph Kirkpatrick, one of Esfahani’s early heroes.

Youthful Orchestra Serves Fresh Fare To Thrilling Effect

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By John Fleming

MIAMI BEACH – The New World Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas’ developmental ensemble conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky, displayed virtuosity in a brilliant pairing of Steven Mackey’s Mnemosyne’s Pool and Magnus Lindberg’s Joy.

Haydn’s Creation, Semi-staged In Modernist Telling

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By Mark Kanny

PITTSBURGH – In a musically rewarding production, the Pittsburgh Symphony led by Manfred Honeck used a story for the singers to act, along with ambitious video, to forge a provocative contemporary context for Haydn’s oratorio.

Selfless Act Melts A Heart In New Christmas Opera

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By William Albright

HOUSTON – A young girl’s giving spirit overcomes her father’s grief in The House Without a Christmas Tree, by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek. Houston Grand Opera is staging the world premiere.