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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Five Great Opera Performances: Spring 2017

Here are five memorable operas from the spring of 2017.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Does this really need a caption? Photoshop by the author.
This is a fertile time for opera in New York, with singers, conductors and impresarios exercising imagination and daring to bring lesser known operas before an enthusiastic public. From the daring new music of the PROTOTYPE Festival to the lesser-known stage works of Rossini and Rimsky-Korsakov, our city is a cornucopia of operatic opportunity.

Here are five of the more impressive opera performances reviewed on Superconductor in the spring of 2017.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Lincoln Center Festival

No symphonies. No concertos. No opera. No problem?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The legendary saxophonist Ornette Coleman's spirit lives on at this year's Lincoln Center Festival.
The Lincoln Center Festival continues to push the cutting edge, leaving symphony, concerto (and yes, opera) behind for a bold poutpurri of world music, electronica and one of the most innovative voices in American jazz: Ornette Coleman.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Tanglewood

Another summer under the trees offers gods, rainbows and Mahler.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Koussevitsky Concert Shed at Tanglewood, guarded by a really big tree.
Photo courtesy the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Whisper the name "Tanglewood" and you will tickle the conscience of the novice classical music-goer, and fire the memories of those who have walked its grassy paths and visited the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Located on a sprawling estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, this is the Cadillac of summer festivals, offering symphonies, chamber music and opera to a throng of devotees who make the pilgrimage again and again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Five Best Orchestral Concerts: Spring 2017

We look at the five best concerts of the spring season that was.

As I'm on vacation this week, we're going to be looking back at some of the most memorable performances of the year 2017 (so far, anyway.) Here are the best symphonic concerts, from shows seen at Carnegie Hall (including Daniel Barenboim's nine-concert Bruckner cycle) to as far away as Osaka, Japan. Oh yeah. I went to Japan in February. Anyway, here's the reviews, all written by yours truly.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Bard SummerScape

False Tsars and Polish piano mastery mark this year's festival.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Murder of the False Dmitry by Konstantin Makovsky
gives some idea of the mayhem to come at this summer's Bard Festival.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The rolling greens of Bard College, located just off the Hudson River in the quaint but practical little town of Annandale-on-Hudson, welcome music lovers once more. The attraction: Bard SummerScape, offering six weeks of classical music, academic programming and as always, a unique opera that you probably won't hear anywhere else anytime soon.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Opera Review: Of Chickens and Eggs

Apotheosis Opera explores Richard Strauss' Capriccio.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Friendly rivals: Olivier (Wayne Hu) and Flamand (Joe Palarca) square off in Capriccio.
Photography by Steve Malinski for Apotheosis Opera.
Capriccio, the fifteenth and final opera by Richard Strauss, is usually mounted by a large company (in a too-cavernous house) as a vehicle for a star soprano who wants to add Countess Madeleine to her resumé (presumably to stand next to the Marschallin and Arabella in a gallery of elegant Strauss heroines.) On Thursday night, a scrappy new production by Apotheosis Opera  revealed depth and charm in what is too often dismissed as a supercilious and superficial work.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Concert Review: Exit Under Fireworks

Alan Gilbert leads the Concerts in the Parks.
by Paul J. Pelkonenppelkonen@gmail.com
And he's out. Alan Gilbert gave his last Central Park concert as music director
on Wednesday night. Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 New York Philharmonic.
Alan Gilbert gave his final New York concerts as music director of the New York Philharmonic this week, leading the annual Concerts in the Parks series in four boroughs. Wednesday's concert on the Great Lawn of Central Park was blessed with magnificent weather: clear skies and 80 degrees. Perfect.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Opera Review: Wings Without Zing

The New York City Opera offers a bland Angels in America.
by Paul J. Pelkonenppelkonen@gmail.com
All night angel wrestling match: Angels in America at New York City Opera.
Photo by Sarah Shatz for New York City Opera.
It takes some guts to put on an adaptation of a popular contemporary play, especially a loaded and political work that unflinchingly addressed the AIDS crisis in the 1990s. That's the challenge facing New York City Opera with its last production of the season: Peter Eötvös' 2004 adaptation of Tony Kushner's award-winning two-part play Angels in America. Unfortunately, this version of Angels, seen here in its New York premiere, dilutes the play instead of distilling its message.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Concerts in the Parks

The New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert offer free music.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert (standing) leads the New York Philharmonic
at the Concerts in the Parks. Photo by Chris Lee.
The New York Philharmonic subscription series is ended, and with it the 2016-17 classical music season. However, we're not quite done yet. Tuesday night marks the start of the week-long Concerts in the Parks series, the last of Alan Gilbert's official duties as the orchestra's Music Director.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Concert Review: Exit in a Blaze of Glory

Alan Gilbert ends his tenure with Mahler’s Seventh.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert. Photo by Chris Lee. Photoshop by the author.
When it comes to the exit of Alan Gilbert from the post of Music Director after only eight years, the New York Philharmonic has put on its bravest face.  This week’s season-ending series of concerts, (promoted as “A Concert for Unity”) have featured starry opening acts for America’s oldest orchestra. Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble played Thursday night. On Friday, jazzmaster Wynton Marsalis took the stage, backed by a piano trio. (Saturday's concert, broadcast live on Facebook, featured the orchestra al fresco.) These concerts also mark the launch of a new orchestral initiative by Mr. Gilbert. A collaboration with the United Nations, this is the latest effort at bringing international musicians together in a search for better communication and diplomatic understanding.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Festival Preview: Caramoor

The stately festival in Katonah prepares for changes.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The big tent at Caramoor and at one end, the Venetian Theater.
Doings are a-transpiring at the Rosen Estate, the stately faux-Italian Renaissance manor house in Katonah, NY that is the home of the Caramoor Festival. Caramoor is the summer home of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and is reknowned for its series of chamber music, orchestral concerts and opera performances.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Concert Review: Now We Can Play the Forbidden Music

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the MET Orchestra end the Carnegie Hall season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
In flight: Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Photo by Nicolas Brodard © 2017 the Philharmonia Orchestra.
The Carnegie Hall subscription season ended Tuesday night with an epic concert featuring conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, the MET Orchestra and a heaping program of four works by Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius. These two composers remain touchstones of Mr. Salonen’s long and successful podium career. With bold repertory choices (including a Mahler piece that, unaccountably, may have had its Carnegie Hall premiere at his very concert!) and a starry pair of guests, this proved a revelatory and engrossing evening.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Concert Review: Tomorrow's New Country

Gregg Kallor and the Attacca Quartet play new music. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Five alive: Gregg Kallor (left) and the Attacca Quartet in concert at the Sheen Center.
Photo by Andrew Ousley.
Even as towers of glass and steel encroach upon the quiet streets of the East Village, the spirit of musical experimentation lives on. One of its exponents is composer pianist Gregg Kallor. On Monday night at the Sheen Center, Mr. Kallor and the Attacca Quartet gave a joint recital that featured the world premiere of Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow. This was the centerpiece of the evening: a new work for piano and string quartet inspired by  the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Opera Review: Exit Over the Rainbow

Alan Gilbert's valediction continues with Das Rheingold.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The gods have a strategy session in Das Rheingold as Alan Gilbert (right) conducts.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 The New York Philharmonic.
It wasn't even supposed to be Wagner.

A week ago, Michael Cooper of The New York Times wrote a lengthy feature about Alan Gilbert, the conductor who is in the midst of saying goodbye to the New York Philharmonic after eight storm-tossed years at its helm. This year, Mr. Gilbert had planned to present Olivier Messiaen's epic opera Saint-Francois d'Assisse giving New Yorkers a chance to hear this great work with Eric Owens in the title role.

This never happened.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Concert Review: Between East and West Lies the North

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen in flight. Photo © Radio France.
In 2009, Esa-Pekka Salonen stunned the music world when he announced that he would step off the podium of the Los Angeles Philharmonic to devote his life to his first love, composition. Thus, a Salonen concert (at least one that does not include his own compositions) is a rarity in New York, happening only a few times per season. On Saturday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, an eager audience gathered to hear his take on two repertory warhorses: Schumann's Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish") and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a sprawling, valedictory work that was almost catalogued as that composer's Symphony No. 9.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Concert Review: An Exit Through the Wings

The Philharmonic plays Brahms and Salonen.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

(Superconductor makes an effort to publish in a timely manner. However, my rustic holiday proved more rustic than planned as there was almost no internet access. Here's the review from two weeks ago, cleaned up from a rough draft and posted for your enjoyment.--Paul)
Alan Gilbert calls a halt. Photo by Chris Lee © 2017 The New York Philharmonic.
There is no delicate way to put this. The New York Philharmonic is an organization in turmoil. Its music director is leaving. Its future and the essential renovation of its hall are underfunded. And next year will have  a succession of guest conductors as the orchestra prepares for the arrival of Jaap van Zweden as its music director. For now though, the orchestra is markin gthe departure of Alan Gilbert with yet another series of custom made concerts from the imagination of a maestro with a vast spectrum of tastes.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Well Hello Again

Superconductor is back from vacation.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

In case you haven't noticed, this blog has been quiet. Very quiet. I gave myself two weeks of vacation, badly needed. We go back into business tomorrow, with two performances in the city: the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Das Rheingold with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.