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The Richard Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall

Netrebko dario acostaPhoto credit: Dario Acosta

The Richard Tucker Gala, arguably the most star-studded event of the American opera season, took place last Sunday at Carnegie Hall. The gala is a veritable barometer of the best singing in the opera world, and this year was no exception—headlining the program were prima donnas Joyce DiDonatoAnna Netrebko and Renée Fleming, in addition to the 2016 Richard Tucker Award winner Tamara Wilson.

Ms. Wilson easily proved her vocal mastery in her second selection, "Tu al cui sguardi onni possenti" from Verdi’s I due foscari. As she tossed off impossible roulades and cut through more than 100 instruments and choristers with pianissimo high notes, Wilson made Carnegie's bathtub-like acoustic cower under her vocal heft. Her other pieces were no less lovely—Wagner’s "Dich, teure Halle," a trio from Norma, and "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide—each of which Ms. Wilson handled with finesse and command. She is a major new discovery for the opera world.

Wilson was in good company with reigning diva Netrebko, who was originally slated to sing a duet with her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, until it was announced that Mr. Eyvazov would be unable to perform due to a broken foot. This turned out to be to the audience's benefit, as Ms. Netrebko added the verismo aria "Io son l’umile ancella" to the previously programmed "La mamma morta." Both pieces were riveting, conjuring images of the great Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, combining Callas’ vocal drama with Tebaldi’s luxurious sound. Especially breathtaking were the final floated phrases, complete with pitch-perfect octaves and a final ringing morrà.

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New Music Wrap Up: The Parksville Murders, Vicky Chow, Mivos and Quiet City

Parksvill Murders-002It's been a bit busy this week, so here's a quick rundown of some new and interesting music I experienced at the end of last week.  

The Parksville Murders - Last Thursday, DIY opera heroes Opera on Tap presented a preview of Kamala Sankaram's The Parksville Murders. Billed as "the world's first VR episodic horror opera," visitors were directed to a space near the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO where they were given headphones and a VR headset. Set in a dimly-lit room in the Catskills, the 15 minute opera - promised to be the first of a dozen or so episodes - starred Kacey Cardin as Corinne, who sang while lying in a bathtub filled with dead leaves. Another woman, Sarah, (Mikki Sodergren) soon appeared in the room, as did a group of mysterious, hooded “watchers.” As I sat there watching, I felt a palpable sense of unease as the shadowy figures appeared on all sides, even behind me. And, thanks some cutting edge audio technology from HEAR360, the sound I heard changed depending on where I was looking. A very cool beginning to what will hopefully become an extended evening of immersive opera.

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Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera

Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme, Tristan und Isolde, Met Opera(Photo by Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera)

"When you hear the music, you will understand." - Richard Wagner 

Even for Wagner, whose operas are among the most complex and challenging in the entire repertoire, Tristan und Isolde is something of a chimera. Part moralist fable, part fever dream, it lacks a coherent plot, is full of unexplained changes, and stretches plausibility to the breaking point. For most of its five-hour length, there is little, if any, action onstage. And, its ultimate message seems to be that love is a curse only resolved by death. 

And yet, Tristan is a bona fide institution, so much so that Monday night's performance at the Metropolitan Opera was the company's 462nd since 1886. And, given that the nearly sold-out house was the 7th of 8 performances this season, Tristan's popularity shows no signs of waning in our attention-addled society. 

The main reason for Tristan's enduring popularity, of course, is the music, which remains some of the most intoxicating and evocative ever written. When Wagner first began thinking about Tristan in 1856, he claimed that the music came to him before he had come up with a scenario. "A melodic thread," he said, "which, though I gladly would have quit, kept spinning on itself." The impulse was so powerful that it caused Wagner to pause work on his monumental Ring cycle - right in the middle of Siegfried - which he wouldn't return to for another 12 years. 

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Louis Andriessen's "Anaïs Nin" and "Odysseus' Women" at National Sawdust

by Steven Pisano

29764282274_867eab4540_o(All photographs by Steven Pisano.)

On Saturday night, for one performance only, the Center for Contemporary Opera presented the U.S. premiere of a double-bill of Louis Andriessen's one-act chamber operas Anaïs Nin and Odysseus' Women at National Sawdust, in a production conceived and directed by Jorinde Keesmaat.

Augusta Caso made her company debut as the title character in Anaïs Nin. Odysseus' Women featured Sharin Apostolou, Maggie Finnegan, Nicole Mitchell, and Hilary Ginther. Music direction was by Neal Goren, with synthesizer and piano played by Jerome Tan.

For information on the rest of CCO's Fall 2016 season, click here. More pics below and here.

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