THE TEN BEST CLAS­SI­CAL PER­FOR­MANCES OF THE YEAR

New York Magazine - - INTELLIGEN­CER - justin david­son By

1. Di­a­logues des Car­mélites

With Isabel Leonard as the snowy-souled Blanche and Karita Mat­tila as the rag­ing pri­oress, the re­turn of Poulenc’s (al­most) all-nun opera would have been pretty tran­scen­dent even with­out any ad­di­tional virtues. But Yan­nick NézetSégui­n’s pres­ence on the podium made it down­right ce­les­tial.

2. Fire in My Mouth

With a com­poser’s gifts and a his­to­rian’s soul, Ju­lia Wolfe has ham­mered the story of the Amer­i­can worker into mu­si­cal shape. She has writ­ten choral ele­gies to Ap­palachian steel driv­ers, Penn­syl­va­nia coal min­ers, and, in her lat­est mul­ti­me­dia block­buster, the toil­ing im­mi­grant seam­stresses who died in the Tri­an­gle Shirt­waist Fac­tory fire. An in­tensely ex­pres­sive mon­u­ment to loss, la­bor, and po­lit­i­cal rage,

Fire in My Mouth re­ceived an in­can­des­cent world pre­miere from the New York Phil­har­monic (which later re­leased a non­mul­ti­me­dia record­ing).

3. Thomas Adès’s Pi­ano Con­certo

When the Bri­tish com­poser shows up at your doorstep car­ry­ing a big tool­box and promis­ing to fix up a creaky old genre, know that he’ll leave it a bit like the DeLorean time ma­chine: daz­zling, weirdly fa­mil­iar, and ir­re­sistibly warped. The seem­ingly 20-fin­gered pi­anist Kir­ill Ger­stein pre­miered Adès’s new con­certo at Carnegie Hall with the Boston Sym­phony Or­ches­tra— an evening of plea­sur­able delir­ium.

4. Porgy and Bess

Ev­ery stag­ing of the Gersh­wins’ 1935 opera feels as if it’s assem­bling an ar­gu­ment out of old grief and cur­rent trends. The Met’s new pro­duc­tion places the story squarely in the past, but the cast—Eric Owens and An­gel Blue, to spot­light just two mem­bers of a stand­out troupe—tes­tify to the cur­rent opera world’s deep reser­voir of African-Amer­i­can tal­ent.

5. Caro­line Shaw and the At­tacca Quar­tet

On the 2019 al­bum Orange and in a free happy-hour con­cert at Lin­coln Cen­ter’s Ruben­stein Atrium, the At­tacca Quar­tet formed a bond with a qui­etly orig­i­nal com­poser who surely has an opera some­where on her to-do list. Shaw, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013, writes mu­sic that feels fresh but dis­plays a com­mand of old-fash­ioned virtues, among them a finely cal­i­brated ear for how har­mony can si­mul­ta­ne­ously flow and sup­port a mu­si­cal struc­ture, like an amal­gam of wa­ter and steel. She also dis­plays a love of lan­guage and a keen sense of how spe­cific voices work, in­clud­ing her own sur­pris­ing so­prano.

6. Akhnaten

Philip Glass’s 36-year-old opera fi­nally floated into the

Met on a cloud of blissed-out an­tic­i­pa­tion. Part of that was owed to coun­tertenor An­thony Roth Costanzo, who is as gifted a show­man and mar­keter as he is a singer. Glas­sians knew what not to ex­pect: arias, ac­tion, re­la­tion­ships, con­flict, or even a com­pre­hen­si­ble li­bretto. In­stead, di­rec­tor Phe­lim McDer­mott turned the hon­eyed score into an in­ter­pre­tive jug­gling act, a pageant of cos­tumes and crowns, and an ar­gu­ment for tran­scen­dent su­per­fi­cial­ity.

7. Der Ring des Ni­belun­gen

In Wag­ner’s epic of greed, fam­ily loy­alty, and be­trayal, Brünnhilde is the dis­ap­point­ing daugh­ter, the war­rior par­a­lyzed by an eon of soli­tary con­fine­ment. But when Chris­tine Go­erke sang the role in the Met’s lat­est Ring cy­cle, the char­ac­ter’s down­fall was the singer’s tri­umph. It’s a pun­ish­ing part, full of hol­ler­ing and hero­ics as well as stretches of in­ti­mate re­gret. Those of us lucky enough to hear Go­erke in her prime will trea­sure the mem­ory un­til we be­come in­suf­fer­ably nos­tal­gic.

8. The Black Clown

Davóne Tines, a bass-bari­tone with the dark and glossy tim­bre of a bass clar­inet, is the sort of singer who ex­cites old-guard au­di­ences and young com­posers at the same time. Tines spent nearly a decade co-cre­at­ing (with com­poser Michael Schachter) and singing in The Black Clown, a stage work of un­cer­tain genre based on the poetry of Langston Hughes, which gal­va­nized this past sum­mer’s Mostly Mozart Fes­ti­val. It was a drawn-out siz­zle reel, prov­ing Tines is equally com­fort­able singing a gospel melody, some sweaty blues, or a Baroque aria.

9. Giuseppe Verdi, Re­quiem

For his first Amer­i­can ap­pear­ance, the Greek-Rus­sian con­duc­tor Teodor Cur­rentzis brought his own or­ches­tra and cho­rus from Siberia, be­cause what Western en­sem­ble would tol­er­ate his nano-man­age­rial style, which spec­i­fies the du­ra­tion of ev­ery stac­cato? The re­sult was a per­for­mance so man­i­cally con­trolled, so suf­fused with high­pre­ci­sion up­lift and cathar­sis, it was hard to be­lieve it was real.

10. Vi­enna Phil­har­monic

The con­duc­tor Michael Til­son Thomas has spent much of his ca­reer dis­man­tling the or­ches­tral world’s con­ven­tions and the rest of it build­ing them back up. He re­turned to Carnegie Hall at the head of one of the world’s most tra­di­tional en­sem­bles to play Mahler’s Ninth, the last com­pleted sym­phony of a com­poser whose rad­i­cal­ism long ago went main­stream. Spa­cious, glim­mer­ing, and grand, the per­for­mance demon­strated how sat­is­fy­ing it can be when the rev­o­lu­tion­ary and the re­van­chist merge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.