New York Magazine


- 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 United States