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Anne-Sophie Mutter and André Previn: Music from the divorce that didn’t work

Anne-Sophie Mutter has long maintained supreme artistic poise in the classical violin world, but the wild card in her repertoire has often come from her ex-husband, the multi-Oscar-winning composer André Previn. Now 88 or 89 (depending on whom you believe), he has written ten works for her, and though his new piece The Fifth Season (given its world premiere on Sunday at Carnegie Hall) wasn't his best, he continues being a good counterbalance in her repertoire. In fact, The Fifth Season, which was a Carnegie Hall commission, suggested perhaps … [Read more...]

‘High Noon’ adapted for the stage, speaking sharply to 2018 and with no exit

NEW YORK - High Noon is a great movie, but does it immediately jump to mind as a story that's ripe for re-evaluation and revision? The 1952 original was a superior western, thanks to its strong psychological and political underpinnings. Those are the elements refracted in the new Axis Company stage adaptation, and they speak with remarkable specificity to 2018. Is there any way out of the cycle of justice, revenge and violence that is etched so clearly in this stage version? Not in a world where criminals promise prosperity. The same plot … [Read more...]

Pianist Menahem Pressler at age 94: Fragile, fallible, but still a credit to his legacy?

Human beings are living longer - and so are performing artists. The question of when they retire gracefully isn't going away, and, if anything, will only require more finesse as musical legends have increasingly few reasons to retire. That question inevitably arose as pianist Menahem Pressler, the multi-decade soul of the Beaux Arts Trio, was helped onto the Kimmel Center stage on Feb. 9 for a Philadelphia Orchestra return in Mozart's Piano Concerto K. 488, some 70 years after his debut. He's 94 and has continued to play well in recent … [Read more...]

Michael Gordon’s Acquanetta: Backstage carnage amid on-screen horror

Mystery is the canny substitute for substance. The less that is known, the more implication can spin grandeur out of the mundane. And that explains Acquanetta, the single-named Hollywood star of 1940s B-movies like Captive Wild Woman who wouldn't have had even her brief heyday without the veil of ambiguity. Certainly, she wouldn't be the namesake of Michael Gordon's recently revised opera Acquanetta, seen on Saturday in a high-impact video/theatrical package that's likely to haunt me in my dreams. Though its run in the current Prototype … [Read more...]

‘A Room in India’ at Park Avenue Armory: A theater titan stumbles? Or fights back?

Those who like theater that’s epic, brainy and political couldn't have had a more irresistible ticket than A Room in India - no matter how expensive it was. Théâtre du Soleil, the Paris-based crucible headed by director Ariane Mnouchkine, has a history of indelible appearances at the Lincoln Center Festival and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. One need only see Mnouchkine's name and you're there, there, there. Yet the four-hour A Room in India, which plays through Dec. 20 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, had something like a 20 … [Read more...]

Janine Jansen at Carnegie Hall without veneer – or microphones breathing down her neck.

What price freedom? Carnegie Hall's Perspectives series allows its selected artist-curators to have something close to carte blanche over multiple concerts in numerous different forums. This year, the glamorous Dutch violinist Janine Jansen is one of those artists, and later in the season, she'll be joined by the Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of the esteemed but little-known Violin Concerto of Michel van der Aa. But first ... She played a chamber music program of early piano trios by Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff on Saturday at … [Read more...]

Another classical music critic is sent into the night … and this time it’s me.

Life in the newspaper world these days can't help but feel like Russian Roulette. With every wave of layoffs, my position has seemed that much closer to its end. And I'm surprised that I lasted as long as I did. But as of December 8th, after 17-plus years, I will no longer be on the Philadelphia Inquirer fine arts staff. I will continue to freelance for the Inquirer, but how much, and what that looks like, remains to be seen. I've seen this day coming for years - that's one reason why I moved back to my old, 1990s home in Brooklyn two … [Read more...]

New York Festival of Song on a day of wine and roses

The New York Festival of Song is one of those distinctively urban pleasures: Its season is a series of hand-crafted programs often mixing European art song with great American popular music, drawing from New York's world-class pool of singers, pairing the right singer with the right music in exactly the right sequence. But I had to re-acquaint myself with NYFOS in the village of Orient on the far North Fork of. Long Island - a quaint, time-warp maritime town just beyond Greenport - after missing it for many years. Sorry, but I lived in … [Read more...]

Bard SummerScape’s latest operatic resurrection: Dvorak takes Boris Godunov many steps further

Dmitrij is an opera that keeps growing before your very ears. And growing. And growing, until you have some of the most dramatically apt music Dvorak ever wrote for the stage. But about the time the plot strands need to be tied up - as they are in a matter of minutes of Verdi's Otello - Dvorak hits a stride that won't stop: The final act is around 90 minutes long. Walking into the opera on Friday at Bard College's SummerScape in Annandale on-Hudson, I knew there would be some forgiving to do and warned my friends that the first act is … [Read more...]

Janacek’s Vixen is re-thought and hunted down in the backstreets of London

The title, simply, is Vixen. It's not The Cunning Little Vixen or Russ Meyer's Vixen, though it was closer to the former than the latter. And true to the foxiness of the title, you had to hunt it down. Ostensibly an adaptation of the Janacek opera, Vixen was presented by a company called Silent Opera in conjunction with the English National Opera, and in a site nowhere near the ENO headquarters at the London Coliseum. The venue was something called The Vaults, tucked away behind Waterloo Station off Lower Marsh Street, with near-daily … [Read more...]

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