Articles by Lloyd Schwartz

Berkshire Review

Rienzi, non piano

For Bostonians, getting to hear a live performance of Wagner’s ambitious third opera, Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (“Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes”) was surely a once in a lifetime experience, which is what Odyssey Opera, Boston’s newest opera company, must surely have been counting on. Too bad that even in Wagner’s bicentennial year, and for the landmark inauguration of a new company, only some 600 of Jordan Hall’s 1013 seats were filled (the top ticket price was $200) for Rienzi’s Boston premiere, in a complete concert version. But those present certainly got their money’s worth (and probably so did the local restaurants, which filled up during the two-hour dinner break in between the two parts of the five-hour opera).
Berkshire Review

Nicolai’s Merry Wives at the Boston Midsummer Opera and Tanglewood Tales: Jurowski and Koenigs Tell the Whole Story

It was James Levine’s many cancelations that most directly led to his (perhaps forced) resignation as the Boston Symphony Orchestra music director in the spring of 2011. But Levine has no monopoly on health problems and accidents. The glow of the two superlative concerts I attended at Tanglewood (July 19 and 20) was clouded over by the startling announcement that Levine’s young and healthy replacement, 34-year-old Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, was unable to conduct the July 27 Verdi Requiem, his first scheduled concert since his appointment, because he had suffered a “severe concussion” after being “struck in the head by a door that unexpectedly swung open at his residence in Bayreuth, Germany.”
New York Arts in Boston

A plus: The Boston Early Music Festival and the Commonwealth Lyric Theater present first operas by Handel and Rachmaninoff

Here’s a weird coincidence. Two composers, nearly two centuries apart, almost polar opposites, were both 19 when their first operas were performed. Both operas are named after central characters whose three-syllable names begin with A. And both just received terrific Boston performances — simultaneously, in different parts of town. There the coincidence ends.
Opera

John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby in Boston

“So we beat on, boats against the currents, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Nick Carraway’s concluding insight in The Great Gatsby is one of the great closing sentences in literature, and one of the great images of our human helplessness to escape the past. It’s also the line that ends John Harbison’s Gatsby opera, which—13 years after its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera—just had its first complete Boston performance, in a concert version produced by Emmanuel Music (the musical organization Harbison co-founded in 1970 with Craig Smith at Boston’s Emmanuel Church, mainly to play all of Bach’s cantatas as part of every Sunday’s liturgy). Harbison is now Principal Guest Conductor at Emmanuel, which has long been associated with his music, including the very first public performance, in 1997, of the first two scenes from The Great Gatsby.
Music

Daniele Gatti’s Stillness

I’ve had my problems with conductor Daniele Gatti. I’ve heard him conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra five times in the last decade, and have always been disappointed. He’s regarded as a serious musician, a thinker. But his live performances rarely arouse excitement. Even his Verdi Requiem this past season seemed plodding and surprisingly unidiomatic for an Italian conductor. His tempos tend to be on the slow side, but some major bandleaders—I’m thinking especially of Otto Klemperer, or even James Levine—convey the profundity of that slowness while also creating either enormous tension or vast spaciousness. Or both.
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