Friday, March 23, 2012

European festivals for procrastinators

If you’re hoping to go to the Munich Opera Festival or the Salzburg Festival and don’t have your tickets yet, some important dates are coming up. Tickets not sold in the written order presale will go on sale tomorrow (March 24) at 10:00 sharp German time for Munich and on March 30 for Salzburg (exact time not specified but it might be 8:30 or 9:30, when the physical box offices open?). If you're in North America, be aware that Daylight Savings Time hasn't started yet in Europe, so tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Germany means 5 a.m. in New York (urrrrgh). Their clocks, however, change this weekend, so 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 30 in Salzburg will be 3:30 a.m. in New York, making it even more fun. Got it?

Munich’s Ring and Salzburg’s Bohème sold clean out in presale--the dual operatic gods Wagner and Anna Netrebko do that--, but if you’re fast you might be able to nab one of the few remaining tickets to some other popular events. Munich authority Rossignol advises to be particularly quick on the warhorses, considering the Bay Staats is light in this department this summer and demand will surely be high.

Remember, neither of these festivals reserve any day tickets, not even standing--everything is going out there now. But in my experience, a few tickets for Munich productions almost always pop up on the box office website a few days before the performance (even when the opera house's website lists an event as sold out), but only in the most expensive price categories. And you can always stop by the ticket office in Salzburg and see what they can do for you. Or show up a half hour early to mix with the Kartenbörse hoards that congregate on the portico in Munich and in the pedestrian zone in Salzburg, bring some cash, and do your best. The Bayerische Staatsoper also has an online forum where some people sell or trade tickets, including the odd Salzburg ticket as well.

Of course, not all events sell out well in advance. Some chamber music and drama at Salzburg and ballet in Munich are readily accessible. So if you aren’t picky you’ll be able to get something, but don’t expect a whole lot of choice.

I had my shit together for once and got everything I ordered. (*looks very smug* Everyone else I know who applied for the Munich Ring got turned down but I got cycle B.) But I was stupid and didn’t order Traviata or the Calleja-Gheorghiu Bohème in Munich, so I’ll be scrambling very early tomorrow morning with the rest of y’all.

You could also go to one of the many scalpers ticket agencies, but be prepared to pay a big markup.

Bonus: Public booking for the summer season at the Royal Opera House, whose website’s Waiting Room has to be the single most annoying element of online opera ticket sales, begins on 10 April. (*looks even more smug* Some of us have already sorted our tickets for that one too.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The City Opera's Mozartean rumspringa

City Opera is hanging on by a thread, and their current Così fan tutte reminds us why New York needs them. Christopher Alden’s bold and exceptionally thoughtful production pits a bunch of repressed kids against the terrors of young adulthood, and the cast is excellent. Those in search of ruffles, cheeriness, or, unfortunately, an orchestra that can play in tune or support the production at all will be disappointed. But in this small theater, it’s the most inspired Mozart production I’ve seen in New York in a while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Make Our Garden Grow, apropos the Arts Blogger Challenge

“New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?”

So asked Spring for Music’s Arts Blogger Challenge, which is having a contest to locate "America's Best Arts Blogger." (Apparently this includes a Food division.) The first challenge is to answer this question. To start with, I’ve lived in the greater NYC orbit for most of my life. I love and hate many things about New York, but don’t see the point in waving its flag over other American cities that I don’t know much about. Anne Midgette has invited non-NYC bloggers to knock us snobby New Yorkers off our high horses.  Should Brian at Out West Arts win, does LA get a shiny trophy in the shape of Gustavo Dudamel’s hair? I don’t think he’s going to play, so I guess we won't find out.

I’m going to join in. I don’t have the Wiener Philharmoniker handy for provocation purposes anymore, life gets boring. In short, I agree with Brian as well as Lisa at Iron Tongue of Midnight. What I'd like to concentrate on here, though, is why this particular question is crap (er... highly problematic?) and we shouldn’t be asking it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers in Philadelphia

I went to see Elegy for Young Lovers in Philadelphia and I wrote about it for Bachtrack:
“What a funny kind of fairy tale we’ve gotten into!” proclaims one of the characters in Elegy for Young Lovers, Hans Werner Henze’s odd 1963 opera. The audience may sympathize. W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman’s libretto of an uninspired poet in search of a new muse is not standard operatic fare. Despite the familiar plot devices of a love triangle, a madwoman, and a blizzard (well, the latter is not so common), its elusive tone and Henze’s kaleidoscopically shifting score are hard to pin down to any operatic school. It’s fascinating, and this co-production between the Curtis Opera Theatre and Opera Company of Philadelphia is well worth seeing.
Read the rest here.

I'm glad I saw this performance, but I have some qualms about these Curtis Opera Theare [sic] and Opera Company of Philadelphia co-productions. On the positive side, it allows a conservative company to put on lesser-known works. And it's a good deal for Curtis in that they probably get more money for a more elaborate production. But I get the feeling that they're benefiting from cheap student labor in a way that isn't very ethical. Curtis students are excellent and will go on to distinguished careers.* But OCP has expanded this series and cut their mainstage season in recent years, meaning they're hiring fewer professional artists and using more students. A professional company should be hiring professionals and be paying them professional fees.

About the libretto, I mentioned the possible Britten connection (i.e. that Auden and Kallman intended Mittenhofer as a portrait of Britten) because it's too intriguing to leave out. But I haven't seen any convincing evidence for it so I didn't want to give it status greater than as a highly speculative theory. I'll dig a bit more, but ideas, anyone?

*Curtis Opera Theatre puts on its own solo productions as well (with the more reasonable $35 top ticket price versus Elegy's $100. Those prices for a production where the singers are students, even very good students, seem problematic?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The enigmas of Khovanshchina at the Met

Khovanshchina is an imposing confusion, a solemn tragedy with the solemnity and stature of Greek tragedy but none of the clarity. Musorgsky’s music is so damn good, and the musical values in this Met revival are so high that you’re hanging on every word, even though they haven’t done anything to sort out the drama, or even really bothered to portray it.