Thursday, May 27, 2010

New York Discovers Twentieth-Century Opera

According to the latest post on The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross' blog), all tickets to the New York Philharmonic program of György Ligeti's Le Grande Macabre have sold out for all three performances. Ross further notes that conductor Alan Gilbert is planning to use his bully pulpit for "the long-awaited local premiere of Messiaen's Saint Francis." Writing from a city that has seen stagings of both of these works by the San Francisco Opera, I cannot resist asking why New York has dragged its heels for so long for both of these works. Granted, Olivier Messiaen's opera is a bit on the unwieldy side; and, while I am glad to have the CD of the Salzburg Festival performance in my collection, I continue to prefer taking this music in smaller doses. If it were economically feasible, I would advocate performing the three acts of this opera on three successive nights, similar to what Donald Runnicles once did for a concert performance of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Le Grand Macabre, on the other hand, is a rapid-fire comic hoot from beginning to end; and most of the jokes should hold up well enough in the absence of staging, except for Amanda and Amando, who have a running (so to speak) gag, that starts in the first act and concludes near the end of the third. Was Peter Gelb able to secure a ticket while one was still available?

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