Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Musical attractions in New York in April 2008

New York in April 2008 (posting number two)

The attraction of Richard Goode and Sir Colin Davis doing Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto with the New York Philharmonic was too good to miss. And it did not disappoint as Goode put in a magnificent and spirited performance. I had not heard the original Beethoven cadenza for the third movement - short but amazing! I wish I could say the same for Leonore Overture No 2 and the Vaughan Williams 4th symphony, neither of which impressed me much. We know that Beethoven did not have the spontaneity of melody of some of his contemporaries, but this overture does not even seem to have one single tune until the governor’s bugle motive and that is really just a fanfare rather than a melody. Vaughan Williams’ work was noisy and rhythmic but again lacked melody. You cannot have a good opera without an aria (and there are such works including Prokofiev’s Gambler and Glass’s Satyagraha, both of which were playing at the Met during April.

Candide at the City Opera was interesting but had no particular high points worth reporting. The overture was just fine as was ‘Glitter and be gay’ yet there were no goose bumps which is how I judge operas/musicals. I have to say Gypsy on Broadway was the same. Perhaps I am expecting too much. An amateur production of Fanciulla del West by DiCapo opera on the east side was highly enjoyable, making three Puccini operas including Edgar and Boheme.

Apart from Ernani, Ballo, Daughter of the Regiment and Satyagraha, Falstaff at the New York City Opera was also most enjoyable. La Boheme at the Met was to be simulcast one Saturday afternoon with Ramon Vargas and Angela Gheorghiu. We were told that tickets were impossible to obtain.

We have discovered that one can buy returned tickets and standing room (we did it for this matinee) at exactly 10am on the day of the performance by logging onto their site. From a string of “SOLD OUT” reserve options 5 minutes earlier, several price ranges opened right on the hour (you have to re-log in or else ‘refresh’ the page. On this occasion only the most expensive and the cheapest positions in the house appeared. They include tickets which have been returned or ‘donated’ previously plus about 130 standing room positions. Only about 50 of the standing positions are really good in my opinion (orchestra standing room, immediately behind the last row, with two more rows behind with less and less visibility and audibility under the ‘over-hang’). Many people ‘in the know’ say that family circle standing positions are best acoustically but they are a VERY long way from the stage and you need binoculars to see who is actually singing. It is true that the orchestra and most vocals sound just fine from on high but certain singers (even quite good ones) get lost with the distance. I have stood there for Siegfried in the bad old days!

I hope these travel notes are of interest to readers.

Andrew Byrne ..

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