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Brilliant Brutality: The Week in Classical Music


Brilliant Brutality: The Week in Classical Music

Here in New York, the soprano Julia Bullock is ending her season-long residency at the Met Museum not onstage — rather, on Saturday evening she’s presenting “El Cimarrón,” Hans Werner Henze’s evocative “recital for four musicians” based on the real-life story of a runaway slave in Cuba. Zack Winokur directs the bass-baritone Davóne Tines, the flutist Emi Ferguson, the percussionist Jonny Allen and the guitarist Jordan Dodson.

And tomorrow at noon is the final performance of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” at the Met Opera. (I’ll be there!) Michael Cooper focuses on an indelible scene:

Death in opera tends to be, well, operatic. Mimì expires tragically and almost poetically in “La Bohème,” a defiant Carmen faces her killer bravely and boldly, Brünnhilde selflessly immolates herself to redeem the world in “Götterdämmerung.”

I end up in tears as often as not, but the heightened emotions are usually some distance from real life and death. So it was actually shocking to watch the great Finnish soprano Karita Mattila’s death scene at the Met this week in Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites,” because it rang so recognizably true.

Writhing almost athletically in her deathbed, as she poured her dramatic soprano into the last words of Madame de Croissy, the convent’s dying prioress. The character’s doubts, rage and, above all, pain were all too real. It’s only a supporting role, but it was the sequence that lingered with me — and it gave weight to the martyrdom of the rest of the nuns at the end of the opera.

Read our review of the production.

Tomorrow evening, the Met’s season wraps up with the finale of its last “Ring” cycle. (I’ll be there, too!) We have two nice pieces as you mourn the end:

Three writers celebrate Michael Volle, a noble and articulate Wotan singing his first full “Rings.” And Josh Barone does the hard work and concludes that, yes, Robert Lepage’s production works better from the cheap seats.

Coming to Lincoln Center on May 19: the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck, who David Honeck praise in this delightful essay as marrying “deft refinement to forceful physicality.” Listen to excerpts from their superb recordings:

And here’s the “Kopernikus” I saw at the Ojai Festival in 2016:

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