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27 December, 2022

Andrew Byrne’s New York Opera Post-card, November 2022.

Bizarrely, one of my New York treats actually occurred back in Sydney with the excellent Pinchgut Opera production of Chapentier’s Medée (1693).  This allowed me to compare the baroque sorceress Medee Catherine Carby with Sondra Radvanovsky as Cherubini’s Medea (1797).  Both productions were of gut-wrenching, relentless drama prompting five deaths by the hand of Medee/Medea – including her own children by Jason (of the Golden Fleece).  Like Callas these sopranos had to do a stentorian job and in both cases we were given every bit of the love, jealousy and murderous deeds.  Would five corpses be a record? 

New York is a very changed place since our last visit before Covid.  Many businesses are gone, others reduced and short-staffed.  During lockdowns most restaurants and cafés erected pavilions which were permitted on the roadway for ‘outdoors’ dining.  Despite the disadvantages to traffic, bike lanes, deliveries, etc, these remain and supplement seating, in some cases requiring enlarged kitchens.  Will they become permanent?  Menus are mostly limited and lack any of the usual specials making dining out more expensive. 

The subway is busy again and only a small minority were wearing masks (including me).  Shops, museums, auction rooms, concert halls and the opera were all less than fully utilised.  Four exceptions were the Paul Allen Christie’s art sale; Tom Stoppard’s new play Leopoldstadt; The “Tucker Gala” at Geffen Hall; “The Hours” Met opening with Fleming, DiDonato and O’Hara.  Each of these were packed out.  Some Verdi houses were less than 50% full. 

The Met’s season included classics Rigoletto, La Traviata and Don Carlo, each with strong casts and fine productions.  Too many singers to name but outstanding were Peter Mattei as Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa and Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto.  Tenors Stephen Costello (Alfredo) and Benjamin Bernheim (Duke of Mantua) also gave very fine performances.  Equally limited audiences for Peter Grimes (with ‘our’ Nicole Car and Aussie conductor Nicholas Carter).  Fine young Italian soprano Rosa Feola gave a believable version of Gilda in Rigoletto before performing in Giordano’s rarity Fedora later in the season.  Even Tosca in November was poorly attended – and I heard that there were ‘give-away’ seats for $50 in prime locations available for most performances. 

It was a great pleasure to return to the city for many other cultural outings.  These included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LAX Trio at the Caspary Hall, Mendelssohn at Carnegie Hall, Korngold, Haydn, Mozart and much more. 

After glorious autumn weather we had a cold snap at the end of November but nothing to compare with the current December snow bomb affecting much of the country.  

Happy New Year to all my faithful readers.  Please let me know if these notes are surplus to your needs. 

Written by Andrew Byrne ..