Feb. 5 Syracuse Opera: La Bohème

Danielle Pastin (standing) and Casey Finnigan star as Mimi and Rodolfo in the 2016 Syracuse Opera production of Puccini'd "La Boheme"

Syracuse Opera presents a well staged but vocally unspectacular ‘La Bohème’

The set, save for some ineffective props, looks good — but the production lacks the necessary chemistry between Mimi and Rodolfo

By David Abrams

I’m not sure what caused the fire alarms to sound at the Crouse-Hinds Theater shortly before the final act of the Syracuse Opera production of La Bohème. But it was easy to rule out what little sparks had been flying between the two principal characters up to that point…

Feb. 1 Book Review: Presenting Shakespeare

Title cover for "Presenting Shakespeare," a book of poster art for the Bard's plays staged over the years

Presenting Shakespeare, preserved as poster art

But this handsome collection of 1,100 posters from The Bard’s plays is much more than a coffee table book

By Wayne Myers

Breast-like twin celestial orbs brazenly fill a dark forest night sky in Ryszard Kaja’s poster for Teatr Wielki w Poznaniu’s 2007 performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Nov. 21 LA Opera: Norma

Angela Meade (center) in the title role of LA Opera's production of Bellini's "Norma" (photo: Ken Howard)

LA Opera’s ‘Norma’ delights with superlative vocal efforts, insightful staging

Angela Meade, as the iconic Druid priestess, conquers Los Angeles

By James Sohre

If you were to take all the sopranos in our collective memory who conquered the Everest role of Norma and pooled all their strengths with none of the weaknesses, the result may come close to Angela Meade’s towering performance at Los Angeles Opera…

Nov. 6 Syracuse Opera: Glory Denied

Cast of Syracuse Opera's production of "Glory Denied" (from left: Ashly Neumann as the younger Alyce; Kevin Newell as the younger Thompson; Jennifer Goode Cooper as the older Alyce and Gregory Gerbrandt as the older Thompson

Acting, singing, staging ignite in Syracuse Opera’s ‘Glory Denied’

The company mounts a riveting production of Tom Cipullo’s opera about America’s longest-held POW

By David Abrams

From 1964 through his release from North Vietnam in 1973, Colonel Jim Thompson held the unfortunate distinction of being America’s longest-held prisoner of war. Upon release he returned home to a country, and marriage, that was largely unrecognizable from what he had left nine years earlier…

Oct. 23 Syracuse Stage: The Underpants

From left: Mark David Watson, Daniel Passer, Michael Brian Dunn and Marianna McClellan in the Syracuse Stage producrtion of Steve Martin's "The Underpants" (photo: Michael Davis)

Syracuse Stage pulls off Steve Martin’s ‘Underpants’

The comedian’s rapid-fire witticisms leave the audience little time to breathe before the next joke

By Michael O’Connor

The word “underpants” may suggest many things. It can be the boring utilitarian item that one wears every day, the washing of which is a pedestrian part of every relationship (so much so that hanging stockings and panties in the bathroom following laundering is often used in film and TV as a code for the loss of romance that comes with familiarity)…

Oct. 17 Met simulcast: Otello

Aleksandrs Antonenko as Otello and Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona in the Met production of Verdi's "Otello" (phpto: Ken Howard)

The Met delivers a colorblind ‘Otello’ whose Moor is as white as Desdemona 



Should dramatic integrity in Shakespeare be compromised in the name of “political correctness?”



By David Abrams

Opera audiences have long grown accustomed to colorblindness in the casting of principal roles, content to sacrifice some degree of dramatic credibility in order to experience a diversity of singing actors…

CD review: The Complete Viola d’Amore Concertos

VIvaldi: The Complete Viola d'Amore Concertos CD cover

Rachel Barton Pine, Ars Antigua connect on Vivaldi’s viola d’amore concertos

The concert violinist, fascinated with this richly resonant instrument since her teen years, “sings” Vivaldi in a new voice

By David Abrams

When Rachel Barton Pine places her six-stringed 1774 Nicola Gagliano viola d’amore under her chin, 12 strings spring to life…

Sep. 23 SF Opera: Sweeney Todd

Brian Mulligan (top) as Sweeney Todd and Wayne Tigges as Judge Turpin in Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" (photo: Cory Weaver)

Amplification problems aside, SF Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ a bloody good show

Stephanie Blythe’s role as Mrs. Lovett was a triumph — eclipsing all others and recalling the great Angela Lansbury

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

It is hard to argue with the boisterous, enthusiastic reception given San Francisco Opera’s Sweeney Todd. But let me try…

Sep. 22 SF Opera: Luisa Miller

Soprano Leah Crocetto as Luisa Miller and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Verdi's "Luisa Miller" (photo: Cory Weaver)

Rare Verdi, well done: SF Opera stages ‘Louisa Miller’

The singing was good all around, but the set was largely disappointing

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

Luisa Miller lurks in the shadows of Verdi’s major accomplishments.

Periodically the piece shows up in a successful reading such as this one at San Francisco Opera and makes us wonder why this engaging music doesn’t gain wider acceptance…

Sep. 19 Pacifica Quartet

The Pacifica Quartet (file photo) opened the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music 2015-16 season Sep. 15, (photo: Tristan Cook)

Pacifica Quartet returns to Syracuse, proves once again it is second to none

The Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music engaged the best of the best for its 2015-16 season opener

By David Abrams

The Pacifica Quartet returned to Central New York Saturday to open to the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music’s 2015-16 season, and did so with the kind of program, playing and execution that has defined SFCM over the course of its 66-year history…

Sep. 11 CNY Playhouse: 9 to 5 The Musical

Doralee (Korrie Taylor, left) and Violet (Shannon Tompkins, right) enlist the help of a junior accountant (Mike King) to check the company books in the CNY Playhouse production of "9 to 5 The Musical" (photo: Amelia Beamish)

CNY Playhouse’s ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ offers ribald humor with plenty of laughs

But Patricia Resnick’s book is too weak to make credible the oppressed office workers’ character transformations

By Michael O’Connor

The Central New York Playhouse production of “9 to 5 The Musical,” Dolly Parton’s reworking of the 1980 hit film by the same name, provides laugh-out-loud comic moments. What’s lacking is a believable story arc that allows the audience to buy in to the radical transformation the characters undergo…

Aug. 17 Santa Fe Opera: Cold Mountain

Deborah Nansteel (left, standing) as Lucinda, and Nathan Gunn (far right) as Inman in Santa Fe Opera's premiere production of "Cold Mountain" (photo by Ken Howard)

Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of ‘Cold Mountain’ a treasure

Jennifer Higdon, in her first operatic effort, delivers Charles Frazier’s Civil War tale in a bright and original voice

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

Long a champion of new works, the venerable Santa Fe Opera has scored a resounding success with the world premiere of Cold Mountain.

Librettist Gene Scheer has transformed Charles Frazier’s novel into a riveting, richly detailed lyric drama that remains faithful to the author’s important plot points and themes, while composer Jennifer Higdon provides a restless score of pulsating confrontations, ever shifting musical moods, and almost unerring musical commentary and emotional support…

Aug. 2 Glimmerglass: The Magic Flute

Sean Panikkar plays Prince Tamino in The 2015 Glimmerglass Festival production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," sung in English (photo: Karli Cadel)

Glimmerglass’s ‘The Magic Flute’ a muddled journey with no clear sense of direction

Madeline Sayet, directing her first-ever opera production, misses a golden opportunity to take the celebrated singspiel in a daring new direction

By David Rubin

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is a major challenge for even experienced directors. While the music is sublime, the story is a puzzle that few have solved satisfactorily…