David Abrams

Feb. 6 Syracuse Opera: A Little Night Music

Syracuse Opera’s ‘A Little Night Music’ a little too lean

With a pit orchestra of only six players and no projected titles, Sondheim’s “operetta” doesn’t seem whole

By David Abrams

There’s little point in arguing whether Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is, at its core, a musical or an operetta. It could be either, depending on the resources put into the production effort. Syracuse Opera chose to trumpet the work as “operetta,” not musical theater, during the weeks leading up to Friday’s premiere. And that label calls into question the company’s use of a chamber-sized pit orchestra…

Jan. 7 Met (Live): La Traviata

The Met’s ‘La Traviata’ lean on glamour, rich in insight

Beyond the austere set and surreal visuals, Willy Decker’s controversial 2010 Met production probes deeply into the heroine’s psyche

By David Abrams

Willy Decker’s now five-year-old Met production of La Traviata, like the bottles of champagne uncorked during the bubbly Libiamo, appears to improve with age…

Jan. 10 CNY Playhouse: Lend Me a Tenor

CNY Playhouse’s ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ keeps the laughs coming and the action going

Who knew a performance of Verdi’s ‘Otello’ could be this amusing?

By David Abrams

What can possibly be funny about Verdi’s Otello, the opera generally acknowledged to be the culmination of Italian tragic opera? Kenneth Ludwig believes he found the answer — and three Tony Awards say he’s on to something…

CD review: The Piano’s 12 Sides

Carter Pann’s ‘The Piano’s 12 Sides’ looks good from a dozen angles

The set of handsomely crafted character pieces proves a worthy showcase for Canadian pianist Joel Hastings

By David Abrams

The genesis of Carter Pann’s collection of character pieces in this album dates back to the summer of 2011, when Pann approached Joel Hastings — a pianist whom the composer has long admired — about writing a set of 12 solo works specifically tailored to the Canadian pianist’s talent set…

Nov. 22 American String Quartet

American String Quartet, now in its 39th season, sounds as fresh as ever

Pianist Anton Nel joins the celebrated chamber ensemble in a stunning performance of Schumann’s ‘Piano Quintet’

By David Abrams

I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite from the three works on Saturday’s Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music concert featuring the American String Quartet (ASQ). But one thing I know for certain: This performance ranks among the top half-dozen or so live chamber performances I’ve ever attended…

Nov. 8 Symphoria Masterworks Series

Symphoria goes ‘all in’ for conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, reaches new artistic high

The orchestra’s impressive Masterworks program, anchored by Tchaikovsky’s cathartic Sixth Symphony, also showcased principal clarinetist Allan Kolsky

By David Abrams

If you think the glory days of symphonic music in this town perished along with the demise of the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, you must have missed Saturday’s Masterworks concert…

Nov. 1 Met simulcast: Carmen

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

By David Abrams

Operagoers have long grown accustomed to sacrificing dramatic integrity for a rewarding musical experience. Joan Sutherland was in her ‘60s when she sang Gilda in scenes from Verdi’s Rigoletto at a Met Gala concert in 1987. Her singing brought the house down, though it’s unlikely that anyone in the theater believed this could be the title character’s teenage daughter…

Oct. 24 Syracuse Opera: Die Fledermaus

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

By David Abrams

First, a disclaimer: If you attend Sunday’s final production of Die Fledermaus, don’t come expecting anything even remotely serious. This isn’t Don Giovanni. It’s more like Dom Perignon. But if you’re looking for a good time, you’re headed for the right place…

Oct. 11 Met simulcast: Macbeth

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

By David Abrams

Ever since the September 24 opening of the Met’s current production of Verdi’s Macbeth, critics have been pretty much unanimous in their acclaim for Anna Netrebko’s portrayal of the iconic Lady Macbeth. The praise is well deserved, all the more so considering the transformation of vocal timbre she had to undergo to prepare for this role. By the time of Saturday’s Live in HD simulcast, about the only question remaining was how the Russian superstar would withstand the intense scrutiny of the close-up camerawork…

September 20 Dover Quartet

Dover Quartet, in Syracuse debut, shows poise, polish, precision and promise

The ensemble of recent Curtis grads, fresh off its impressive sweep of the 2013 Banff Competition, opens SFCM’s 65th season in convincing style

By David Abrams

Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music kicked off its 65th anniversary season with a gamble of sorts. Instead of engaging an established, big-name chamber ensemble to start the new season, as has been its custom, SFCM opted instead for youth and promise.

CD review: Excelsior (Fifth House Ensemble)

‘Excelsior’ contemporary music CD release pleases the ear, ignites the imagination

Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble shines in its Cedille Records debut

By David Abrams

Searching for the occasional gem in a program dedicated to contemporary music is much like scratching your way through an instant lottery ticket. Initially, hopes for a winner are high, with some six or so chances to win. But it hardly comes as a shock when you discover you’ve come up empty.

July 18 Glimmerglass: Carousel

Glimmerglass’s ‘Carousel’ goes ‘round and ‘round on the strength of its music, not visuals

McKinny crafts a formidable anti-hero in Billy Bigelow, and the cast of Glimmerglass Young Artists does justice to Rogers & Hammerstein’s beloved musical

By David Abrams

At first glance, setting Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár’s dark and depressing drama Liliom as musical theater hardly seems like a winning formula for making a hit on Broadway…