2023: concerts of the year

Lucrecia Dalt @ National Sawdust

I did not know what to expect going into this one – Dalt has made both sideways torchsongs and geological ambient, among other things in her catalog. This was her with a synth + effects, and then a … dude … who I have learned is named Alex Lázaro, on a kit that looked like some sort of demented mobile. Dalt, doing mostly things in the “sideways torchsongs with electronics”, can sell you on the intimacy that National Sawdust often lacks. Lázaro, on the other hand, looks like a cross between Harpo Marx, an NBA shooting guard, and Ginger Baker — and plays enough like whatever that combination would play like to perfectly balance both Dalt and the venue.

Oliver Messiaen – Turangalila Symphonie @ NY Phil

The NY Phil came very committed to playing Messiaen’s literally gigantic Turangalia, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano and Cynthia Millar on ondes martenot. The piece is so much that it is hard to know what to say about it, but let’s try: this was a monumental thing and I am still thinking about the sixth (out of 10!) movements, and I highly recommend it.

Kate Soper’s The Hunt @ Miller Theatre

Wry and haunting and wondrous and modern and medieval, Soper’s chamber opera for three sopranos was very strong. The MacGuffin is “three medieval virgins passing the time while they wait for a unicorn”, while sending updates back to the King and his Court via Instagram – which means that Soper can lean into her intertextual magic, re-cut old plainchant, and so forth. I came out of the performance a bit unsure of how the plot landed … but having now seen more opera in The Magic Flute, perhaps the plot is not really the point of opera, when the vocal writing is this good.

The most honorable mentions to:

  • Julianna Barwick at National Sawdust; lush and beautiful and overwhelming.
  • Steve Reich’s latest at the NY Phil; which was notable not in the least because the guy himself walked by me and asked NY Phil staff which way to the men’s room.
  • The Magic Flute; in English by Julie Taymor and The Met – featuring not only Kathryn Lewek’s laserbeam-brillant Queen Of The Night, but also the most “sexy flamingos” I have seen on stage at once.