Author Archive for Mike Paarlberg

Big Talent, Not Much Personality: Nikolai Lugansky at the Kennedy Center

If you were to place classical pianists along a spectrum, you might picture one with Maurizio Pollini at one end and Lang Lang at the other. I'm not talking about skill—I'm talking about something a little less tangible: Call it panache, showmanship, self-aggrandizement, whatever. Of course, putting famous people on that spectrum skews to the [...]

Virginia Opera’s Carmen, Reviewed

Louis C.K. has a bit in which he notes how incredible it is that women continue to go out with men, given that the number one threat to women, and chief cause of injury and mayhem to them is, well, men. The number one threat to men? Heart disease.
So it’s worth remembering that in Carmen, [...]

Nas at the Kennedy Center, Reviewed

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Illmatic, the debut album by Nas that set the gold standard for East Coast hip hop, came out. Actually no, when you see Nas rapping in a tuxedo backed by the National Symphony Orchestra, it’s not that hard to believe. For rock bands like Metallica, doing [...]

Eschenbach’s Not Going Anywhere

The Kennedy Center announced it will extend the contract of National Symphony Orchestra director Christoph Eschenbach through 2017, the Washington Post’s Anne Midgette reported Monday.
Is this a surprise? No. NSO directors tend to stick around for a while: Antal Doráti had the shortest tenure, of just seven years in the '70s; Mstislav Rostropovich, his successor, [...]

Washington National Opera’s Elixir of Love at the Kennedy Center, Reviewed

Props to director Stephen Lawless for working a dick joke into his version of L’elisir d’amore. “His ego is large, I don’t know about the rest of him,” smirks Adina about her suitor Belcore, with a corresponding hand gesture that I guess was not in the original libretto (“È modesto il signorino!”: “The little gentleman [...]

You’ve Got Whale: Moby-Dick at the Washington National Opera, Reviewed

Opera fans don’t get many opportunities to see things that nearly no one in the audience has seen before. It’s a test of how a work of art stands up on its own, without any famous aria or overture as a point of comparison. Some opera nuts may have seen Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick in Dallas, [...]

Martin Grubinger with the National Symphony Orchestra, Reviewed

We get it, orchestra programmers. You figure if you’re going to put on something contemporary, you’ve got to sweeten the pot with a pair of ear-candy symphonies by Mozart and Dvořák. Because if you say "Hey, check out this concerto written in 2007 by someone you don’t know, played by someone else you don’t know [...]

Go-Go and Classical, Together at Last

At some point, orchestra directors got it into their heads that the way to attract younger audiences was to perform collaborative concerts with hip, youthful bands like Aerosmith, Scorpions, and Styx. Cut them some slack for being a bit behind; it’s the thought that counts. They may not save classical music, but classical-rock collaborations are by [...]

The Sleigher: Power Flow, “Forever Alone en Navidad”

HO HO QUIÉN: José Rubén Bernal, aka Power Flow, a notoriously tone-deaf reggaetonero from El Salvador known for his creative use of low-budget CGI in such YouTube hits as “Bun Bun” and “Jaqueando Tu Amor” (that’s “Hacking Your Love”). He is joined, as always, by an ever-expanding cast of “DJs” who don’t seem to actually [...]

The Sleigher: Joshua Bell, “Christmas Confusion”

HO HO WHO: Joshua Bell, virtuoso violinist—aka that nice boy who posed as a street musician in L’Enfant Plaza and helped Gene Weingarten prove that Washingtonians are philistines—teaming up with classical comedy duo Aleksey Igudesman and Hyung-ki Joo. As in, they play classical music and are moderately funny, not that their comedy is in any [...]

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