Author Archive for Mike Paarlberg

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 [...]

Nutcracker Smackdown! Washington Ballet vs. Momentum Dance Theatre

Every December, Arts Desk provides readers with a consumer report on a different holiday tradition which those in the Christmas spirit are obligated to attend whether they like it or not. This year we look at the great ballet Tchaikovsky composed to keep American dance companies afloat, The Nutcracker. We compare two D.C. staples, the [...]

Washington National Opera’s Tristan and Isolde, Reviewed

We've all been there. Falling for the wrong guy, the one you know will break your heart, the one who killed your last boyfriend and you are scheming to kill in a murder-suicide revenge plot, only to be foiled when your handmaiden swaps your poison for a love potion.
Don’t laugh—love potions are a totally legit [...]

Cabaret Barroco: Interludes of Spain’s Golden Age at GALA Hispanic Theatre, Reviewed

Language is a funny thing. On one long distance bus ride in Mexico, I had the pleasure of seeing Fast Five (Rápidos y Furiosos 5) dubbed into Spanish; they took the liberty of also dubbing Don Omar and Tego Calderón’s dialogue from Puerto Rican Spanish to “normal” Spanish.
Ostensible Spanish speakers might have benefitted from similar [...]

John Adams With the National Symphony Orchestra, Reviewed

John Adams’ City Noir, which he describes as the score for an imaginary Hollywood film, is an odd work for a composer who famously refuses to write scores for Hollywood films. By his own account, he’s been approached by directors including Francis Ford Coppola, even expressed interest, but ultimately decided studios’ turnaround demands would leave [...]

Composer John Adams Talks Hollywood, Social Media, and His Sensitivity to Coughing

America’s most celebrated living composer is in town for a two-week festival spanning multiple venues. This week, the Library of Congress hosts Adams in residency. Various chamber groups and soloists will perform his work beginning tonight, including the premiere of a newly commissioned piece on Friday with the International Contemporary Ensemble. The following week, Adams [...]