Jere and Dale and I heard the NY Phil on 5/8. We bought the tickets because one of our favorite singers, Anne Sophie von Otter, was singing a premiere. That piece was on the second half - - but let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). They played the Schubert “Unfinished” symphony on the first half. I hadn’t heard it since I had played it in high school. Yes, I played string bass in my high school orchestra. Anyway, I’m a huge Schubert fan, his songs and chamber music are total genius. This piece was beautiful but not interesting. Sometimes I’m shocked at how good the standard repertoire can be (like seeing *Traviata* for the first time a few years ago), but in this case I was unmoved. And it had nothing to do with the premiere on the second half. I think they might have been doing a little Mary Poppins programming: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
The real stars of the first half were the talking weirdos sitting in front of us, a couple probably somewhere in their 60s, probably not New Yorkers, talking during the performance. Not the whole time, but let’s say a quarter of the time, which is a LOT. And not quietly, they were talking to each other like they were sitting in their living room watching *Dancing With the Stars*. They did not seem to notice the glares being shot at them from every angle. Jere spoke with them at the intermission (bless his heart, thank you Jere):
JERE: Excuse me, during the second half of the concert, could you two not talk while the music is playing?
WOMAN: I'll try, I'll really try, but I can't promise. This is my first concert!
JERE: I understand, but everyone in this row could hear you.
MAN: I'm trying to explain to her what's happening.
JERE: Could you do it before the music begins and not while they’re playing?
MAN: I want her to understand.
WOMAN: I'll try, I'll really try, but I'm not sure I won't.
WOMAN NEXT TO US IN OUR ROW (to Jere): What's there to understand? Just be quiet.
JERE (back to her): Right, just shut the hell up!
Praise Jesus, they gave themselves an upgrade for the second half and moved to a pricier section, they became someone else’s problem.
The premiere was an opera in concert, *Senza Sangre* by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös. It was sung by von Otter and baritone Russell Braun. It was dull. The music was skittish - - it became monotonous, I wanted it to calm the frick down. It had a serious case of ants in its pants. Some of the writing for the orchestra was beautiful, but it wasn’t what I would call “vocal” writing for the singers. This is his tenth opera, don’t you think you’d figure that out after a while? And if you’re writing an opera, why not choose a story with some drama? This one opens with a woman buying a lottery ticket.