A Luminous ‘Aria Code’ Joins a Meager Field of Classical Music Podcasts


About a decade into the podcast increase, I’m constantly shocked there aren’t extra reveals about classical music. It’s a perfect medium: Little can examine with the expertise of listening to somebody speak about a piece, then listening to it with enlightened ears.

Yet few within the subject have taken benefit of podcasting. Which is why the debut this month of “Aria Code,” by WQXR and the Metropolitan Opera, is each a main occasion and a reward. Eminently listenable and infrequently illuminating, the 10-episode collection is like a bonus characteristic for opera followers, and a welcoming entry level for newcomers.

Four episodes have been launched thus far, and every follows a easy format. The host — Rhiannon Giddens, the polymathic musician and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient — takes a deep dive into a well-known aria with numerous company who’ve included singers, scientists and even a intercourse worker-turned-writer. Then she indicators off by enjoying the track in full. That’s it; the entire thing often lasts not more than 30 minutes.

It doesn’t at all times require your full consideration — I’ve taken in episodes simply whereas strolling my canine or purchasing — however the present often instructions it nonetheless, by means of an endearing private perception from Plácido Domingo, or an intensely fascinating efficiency by a soprano like Diana Damrau and Sondra Radvanovsky. (A partnership with the Met, it seems, offers enviable entry to the corporate’s nice singers and its audio archive.)

Ms. Giddens approaches these arias as a fan barely on the surface. She has conservatory bona fides by method of Oberlin however left opera to carve an idiosyncratic, celebrated area of interest in people music. So she is educated, however not didactic or technical. And, by bringing in company far faraway from music, she goes past mere evaluation to make classical music surprisingly related to fashionable audiences.

You come to grasp a 19th-century courtesan’s feelings within the aria “Sempre libera” from “La Traviata” by listening to concerning the first time a present-day intercourse employee fell in love. The episode on “Dio, mi potevi scagliar” from “Otello” is a relatable meditation on envy and despair; and the latest one, about “Vissi d’arte” from “Tosca,” is a transferring reflection on the troublesome sacrifices artists have at all times needed to make. (Ms. Radvanovsky, a widely praised Tosca at the Met this season, unpacks her guilt in choosing to sing in the opera’s opening night over helping her mother move into an assisted-living home.)

Where the show’s approach falls short, however, is in the second episode, about “Che gelida manina” from “La Bohème.” The guests bring historical and scientific perspectives to the opera that rob it of its, well, operaness. Rodolfo and Mimì’s meet-cute is over the top and extremely charged, but so is this art form. To explain their extraordinary attraction with brain scans and anthropology seems unnecessary, even irrelevant.

Most episodes of “Sticky Notes” are devoted to a single work. With endless enthusiasm and a curious mind, Mr. Weilerstein offers historical context and musical analysis (rarely too technical for outsiders), as well as a wealth of illustrative audio clips; the effect is like program notes for his concerts brought to life.



Source link Nytimes.com

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