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Critics respond to the Philharmonic's production of Le Grand Macabre
1 June 2010

"Led by its quietly revolutionary new music director Alan Gilbert, the orchestra performed the semi-staged production to a sellout crowd that evidently relished the opera's flamboyant unconventionality, the insanely high caliber of the performance, and the evidence of a cultural institution that has shed its stodgy past. It was a marvelous night for New York."
New York [Justin Davidson]

"The hero of this production, of the whole endeavor, is Mr. Gilbert, who conducted the score with insight, character and command. The Philharmonic players seemed inspired as they executed this complex music with skill and conviction. Mr. Gilbert brought out Ligeti's wildness. Yet moment after moment was ravishing, like the fractured, hazy, strangely elusive scene when Piet, Astradamors and Nekrotzar drink themselves into a stupor, which causes Nekrotzar to bungle his chance to destroy the world. ...an instant Philharmonic milestone."
The New York Times [Anthony Tommasini]

"An event that may signify several important cultural turning points. The clangorous, atonal music, which used lots of nonmusical instruments, such as car horns and ringing phones, played to a sold-out house, two thirds of which wasn't regular subscribers. Not just a marketing triumph, the production ended with a rock-concert roar. The project initially seemed like an Alan Gilbert death wish; instead, the Philharmonic's still-fledging music director stands to have his profile raised considerably by Macabre."
Philadelphia Inquirer [David Patrick Stearns]

"Mr. Gilbert put the whole thing across with tremendous control, navigating the opera's complexity to convey its humor and, remarkably, beauty. Even with—or perhaps because of—the semistaged production, the opera was more persuasive than it was in a fully staged version in San Francisco in 2004. There, it seemed gimmicky and soulless; here, performed with musical virtuosity in a visual environment that deftly balanced the serious and the comic, it was fun."
The Wall Street Journal [Heidi Waleson]

"Surely the presiding force that made the evening so seamless and exciting was Gilbert on the podium. Pacing, instrumental gesture, textural richness, hair-trigger coordination of every complex element — it was all there, along with a thrilling take-no-prisoners musical exuberance that other performances of 'Le Grand Macabre' I've heard never quite duplicated. Suddenly the New York Philharmonic's future looks very bright indeed."
Musical America [Peter Davis]

"The end of the world was on the program Thursday night — but for the New York Philharmonic, performing the apocalyptic opera "Le Grand Macabre" was a promising new beginning. Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti's dissonant, absurdist 1978 opera is one of the most popular modern works in Europe, but it's never played New York until now. The overdue premiere won a warm reception when the sold-out crowd at Avery Fisher Hall rose to cheer both the work and the performers."
New York Post [James Jorden]
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