Classical Music is Dead*

le Grand Makeover

Posted in concert, music, review by The Nouveau Classical Project on 05/31/2010

This weekend we got to see the final performance of György Ligeti’s “anti-anti-opera” le Grand Macabre. We had a feeling it would be good, but we had no idea it would be so outrageously fun and, for lack of better words, so very cool. (We tried: no luck from After avoiding reading reviews, so as not to interfere with ours, le Grand Macabre went beyond what we expected.

To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. There were quirky and silly (in a good way) puppets manipulated and projected onstage by Giants are Small. Super off-the-wall characters were fabulously portrayed. Our favorite was Gepopo, performed by Barbara Hannigan, a hyper-active Lady Gaga-in-outer-space-looking creature (so Lady Gaga normal we mean?) that dances around like she’s strung out on some serious drugs (aka: how we typically dance at bars downtown). Then there were Amanda and Amando, a topless, super-horny couple clad in grass mini-skirts. Pretend analingus onstage. There was so much hilarity. Really funny stuff. Not like, ‘I’m-at-the-opera-this-is-where-I’m-supposed-to-laugh-so-it-shows-I-get-it-funny,’ but like real people funny.

One of the best parts was that the New York Phil looked like they were having FUN (gasp!) and showed they have a personality. Alan Gilbert is the Cher to their Tai. (If you haven’t seen Clueless, Cher, the main character, is the popular girl who takes newbie Tai under her wing and dresses her in a plaid mini and knee-socks, instantly making her popular, 90’s style.) The night we went, there were a few chic-looking people. Maybe not as many as you’d see at one of those Nouveau Classical concerts, but more than usual ;). The New York Phil might get to sit next to the cool kids at lunch period this week!

It looks like the Phil is getting a clue, and they have Gilbert to thank, along with whoever else was responsible for making le Grand Macabre happen. The strong visuals, which include outlandish costumes by Catherine Zuber, were a huge factor in the opera’s success. And we loved the booklets (pictured above) that contained drawings and the libretto inside.

We wonder what the New York Phil plans to do next. How do they plan to make their non-operatic, regular concerts stand out? Will it be possible to make as much of an impact? This weekend got us interested (and almost excited) about their next move.


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