Like a bad nor’easter, the city’s spring music offerings arrive with a roar. At the Met, a revival of Don Carlo, Verdi’s most complex masterpiece, has a powerhouse cast led by the gorgeous young American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Voice buffs can’t wait for March 10, when Violeta Urmana, a Lithuanian mezzo-turned-soprano, the likes of whom hasn’t been heard since Zinka Milanov, takes over the role of Princess Eboli. And City Opera is whipping up Harold Prince’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, whose anthem is that sneakily entitled showstopper, “Glitter and Be Gay.”
Expect 56th Street behind Carnegie Hall to be less passable than usual thanks to an invasion of visiting orchestras. The lead-off band is the Oslo Philharmonic, which arrives on March 9 to celebrate the May-September marriage of maestro André Previn and the pin-up fiddler Anne-Sophie Mutter with a performance of Mr. Previn’s Violin Concerto, his Grammy-winning valentine to his virtuoso bride. Next comes that old smoothie, the Vienna Philharmonic, which might get a little welcome roughing-up from the conductor Mariss Jansons in red-meat programs of Sibelius, Brahms, Mahler and Schoenberg. Nobody on the podium is more exuberant than Michael Tilson Thomas, but on March 17, he and the San Francisco Symphony display his quieter side in one of his own compositions, Poems of Emily Dickinson, sung by Barbara Bonney. On March 31, the homegrown Orchestra of St. Luke’s, conducted by Donald Runnicles, offers “Postcard from Prague,” featuring music by Janácek and Martinü as well as Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, with one of the world’s last remaining cult masters of the keyboard, Ivan Moravec, as soloist.
Recital aficionados are salivating over Carnegie’s array of soloists. Jonathan Biss, a reflective 23-year-old American pianist, will battle the subway in Zankel Hall in the sort of program that has become de rigueur for his generation: Mozart to Leon Kirchner. On March 30, Martha Argerich, who prefers to blaze in the company of old pals, is expected to show up (unless she cancels) with another Latin American pianist, Nelson Freire, for a fireworks display on 176 keys. Among the offerings is Ravel’s La Valse, which is also included on another four-hand program at Avery Fisher Hall on March 16, featuring the yin and yang of Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman. That same night, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants turn up at Alice Tully Hall for a Baroque bacchanal whose participants, according to one preview, “not only sing, but also move with gusto, enthusiastically flitting, slinking, crawling and cavorting around the stage.”
“Chamber music” no longer means Haydn and Schubert under a potted palm. On March 13, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center celebrates the 75th birthday of the moonstruck maverick George Crumb with two of his extraterrestrial masterpieces from 1970, Black Angels and Ancient Voices of Children. Dig that Tibetan prayer stone! Up at the Miller Theatre on March 25, nine percussionists, two female singers and a piccolo player will pulse to another boundary-bending work of the same vintage, Steve Reich’s Drumming (1971).
The cruelest offering in April will undoubtedly be the Miller’s tribute to the high priest of the New Complexity, the English composer Brian Ferneyhough. On April 22, an undaunted group called Ensemble 21 gives the American premiere of a seven-part cycle inspired by the architectural spider webs of Piranesi. Its inviting title is Carceri d’Invenzione (“Dungeons of Invention”). Musical trekkers might want to go gently into that dark night by heading to the Merkin Concert Hall two evenings prior (April 20), when the New York Festival of Song presents a soirée devoted to Gallic musical shrugs and sparklers under the rubric “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”
Another sparkler is the Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, whose rippling way with Bach, Couperin and Ravel fills Zankel Hall on April 7. Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” series lives up to its name with “Violinists on Film,” nine programs (beginning April 5 at the Walter Reade Theater) of legendary fiddlers on celluloid, from Heifetz to Oistrakh. A must-see for stage parents and their prodigious tots.
Tots, musical and otherwise, will warm to Julie Taymor’s spectacular production of The Magic Flute, which returns to the Met for four performances, beginning April 8. The Met is no longer the repertory company it once was, and when Marthe Keller’s smart, stripped-down staging of Don Giovanni is revived on April 1, it’s likely to get a new shine thanks to the smart casting of three of today’s juiciest younger singers: Gerald Finley in the title role, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina, and Jonathan Lemalu as Masetto. Should that old war-horse, Gounod’s Faust, be put out to pasture? The verdict is out until a new production by Andrei Serban-a director not known for following any rules but his own-opens at the Met on April 21, with a terrific cast led by Roberto Alagna in the title role and René Pape as Méphistophélès.
At City Opera, the hit of last summer’s Glimmerglass Festival-Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West-comes to the State Theater on April 3. The richly detailed score is matched by the production-Gold Rush verismo minus the hokum. A few nights later, the company unveils Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, an opera known mostly for a couple of great tunes. Will costumes by Zandra Rhodes, the queen of shimmering glitz, disguise the creakiness of the plot?
While the maestro of the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel, pursues his usual far-ranging interests elsewhere, the orchestra will have to make common cause with visiting conductors of widely contrasting styles: the German patrician Christophe von Dohnányi, who arrives April 5 for programs that include Beethoven and Ligeti; the Italian glamour boy Ricardo Muti, who comes nine days later to lead Liszt’s sprawling Faust Symphony; and Mstislav Rostropovich, who arrives April 27. The Russian teddy bear honors the two composers who were closest to his heart, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. He’ll have to work hard to keep up with his piano soloist-Martha Argerich.
Shostakovich was also a mentor to the legendary Borodin Quartet, which celebrates its 60th anniversary at the 92nd Street Y on April 2 with a program of works by that tortured master, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. In keeping with that venue’s unpredictable eclecticism are a mostly American program by the soulful baritone Sanford Sylvan (April 6) and a rare appearance by the great Venezuelan guitarist Paco Peña, who will demonstrate that there’s more to flamenco than foot-stomping (April 9).
The movies haven’t done very well in their biopics of classical musicians, but an exception is Tous les Matins du Monde (1991), with Gérard Depardieu as the reclusive 17th-century composer Marin Marais. The man who played the music on the soundtrack was the Spanish viola di gambist Jordi Savall. His magisterial authority on that antiquated instrument is featured in three concerts (beginning April 11) in the Medieval Sculpture Hall and the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum. The Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium is one of the most congenial piano rooms in town, and mid-April brings a fascinating pianorama in the form of five recitals by five young keyboard virtuosos who recently demonstrated that they had the right stuff to take top prize in the world’s most grueling piano competitions (April 14-17).
May brings us Franco Alfano-but who was Franco Alfano? Best known outside Italy as the composer who completed Puccini’s Turandot, he also wrote more than a few operas himself, one of which was Cyrano de Bergerac. Though Cyrano has seldom been heard since its Rome premiere in 1936, it’s coming to the Met on May 13 in a new production-not out of any adventurousness on the part of the company’s management, but because Plácido Domingo wants to add the title role to his endless repertoire. And when the great Domingo barks, the Met jumps.
The violinist Christian Tetzlaff and the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes are both egoless superstars, and their joint recital at Carnegie on May 4 should once again show how two of the world’s best young players can mesh perfectly without losing what makes each so exciting on his own. At the other end of the spectrum is Daniel Barenboim, who likes to keep his Chicago Symphony in overdrive. The best of the orchestra’s three visiting programs (May 13-15) is likely to be an all-Bartók program, with maestro Barenboim doing the soloist’s honors in Piano Concerto No. 1 and the orchestra having a fine old time saturating the Stern Auditorium with brass and sass.