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at 2 minutes 30 seconds
The wonderful cast of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at Opera Philadelphia’s O17 festival features the splendid lyric tenor Ben Bliss. This rising artist is coming to the Metropolitan Opera next March as Ferrando in a new production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte.” Here, in an intimate recital in the crypt of the Church of the Intercession in Harlem, he sings an aria from yet a third Mozart opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio.” Belmonte, a young nobleman, is anticipating reuniting with his beloved, who has been the captive of a Turkish pasha. Listen to Mr. Bliss’s delivery of the music’s most fretful passage: He manages to convey emotional distress while singing with elegant lyricism. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
AT 3 MINUTES 24 SECONDS
Setting Poetry Aflame
Matthew Aucoin’s opera “Crossing,” which has its New York premiere next week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, tells the complicated story of Walt Whitman’s time as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. I spoke with Mr. Aucoin and he mentioned that, were it not for “Crossing,” he likely never would have set Whitman’s words to music. In general, he said, poetry lends itself to music only when it has “something latent in it, like firewood that needs to be fully set on fire.” Whitman’s poetry, in his view, is already so musical that it tends to drown out any composer’s voice. How clever, then, that the final chorus in “Crossing” takes only small phrases from “Leaves of Grass,” instead quoting two sentences from a Wallace Stevens poem about Whitman: “Nothing is final/No man shall see the end.”