In the August 31 New Yorker, Alex Ross writes, “The conductor Will Crutchfield, who specializes in bel-canto opera and doubles as a musicological detective, recently sat down to compare all extant recordings of “Una furtiva lagrima,” the plaintive tenor aria from Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore.” Crutchfield wanted to know what singers of various eras have done with the cadenza—the passage at the end of the aria where the orchestra halts and the tenor engages in graceful acrobatics. … As a conductor, Crutchfield is campaigning for a return to spontaneity and idiosyncrasy. Each summer at the Caramoor Festival, in Katonah, New York, he presents two or three works from the golden age of bel canto—Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi, with Handel, Gluck, and Mozart also in the mix—and through an extended rehearsal process he pushes singers to cast off the rigid habits that they have been trained to adopt. … The art of embellishment—improvising cadenzas, adding ornaments, taking other opportunities for creativity in performance—is a hot topic in classical music these days.”

Posted August 25, 2009