“A contemporary surrealist opera at the New York Philharmonic?” asks Daniel J. Wakin in Monday’s (5/24) New York Times. “About the end of the world? On Memorial Day weekend? What are they thinking over there at Avery Fisher Hall? The Philharmonic is presenting the New York premiere production of the earthily absurdist opera ‘Le Grand Macabre’ by Gyorgy Ligeti, first performed in 1978, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. It is a risky gambit for the orchestra and its new music director, Alan Gilbert, who have invested a lot of resources and hopes in the production. They are framing the performances as the signature event of Mr. Gilbert’s first season and a harbinger of things to come. Two-thirds of the Philharmonic’s regular concertgoers are having none of it. Subscription sales averaged about 33 percent for the three performances, the orchestra acknowledged. But single-ticket sales, which orchestra officials consider increasingly important, are strong, and the first night was nearly sold out by Friday. … Preparations for the work have galvanized the orchestra’s staff and created a shared sense of purpose, [Gilbert] said … Mr. Gilbert said he expected that ‘Le Grand Macabre’ would draw many newcomers to Avery Fisher Hall.”

Posted May 24, 2010