Les Arts Florissants
March 16 & 17
Alice Tully Hall, Bway & 65th, 212-721-6500. William Christie, the American who galvanized European baroque performance, brings his superb ensemble and lots of recent recruits for a sprawling program of songs and dances by Purcell, Charpentier, Rameau, Couperin, Handel, Mozart, Philidor, and several unusual others.
San Francisco Symphony
March 16 & 17
Carnegie Hall, 57th & Seventh Ave, 212-247-7800. On the first night, Michael Tilson Thomas conducts his feisty orchestra in Copland’s gritty Orchestral Variations, Shostakovich’s funny-sad last symphony, and Rachmaninoff’s juicy Piano Concerto No. 2, with Leif Ove Andsnes devouring the keyboard. Next night, Barbara Bonney sings Tilson Thomas’s own Dickinson songs, and MTT conducts Mahler’s spooky, often reckless Symphony No. 7.
March 20, 23, 26 & 29, April 1 & 7
New York State Theater, Columbus Ave & 63rd, 212-307-4100. Handel’s psychologically gripping opera involving triangulated love, magic, and madness arrives at City Opera in a warmly praised Glimmerglass co-production. Bejun Mehta, the most brilliant and dramatic of current countertenors, takes the title role; Amy Burton and the irresistible Jennifer Aylmer are the crucial sopranos.
‘Making Music’: John Adams
Zankel Hall under Carnegie, Seventh Ave & 56th, 212-247-7800. This still-surprising composer discusses and conducts four of his less epic but very alive pieces—Hallelujah Junction, Road Movies, American Berserk, and the sizzling Chamber Symphony. The musicians include violinist Leila Josefowicz and the 15-member Road Runners.
New York Philharmonic
Avery Fisher Hall, Columbus Ave at 64th, 212-875-5656. Kent Nagano, one of today’s most perceptive Messiaen conductors, brings back to this orchestra the late mystical master’s last “big” piece, the luxuriantly dazzling Eclairs sur l’Au-Dela (Illuminations of the Beyond). Bach, no less, provides the preliminary backup with a morsel of Art of the Fugue and the Phil’s Sheryl Staples and Sherry Skylar in the Concerto for Violin and Oboe.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Carnegie Hall, 57th at Seventh Ave, 212-247-7800. James Levine conducts one of his typical classical-to-modern programs: Brahms’s rosy Symphony No. 2, Stravinsky’s brain-teasingly serial Movements for Piano and Orchestra, and the New York premieres of John Harbison’s Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera and Charles Wuorinen’s Piano Concerto No. 4. The wizardly Peter Serkin is pianist for Stravinsky and Wuorinen.
‘La fanciulla del West’ (‘The Girl of the Golden West’)
April 3, 8, 13, 16, 19, 21 & 23
New York State Theater, Columbus Ave & 63rd, 212-307-4100. City Opera imports Glimmerglass’s scorchingly powerful 2004 summer production by Lillian Groag of Puccini’s most musically cohesive and dramatically moving opera. The company’s music director, George Manahan, conducts, and Stephanie Friede takes the intimidating title role.
Zankel Hall under Carnegie, Seventh Ave & 56th, 212-247-7800. She’s known primarily as a Bach pianist, but here she branches out a bit. After Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor and French Overture in B Minor, she plays Couperin’s Treizième ordre and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin.
‘Die Zauberflöte’ (‘The Magic Flute’)
April 8, 13, 16, 20 & 23
Metropolitan Opera House, Columbus Ave & 64th, 212-362-6000. Julie Taymor’s wildly imaginative but somehow disciplined new production of Mozart’s mystical vaudeville winds up its season’s run. James Levine, in his most alert form, conducts a partly new cast.
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Carnegie Hall, 57th & Seventh Ave, 212-247-7800. As this is written, a federal mediator is kibitzing the orchestra’s strike. If he or she does the job right, the brilliant incoming music director, David Robertson, will conduct Ives’s The Unanswered Question (well, now!) and rambunctious Symphony No. 2, Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (narrator to be elected), and John Adams’s Century Rolls.
‘La clemenza di Tito’
April 29, May 2, 7, 11 & 14
Metropolitan Opera House, Columbus Avenue & 64th, 212-362-6000. James Levine, of whom you may have heard by now, conducts a strong-in-depth cast in this revival of Mozart’s deceptively tidy opera and once again makes you wonder why it was ever considered less than a masterpiece.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Carnegie Hall, 57th & Seventh Ave, 212-247-7800. This mighty orchestra arrives with music director Daniel Barenboim as conductor and pianist and Pierre Boulez as conductor and composer. May 13 has Barenboim conducting Bach’s Suite in B Minor, with Mathieu Dufour as the virtuosic flute soloist, and Mahler’s soul-searing Symphony No. 9. Next night, Boulez leads an all-Bartók concert that includes the challenging Four Pieces (Op. 12), the popular Concerto for Orchestra, and the knuckle-busting Piano Concerto No. 1, with Barenboim as soloist. On the last day, Barenboim conducts five of Boulez’s piano Notations in their brilliant orchestral expansions; the prelude to the first act of Wagner’s Parsifal; and Beethoven’s almost indestructible Symphony No. 7.