Have you ever suffered an intergalactic panic attack? If so, was it while you were seated atop a white disc, wearing a white cloak and listening to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen?

This week has seen a string of successful performances of the legendary German experimental composer’s Oktophonie in New York’s Park Avenue Armory, but unfortunately it gave Rebecca nightmares. However, while the 70 minutes of this piece felt to her “like eight years”, R. Andrew Lee’s five-hour rendition of Dennis Johnson’s 1959 minimalist work November created “a certain timelessness”, in the best possible way. Experimental music is a complicated thing.

Oktophonie © Stephanie Berger
Oktophonie
© Stephanie Berger
It’s been a fascinating fortnight for the new and the strange, in fact: we’ve heard forgotten masterpieces with Paavo Järvi and the Orchestre de Paris, interstellar birdsong with Ensemble ACJW at Carnegie Hall, and even a new Gospel, during the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “stupendously good” residency at the Barbican.
Kathleen Supové © Robin Holland
Kathleen Supové
© Robin Holland
New music has ranged from a David Matthews birthday celebration in London, which I took as proof that new classical music doesn’t have to be bold or attention-grabbing, to a Debussy-inspired evening of new music Meg caught in New York which featured a tuba played with a bassoon reed – and, I’m sure you’ll agree, a truly remarkable press shot. As if that wasn’t enough, Richard even saw a familiar face at an unfamiliar instrument: Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s piano duo recital in Montreal with Jennifer Bourdages showed that there’s more than one string to this conductor’s bow.

Benjamin Grosvenor and Stephen Kovacevich may not have performed in duet, but they took to the Birmingham Town Hall stage within hours of each other on 14 March, and Katherine and Peter were on hand to hear their respective offerings. It seems in this case that youth had the edge, with Grosvenor’s programme of dances eclipsing a less consistent offering from the senior figure. The Brodsky Quartet, on the other hand, may be into their 41st year by now but are still going strong, and Alan heard them spin their “Wheel of 4Tunes” in Edinburgh.

I’m not sure what’s going on in Montreal, but it seems to have been a rather pessimistic fortnight there in all, with the Brahms and Verdi Requiems both performed (by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Orchestre Métropolitain, respectively), sandwiched either side of Berg’s sombre Violin Concerto, a memorial to the 18-year-old Manon Gropius, who had recently died. But all these pieces carry a note of hope, and we can assume that the copious tears at the end of the OM’s Verdi Requiem were the sign of a successful performance. So, I’m sure, was the huge standing ovation which had greeted Long Yu and his Carmina Burana with Sydney Symphony three days prior.

Orchestre Métropolitain performs Verdi's Requiem © Philippe Jasmin
Orchestre Métropolitain performs Verdi's Requiem
© Philippe Jasmin
Another amazing recent event in Sydney was Opera Australia’s Carmen on the harbour, which created a truly spectacular environment for this most visceral of operas, as Oliver reports. Zerbinetta, meanwhile, was perhaps exposed to rather too much spectacle in Gotham Chamber Opera’s production of Eliogabalo, staged in a New York club and so full-on in its titillation that it didn’t really do justice to Francesco Cavalli’s considerable operatic gifts. A tamer but rather more sensitive Marriage of Figaro from Young Opera Venture in Middlesborough comes in at the other end of the smaller-scale opera spectrum.

Carmen on Sydney Harbour © James Morgan
Carmen on Sydney Harbour
© James Morgan
Elsewhere, we caught another Carmen, this one from Moscow State Opera in Dublin; and in Vienna a Bartered Bride which disappointed but a Fidelio which did not, Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the baton at the Theater an der Wien. And, last but certainly not least, Opéra de Paris’ Siegfried, a universally impressive effort with some captivating singing and an often effective production.

One big dance event currently is the Mikhailovsky Ballet’s visit to London, which began on Tuesday 26 March with an impressive Giselle, starring ballet world darlings Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. There are two more shows to come from them at the Coliseum, so even if Londoners are missing the Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells there is still plenty of dance to see. Cristina caught two contrasting shows from the Flamenco Festival – both boundary-pushing within this genre, but one (Romances) more successfully so than the other (La Curva).

Russian and Spanish dancers may have been on the stages of London, but it was the Norwegians who caught the eye in New York: Ivan saw Norway’s contemporary dance company Carte Blanche at the Joyce Theatre in their “peculiarly addictive” Corps de Walk. But if you’re after peculiar, Arthur Pita’s adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, recently back at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio, probably takes some beating – but, with its goo galore and a brilliant lead performance from Edward Watson, it’s also an engaging and exciting example of the possibilities of dance-theatre as a medium.

With luck, Easter will be free from intergalactic panic attacks: our reviewers will be heading to a smattering of passions around the world, Verdi’s Nabucco at the ROH, Britten’s Gloriana in Hamburg (in the Richard Jones production soon to come to London), and plenty more music besides, most of it a little less nuts than the Stockhausen. Though that said, the West Coast première of Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral from San Diego Opera should be most intriguing – as should the culmination of Valery Gergiev and the LSO’s Brahms and Szymanowski exploration this weekend. Don’t panic: classical music never stops.