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Week of  July 30-August 3, 2001

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun


FREE - THE COSTLIEST TICKETS OF ALL: There's an all-star cast performing in Chekhov's The Seagull this summer in New York's Central Park, and amazingly, the performances are free. Or are they? People are camping out overnight in line to get tickets, and the experience is...shall we say, arduous: "It is a farce. These tickets are paid for with time. More money can be earned, borrowed, even won. But time, once gone, can never be reclaimed. These are, perhaps, the most costly tickets of all." Washington Post 08/01/01

PAYING TO PLAY: A mysterious amateur philosopher hires prominent philosophers to review a paper. The pay's good, the paper's not bad, but the exercise says something about the state of academic inquiry... Lingua Franca 07/01


MORE TROUBLE AT ABT: "Another high-ranking executive at the scandal-ridden American Ballet Theater has been hit with charges of sexual harrassment. A complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuses David Richardson, ABT's assistant artistic director, of 'being sexually affectionate' with male dancers, 'kissing them about the face and mouth, hugging and caressing them' and subjecting them to a 'sexually-harassing, hostile and retaliatory environment.'" New York Post 08/01/01

BOWING OUT GRACEFULLY: It is never easy for a dancer to retire. Unlike performers in nearly every other discipline, dancers are forced to hang up their toe shoes when their bodies give out on them, usually sometime in their late 30s. For some, being told that it's time to go is an unbearable insult, and the occasional ugly battle between dancer and dance company results. But one Canadian dance legend decided to take the quiet route to retirement this year, earning her even greater affection from colleagues and audiences alike. National Post (Canada) 07/31/01

DANCE NEW ZEALAND: Gary Harris is the new artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. He says he wants to make RNZB the "ballet company of the Pacific" with a busy touring schedule, presenting a distinctly New Zealand style." New Zealand Herald 07/30/01


VIDEO ISN'T THE SAME AS FILM. HERE'S WHY: "Footage shot on digital video looks noticeably less crisp than footage shot on film. Where film can produce a remarkable sensation of deep space, video emphasizes the plane of the screen - its images seem flatter... video encourages lo-fi, do-it-yourself effects to achieve a completely natural, sketchlike style... just as you get different kinds of sound from a compact disc and vinyl, it seems clear that the new medium of DV will continue to have qualities distinct from film." The New Republic 07/31/01

NOT SO SPECIAL: Movie special effects have become boring. "Over the past decade, computing power has greatly increased while the cost and complexity involved in using it has greatly decreased. Computer generated images have become commonplace to the point of banality. They now clutter everything from the biggest Hollywood productions to the lowest-budget TV commercial, and their magic and power - the ability to simply wow us - has vanished. If a computer can create a screen image of anything the mind can conjure, what is left to surprise us?" Toronto Star 08/03/01

NOTHING ON: What has happened to British documentaries? Once they aspired to greatness. Now: "From the precious nonsense that was served up as Modern Times, to the vapid, middle-class obsessions of Cutting Edge, it would be easy to argue that the box in the corner of your living room boasts little but a white, English, terribly middle-class belly button." The Times 08/03/01

ACTING UP IN CANADA: American movie producers may have settled contracts with the actors union, but the Canadian actors union is just coming up on negotiations. "Among other issues on the table, the union hopes to narrow the gap between the $510 Canadian movie and TV actors earn for a day's work in Canada, and the $950 ($636 U.S.) paid to American actors." Toronto Star 08/02/01

THE ULTIMATE ADVERTISING MACHINE: Internet movies have mostly been flops. One series of shorts, however, has been highly successful. As you might guess, they're commercials, "six-minute shorts that are so unlike regular commercials, you could watch them without recognizing the product being sold. An easy mistake to make, since there's no advertising slogan, no pitchman and no logos." Toronto Star 08/01/01

WHAT DID YOU WATCH? NEVER MIND, WE ALREADY KNOW: Arbitron is introducing the portable people meter. "The PPM, which is carried by participants, detects codes that broadcasters place in their programming... and records the signals, whether at home or outside it. When the PPM is recharged on its base every night, the base sends the collected codes to Arbitron." Chicago Tribune 08/01/01

DOWNWARD CHASE: British television seems to be spiraling downmarket in an attempt to capture larger audiences. "The worst part of it is that the more trivial and mindless the television offerings become, the more eagerly the newspapers promote them in order to play leapfrog." Financial Times (UK) 08/01/01

LONGEST FILM: A Scottish artist has taken John Wayne's film The Searchers and slowed it down so it will take five years - the length of time the film's story covers. It has been "digitally slowed, real-time version, which runs at one frame every 24 minutes rather than 24 frames a second." Sunday Times (UK) 07/29/01


ST. LOUIS SYM IN CRISIS, PART XXXVI: Over the past couple of decades, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has gone from a little-known regional entity to one of America's premiere ensembles. But these days, despite a consistently high level of musical performance, the organization seems to be in constant crisis. Just last winter, a massive financial gift promised to all but end the orchestra's fiscal problems, but somehow, it hasn't happened. The orchestra's players, fans, and critics are worried that the orchestra may be headed for that dreaded flashpoint: the decision of whether to remain one of the best, or to retreat to regional status. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 07/29/01

GOING FOR THAT HIGH 'C': No question that the musical landscape has changed for orchestras. There are more of them playing at top levels than ever before. So how to sort out who makes the grade...? Philadelphia Inquirer 07/31/01

BSO AND LEVINE MAY BE GETTING CLOSER: The slow-as-molasses negotiations between conductor James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra appear to be making at least some progress towards the goal of Levine being named the BSO's next music director. "Matters still on the table include compensation, details of schedule, the BSO's contractual work rules and the ratio of rehearsal to performance, and Levine's health. Any one of these could derail the negotiations, which is why the orchestra continues to explore and expand the pool of alternative candidates." Boston Globe 08/01/01

ORCHESTRA IN THE TIME OF WAR: Nineteen-eighty-nine, as the Soviet Union was coming apart was hardly the best time to start an orchestra. But the Moscow Symphony Orchestra was founded that year by two sisters, and "in the years since it has risen under their management to the ranks of Russia's top orchestras without taking one ruble from the government." International Herald Tribune 07/31/01

DOMINGO BLASTS BAYREUTH: Apparently, Wolfgang Wagner just can't get along with anyone. The grandson of composer Richard has been embroiled in a vicious battle with other members of his family over control of the Bayreuth Festival, and now he appears to have angered tenor Placido Domingo to the point that Domingo has said he will not return to Bayreuth ever again. At issue: Domingo actually dared to ask for some extra rehearsal time. The nerve. Gramophone 08/01/01

PRICE-FIXING AND THE THREE TENORS: "Warner Communications Inc., a leading music distributor, will halt a promotion policy that the Federal Trade Commission alleged involved fixing prices for recordings of the opera stars, The Three Tenors." Nando Times (AP) 08/01/01

BILLIONAIRE VS. BILLIONAIRE: Talks have begun between the recording industry and the major media companies over who will reap what percentage of the revenues once widespread online streaming of music is a reality. Participating in the catfight are such heavies as AOL Time Warner, Clear Channel Communications, and the Recording Industry Association of America. At issue is how much of a royalty record companies will receive each time their recordings are streamed. BBC 07/31/01

BUYING AMERICAN: Six major British orchestras are now being led by American conductors. Why? "The answer, according to the orchestras and the Americans themselves, is that while continental, and particularly German, band leaders like to remain aloof and concentrate purely on their music, the Americans are prepared to muck in and get their hands dirty on the commercial side of the business." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/01

THE SKY ISN'T FALLING: On first glance, classical music recording may seem to be struggling. But the news isn't nearly so bleak as some suggest. And there are some encouraging signs that the business of recording may be evolving in positive ways. 07/30/01

A SIMPLE PREMISE: "MTV was launched in 1981 with a premise so simple that even Butt-head could have grasped it. Record companies made expensive videos to promote their acts, MTV showed them for free, ergo: high-quality, low-cost TV. The start-up budget was $25 million. Last year, revenues for MTV Networks were $3.04 billion (£2.17 billion). Over two decades, MTV has expanded to become a virtual empire, available in 140 countries and comprising 60 channels worldwide." The Telegraph (UK) 08/02/01

DIGITAL DISASTER: "The recording industry is asking consumers to try out a whole new concept of music ownership. Through the services now in the works, most popular music wouldn't be owned at all. Rather, songs would be rented by the month. Consumers would pay a monthly flat fee for access to a predetermined number of songs. Once they stop paying the fee, the downloaded files stop working. It's hard to see how this scheme will add up. The average consumer spends about $90 a year for six CDs and gets to keep them forever. The new subscription services will ask consumers to pay about $120 a year - and come away with nothing." Industry Standard 08/06/01

  • INTO THE ARMS OF ANOTHER: The recording industry might have shut down Napster. But without offering an immediate online alternative, the industry has driven music fans to other free services. Will they ever win them back? Industry Standard 08/06/01


ART DONATIONS: Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, who died last week, left much of her art collection to Washington's Freer Gallery and the National Gallery of Art. The National gets "a cubist still life by Diego Rivera; it will be the second Rivera painting in the gallery's collection." Washington Post 07/28/01

JAZZ KING: Jazz at Lincoln Center has named Bruce MacCombie, dean of the School for the Arts at Boston University, as its new executive director. He's a composer and former dean of Juilliard, and he replaces Rob Gibson, who was removed from the job in February in part because of his "divisive" management style. The New York Times 08/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SHYLY OPTIMISTIC: Composer Gyorgy Ligeti is at the top of his profession - he's just won a prestigious award and $350,000. So why's he so glum? The Economist 08/02/01


PENNY PINCHING: Just how bad are Canadian book superstore Indigo/Chapters' finances? The company has pulled its annual sponsorship of this year's Word on the Street literary festival, held in four cities. CBC 07/30/01

THE AMAZON PROBLEM: "The reason people my age are not ordering more books on-line may have a purely mathematical explanation. The number of books that we own, but have not yet read, and the number of years we might reasonably expect to have left to read them, do not quite add up." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/30/01

ABOUT ONE'S SELF: "The subject of autobiography is always self-definition, but it cannot be self-definition in the void. The memoirist, like the poet and the novelist, must engage with the world, because engagement makes experience, experience makes wisdom, and finally it's the wisdom - or rather the movement towards it - that counts." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/30/01

CLASSIC IGNORANCE: the absence of classical studies from contemporary education is a bad thing, and it is time to argue that they should be restored to a more salient place in the curriculum. Western culture is so deeply imbued with its classical origins that a proper appreciation of it is impossible without some knowledge of these origins." New Statesman 07/30/01

HOW TO WRITE: You see them in every bookstore, those books that promise to teach you how to write. "Evidently there exists a widespread belief that the good ol' Yankee can-do spirit - the kind that helps you to learn how to puff a soufflé or lay a garden path - extends to an imaginative realm like novel-writing." If only it were so easy... Opinion Journal 07/27/01

PRICE OF POPULARITY: As African American literature goes mainstream, some questions: "Whom do black authors write for, and who should our audience be? Will the imprints of the major houses—newly geared up to reach a broad black readership—release mediocre work and ghettoize the literary marketplace, or will they prove a boon for black voices?" Village Voice 08/01/01


THE BOOMING WEST END: Tourism is down in the UK and some thought theatre ticket sales in London might fall too. Not so, though - sales are up 7 percent over last year. "Figures for April to June 2001, released by the Society of London Theatres on Tuesday, show sales rose from £2.4 million to £2.6 million in the same period in 2000." BBC 08/03/01

BACK IN THE BLACK: In the 1980s there were more than 200 African American theatres in the US. Now there are fewer than 50. Thus the importance of the National Black Theatre Festival opening in Winston-Salem this week. "The event, which is held every other summer, has become a dependable place for actors, directors, playwrights and producers to network and recharge their batteries." Winston-Salem Journal 07/30/01

HE'S BAAACK: Twenty years ago actor Tim Robbins helped found LA's Actors' Gang Theatre. Movie stardom ensued, and four years ago, after piloting the theatre through "a long list of edgy productions" Robbins relinquished artistic control of the company. Now he's seized control again, provoking a rebellion in the company. Celebrity? Money? Conflicting artistic visions? LAWeekly 08/02/01


CURATORS UNDER ATTACK: Is the traditional curator a dying breed? If not dead, then certainly under attack: "The most penetrating attack is one that some curators themselves are abetting. Instead of insisting on carte blanche to research the past and present it to the public, they are beginning to welcome to the table members of the communities whose stories are being told. In the best cases, this can result in more authentic and revealing exhibitions; in the worst, blandness, incoherence, or self-congratulation." The American Prospect 08/13/01

GETTING ON THE FRONT PAGE: The recent record-setting auction of a sketch by Leonardo made front-page headlines all over the world. But the stories didn't seem to be much about anything to do with art. "Good art is difficult, slippery stuff, hard to get a handle on for even the most expert. That's why we love an occasion when we can substitute talk about something we're all at home with -- like buying and selling, or an artist's life and times, for that matter -- for real art talk. We believe that important art is the kind of thing we ought to read about in our high-class morning papers. But it can only make the news when it gets pulled out of the bog of aesthetics, into the good, crisp world of business, politics, sex or scandal." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/01/01

EVEN THE QUEEN SUFFERS FOR THE SAKE OF HER ART: It's hot in England this summer. While commoners are buying air conditioning at a record pace, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother will have to grin and bear it. “In certain rooms there are delicate artefacts and collectibles which need to be kept in controlled environments to preserve them. Consequently, it is generally thought that air-conditioning is not suitable.” The Times (UK) 08/01/01

LOOKING FOR THE ART IN PUBLIC ART: The town of Hammond Indiana wants to be a center of public art. As a first step, the city has painted a 17-foot-tall reproduction of a Salvador Dali on a wall above downtown. "It is the type of painting that brings notice, and it is the kind of work that has people talking and scratching their heads about it by its mere presence. Our goal is to invite patrons of the arts and other interested parties to make this location a Midwest mecca for public art - be it sculptures, murals, fountains or reproductions such as this one." Ottawa Citizen (AP) 08/03/01

PRESERVING ANCIENT MONUMENTS IN FRANCE: The French government has committed Ffr 600 million ($86 million) for restoration and preservation of sites in the South of France. "These include the arena and amphitheatre at Arles, the amphitheatre at Vaison-la-Romaine and the amphitheatre and triumphal arch in Orange. Most of the sites attract a large number of visitors and have suffered as a result, to the point where they are forced to be partially closed to prevent further damage. " The Art Newspaper 08/01/01

BILL GATES' ART SPREE: Billionaire Bill Gates has been active in the art markets in the past year - $10 million for a William Merritt Chase here, $20 million for a Childe Hassam there... "They [Gates and his wife, Melinda] have given a shot in the arm to American art," says one informed source. "Gates's collection has grown to include more than a dozen top–quality works, all by American artists." ARTNews 07/01

WILL PURGE FOR FOOD: The secret sale of an important old map - the first to chart the existence of the New World - to America by German officials entrusted to protect Germany's national treasures, is an indication of how broke Germany has become. It is "a scandal of the first order." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07/31/01

THE RETURN OF MODERNISM? The free-thinking purveyors of Modernist architecture enjoyed a brief period of wild popularity in the mid-twentieth century, but their work was soon overtaken by a return to traditionalism as the Cold War imposed a more sober mindset on the world. But now, the work of the Modernists is regaining the respect it originally had, and more Modernist structures are being built than ever before. But some worry that the trendiness of the movement has caused its principles to be forgotten. Nando Times (CSM News Service) 07/31/01

THIEF TO THE STARS: Michel Cohen was a dealer to the dealers - someone the high-enders used "to sell their Picassos and Chagalls - secretly - to each other. Then he disappeared with nearly $100 million of their money. Had they trusted the charming Frenchman too much? Or their competitors too little?" New York Magazine 07/30/01

ADMIT FREE: How about making America's museums free? "Relieving every one of America's 8,000 museums of the need to charge admission fees - would cost $1 billion a year. From political Washington's perspective, that would be $1 billion sluiced out into every state and every congressional district. And it would be a visionary, big-tent gesture of magnanimity that would generate better press and far more good will than the Bush Administration will ever get from the income tax rebate checks hitting the mails right now." Public Arts 07/30/01

MORE THAN A CURIOSITY: Australian Aboriginal art is widely purchased outside of the country. "But many Australians are deluded about the health of the international market for Aboriginal art, according to some experts." The work is not seriously collected. “Aboriginal art is often regarded either as an ethnographic curiosity or as an expression of mystic qualities associated with ‘new-age’ thinking.” The Art Newspaper 07/22/01

SAVING THE ART OF A NATION: "Since the 1890s, the British government has allowed owners of outstandingly important paintings and objects to offer them to the nation in lieu of tax - aware that unless such a mechanism existed, owners would sell their pictures abroad in order to pay death duties." One man has "saved" £150 million worth of art for the nation in this manner. The Telegraph (UK) 07/30/01

SAVING AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE: "How best to preserve our cultural heritage is a constant behind-the-scenes battle at our museums and galleries. A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics report found that 41 per cent of all museum and gallery artefacts required some treatment. While conservators at several institutions question how such a figure was arrived at - virtually all artefacts require conservation, argues one expert - all acknowledge that keeping up appearances involves a difficult balancing act." Sydney Morning Herald 07/30/01

UNDESIRABLE JOBS: Regional British museums are having difficulty hiring directors. "While billions of pounds in public funding continue to pour into London and the South East, cuts in staff and opening hours are the reality for impoverished museums in the North." The Times (UK) 07/30/01

MAYBE THE KIDS DON'T LIKE IT? When San Francisco's Zeum Museum for kids opened three years ago, it was hailed as "a cross between the Guggenheim Museum and the Starship Enterprise, a place where thousands of teens could hang out and craft high-tech videos and digital portraits." But the museum has drawn less than a third of its expected attendance. Now "it now has a negative net worth. And its debt is equal to its annual budget." San Francisco Chronicle 07/30/01


NUMBING DOWN: "Doesn't anyone ever get scandalized by art any more? We live in tolerant times, but we also live in numb ones. It takes a lot more than simulated sex or a bit of nudity to bring out the pickets. Publicists are always trying to tell the world their upcoming project is 'controversial,' but mainly it's wishful thinking." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/02/01

WHAT ARE WE SPENDING? How is public money being spent on the arts in the UK? A new report claims that "there has been a consistent failure to establish dependable data on subsidies, accompanied by a serious lack of analysis, which impairs both decision making and policy outcomes. 'How can we know if we’re getting value for money if the official bodies don't even know where all the money is going, where it comes from, or how it is spent'?” The Art Newspaper 07/28/01

UPPING THE CORPORATE FACTOR: Australian businesses sponsor sports to the tune of $282 million a year; but arts sponsorships amount to only $29.2 million. One organization is trying to help the arts catch up. Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/01

HELP FOR IRISH ARTISTS: With Ireland's recent prosperity have come rising rents. "An exodus of artistic types in recent years has led to concern that the country's main cities will become the preserve of go-getting Celtic Tiger sorts." Now a request to city officials for cheap housing for artists." Sunday Times (UK) 07/29/01

$300 FOR "THE LION KING" SUDDENLY SEEMS A BIT HIGH: As the U.S. economy continues to tank, the effects are being felt in all corners of the entertainment industry. For most folks, the arts are considered a luxury, and when money gets tight, no one much feels like ponying up for overpriced concert tickets, inexplicably skyrocketing movie passes, or even expensive hardcover books. The New York Times 07/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)


JERRY SPRINGER - THE OPERA: The Jerry Springer Show is being turned into an opera. "In the show, a pair of opera singers slug it out in profanity-laced songs like Do You Ever Wonder Why Your Imaginary Friend Committed Suicide? and Everybody Hates You." New York Post 08/02/01

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN OEDIPUS AND FATHER KNOWS BEST: Thirty years ago a US sailor took a chunk of marble from an amphitheatre in Athens; now his son has returned it to the Greek Embassy. A simple case of returning an artifact to its original site, you may say. But if you remember those ancient Greeks, the relationships of fathers and sons was anything but simple.... Washington Post 08/01/01

POSTAL BUTTS: The Brooklyn Academy of Music wanted to promote a low-budget film it is showing, with a postcard that shows a photo of a line of men from the movie with their naked butts showing (an admittedly not pretty sight). But the US postal service has refused to let the cards go through the mail. "With bulk mail we try to think about the few people who will have objections." BBC 07/30/01