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July 26, 2006

Why we're ignoring opera

by Janelle Gelfand

Barbara brings up an excellent point about opera We are ignoring the opera industry, probably because most of the news we hear is more positive than that in the world of instrumental performing arts. Opera companies have younger audiences, they commission new works that get lots of local and/or national press (in our town last year, it was Richard Danielpour's "Margaret Garner") and yes, they are infinitely more accessible to the general public for the reasons we all know -- not least of which is surtitles.

Granted, in our town, we only have four operas, so there is a great deal of anticipation for the summer festival season, including dressing up for opening night. (There's also lots of reminiscing about the Zoo Opera, the Met's summer camp in the old days.)

I find it terribly interesting that two of the biggest names heading opera companies mentioned in this month's Opera News, are former record company executives, the Met's Peter Gelb and Cincinnati Opera's Evans Mirageas. I have to admit that I was skeptical when Mirageas was named artistic director here, since he is neither a conductor nor a stage director. But we have just come off the most impressive season in years, in terms of the consistently high production values in all four operas. Most promising, the repertoire won't be all ABC's. He has coming in future seasons Daniel Catan's "Florencia en el Amazonas" and Osvaldo Golijov's impressive "Ainadamar."

One thing that I did notice about Opera News' 25 Most Powerful Names in Opera was the conspicuous absence of women in powerful places. I know that this is the case among American orchestras and the battle female conductors and composers continue to wage, but I was disappointed that only four women were noted, and one of them is dead! (Maria Callas)

Posted by jgelfand at July 26, 2006 12:54 PM


Janelle, Marin Alsop was chosen by Placido Domingo and his advisors to lead the Washington National Opera's North American premiere of Nicholas Maw's 'Sophie's Choice', this November. Also Mr Domingo and his advisors have been strong supporters of Francesa Zambello, who this season launched her 'American Ring cycle', both in Washington and San Francisco. Before that, she staged for WNO Floyd's 'Of Mice and Men' and Britten's 'Billy Budd', and some other well-received opera productions.

I frankly was surprised to see Peter Sellars and Julie Taymor on the Opera News Top 25 list, but not Ms Zambello.

Mr Domingo and his advisors have also hired an increasing number of woman conductors for the WNO and LAO (but, alas, few woman composers except for Deborah Drattell). I apologize that residual heat and humidity are keeping me from thinking of the names of the woman conductors who have conducted the Washington National Opera in the past few years.

Posted by: Garth Trinkl at July 26, 2006 01:29 PM

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