One would think that in an era of immersive realities, opera would have tried to aim for higher levels of verisimilitude, would have become grittier and true to life, but in the age of cinema, the opposite happened. Twentieth-century opera became more amorphous, less plot-driven. Watch something like Nixon In China, with its listless, meandering scenes and droning, repetitive music, and you will start yearning for a king disguised as a peasant and a letter given to the wrong princess. Opera does not attempt real social commentary or naturalism well: it is a heightened reality, a dream. Opera is crazy and intense like dreaming, another heightened reality, and we often wake from dreams wishing we could enter them again.
Previous research showed that more than 70% of musicians have experienced anxiety and panic attacks. The “precariousness and insecurity” of a career in music can be psychologically damaging, the new report claims, resulting in many experiencing “constant stress” around finding work and being financially stable.
“‘Brandon Keith Brown is no longer serving in the role he took on this summer when he joined the university as visiting assistant professor of music and orchestra conductor,’ said Brown spokesman Brian Clark. ‘As for the reason, I am not at liberty to disclose details related to personnel, which we do not consider public.'” (That doesn’t mean the students won’t talk, though.)
“One big problem is the mindless adulation bestowed on famous conductors and directors. Such sycophancy doesn’t lead just to the tolerance of abuse, it mythologises the misdeeds so that they become part of the mystique surrounding ‘the maestro’.” (For example, Georg Solti, who’d seduce his way through the female choristers at the Royal Opera house and buy them white fur coats afterward.) And, writes Richard Morrison, “that was decades ago, but what has changed? In one acclaimed present-day ensemble female violinists rise up the ranks if they sleep with the conductor. It’s as simple, and jaw-dropping, as that.”
“This means that by 2026, Neef will be the longest-serving General Director of the COC (18 years), after Richard Bradshaw.”
“The [£10 million] fundraising drive for the £45m New Town project, which will be known as The Impact Centre, has been triggered ahead of the first plans being unveiled next month. The 1,000-capacity venue, earmarked for a site behind the Royal Bank of Scotland’s historic head office on St Andrew Square, will become home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but will also be available for performances of all kinds of music.”
Other good news from last season includes new contracts with the musicians and stagehands, the engagement of Stéphane Denève to succeed David Robertson as music director, and an uptick in box office revenue, with a third of attendees at core classical concerts being new to the orchestra’s home concert hall.
While the Tonhalle itself undergoes a major renovation, “the exiled orchestra can be seen in action for the next three years at the Maag Hall, part of an industrial complex in Zurich West … CHF10 million has been invested in the acoustics, but there are 300 fewer seats than in the Tonhalle, and one in five orchestra subscriptions has been cancelled.”
“When it comes to presenting music, museums aren’t necessarily ahead of the curve. Yes, it’s great that they do it — and they do it a lot. Most of Washington’s major museums present concerts, from the diminutive Kreeger Museum, which fills its central exhibition space with chairs for a small chamber music festival every year in June, to the National Gallery, where the foliage and statuary of the West Garden Court, despite its distorting echoes and uncomfortable folding chairs, often conspire to make events feel delightful. And yet most museum concert halls lack such charm.”
It’s a crowded category, but here are fifteen “covers from hell.”
“A concert hall that was simply too cavernous: hard to sell out and leaving audiences feeling distant from the music. Lobbies that have grown shabby over time. A fortresslike presence, somewhat isolated from the city just outside its doors. These are all problems that Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic have been trying to fix for nearly two decades at the theater now known as David Geffen Hall – and still hope to, after their announcement earlier this month that they had scrapped a $500 million gut renovation in favor of a more modest approach. But Cincinnati faced these issues too – and went ahead and did something about them.”
“He will begin the role starting with the 2018-19 season – the post had previously been held by Jiří Bělohlávek until his death in June this year.”
“Plenty of technological advancements have followed the modern LP record, which debuted in 1948: audio cassettes, compact discs, MP3 files, and now streaming services. Yet vinyl sales skyrocketed by nearly 4,000 percent between 1993 and 2016. And while CDs still vastly outpace vinyl in total units sold—99.4 million to 17.2 million in 2016—CD sales have plummeted some 91 percent since their peak in 2000. Lest you think the vinyl phenomenon is contained to this side of the Atlantic, vinyl surpassed digital music in sales in England (about $3 million to $2.7 million) at one point last year.”
Rhiannon Giddens, who was a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is writing a musical based on a series of events in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, and centering it around the music of the time. She says, “for me, the heart of American music is in this moment of white and black sort of coming together. Maybe that’s simplistic, but to me it is a symbol of the best of what we do culturally.”
Well, that’s happening in Canada, anyway: “Books on music are hardly new, but the recent flurry of new titles is part of a broader cultural shift – a nascent one, with kinks to work out. New authors are working with small, scrappy publishers to get these stories into the world. With hope, this won’t all be a blip and we’ll be treated to long treatises on Canadian pop for years to come. There should be time for growing pains.”
“It’s time for the opera world to also look at its own epidemic of sexual harassment and assault. As much as there is to say about what women go through, I’m starting from the gay perspective because it’s what I know.”
Many composer in residence posts involve a behind-the-scenes presence, helping read through submitted scores, writing new work, and emerging to do some community events. Bates, however, has become a key part of the Kennedy Center’s programming team. His KC Jukebox is one of the center’s marquee new series, spotlighting contemporary music and a wide range of performers, from Chanticleer to the Thievery Corporation, in always-unexpected combinations.
“With his goatee, dark sunglasses and exotic hats, Thelonious Monk was the quintessential hepcat. He patted his feet in mad rhythm while he was playing – and when his sidemen soloed, he got up and danced in circles. Monk, who was born 100 years ago today, was also one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. The late pianist wrote about 70 songs during his career – many of which have became standards, including the most recorded jazz composition of all time, ‘Round Midnight’.” (includes video and audio)
“Overhead, the new glass ‘acoustical clouds’ reflect sound back to the stage and into the hall, a distinct visual upgrade from old shell’s look. The stage is lower to the ground, coming only to the knees of front row attendees, and musicians behind the string sections are elevated on a set of terraced risers which should’ve been implemented years ago. Perhaps most importantly, the acoustics—which many voiced as the primary concern about the venue’s reconfiguration—are not only maintained, but improved. Simply put, the results of the renovation banished any skepticism I harbored and exceed even my wildest expectations; it is a masterpiece, a triumph. It’s so good to be home.”
Well, as he explains, his arthritis won’t let him conduct, so what’s he going to do? With Renée Fleming about to premiere his new song cycle, and with a monodrama written for her in the works, Previn talks to David Patrick Stearns on his career as he heads toward 90.
Only a week before departure, Nicolás Maduro’s regime has called off the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s tour to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Taipei under conductor Gustavo Dudamel. This is the second time an overseas tour by Dudamel and a Venezuelan ensemble has been cancelled since the conductor, one of the country’s biggest international celebrities, began criticizing the Maduro government’s violent crackdowns on protesters earlier this year.
Music Theatre Wales has been catching fire for its current touring production of Peter Eötvös’s opera The Golden Dragon, which uses an all-white cast in a work set in a Chinese restaurant and featuring Chinese characters. Now the London venue for the tour, the Hackney Empire, has cancelled its scheduled performance (October 31) and disavowed all connection with the production.
Janelle Gelfand: “On opening night, listeners were still taking in the elegant new décor and patron-friendly amenities, which include cup holders for the first time on new, wider seats. Now, however, there are about 1,000 fewer seats in a hall that formerly seated more than 3,400; the audience for this gala re-opening was 2,282.”
The October Revolution in Jazz & Contemporary Music was something like a State of the Union for free improvisation and avant-garde composition, and also a statement of potential. An intergenerational sweep of experimentalists — including younger acts as well as many of free jazz’s first-generation heroes, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s — appeared on a well-appointed stage in a city not known for high-budget jazz presentations. It was a rare institutional moment for the improvising avant-garde and maybe proof that in a moment when jazzis surging, the United States can respect its fringes on a level that only Europe historically has.
A reporter climbs up to the equivalent of the organ loft (which looks “more like an air traffic control booth”) at Fenway Park to watch Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor and his high-tech equipment at work.
“After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.”
Mikhail Klein, a pianist from the Siberian city of Irkutsk who was proficient in both classical and jazz repertoire, suffered cardiac arrest while playing a concert in his hometown’s Philharmonic Hall.
“The orchestra was established in London in 1976 but the British vote to leave meant it had to come up with a plan for a future outside the UK. … The orchestra said on Wednesday it had accepted an offer from the Italian culture ministry to be based in Ferrara and Rome.” As EUYO chief executive Marshall Marcus says, “You can’t ask for EU funding and then not be in the EU.”
The Metropolitan Opera opened the season with its hundred-and-fifty-seventh performance of Bellini’s “Norma.” The New York Philharmonic began with its hundred-and-nineteenth rendition of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This is the safe course that many performing-arts groups are choosing in precarious times: the eternal return to the world that was. Both works are masterpieces that deserve to be heard repeatedly. Yet the implicit message is reactionary. As the nation contends with its racist and misogynist demons, New York’s leading musical institutions give us canonical pieces by white males, conducted by white males, directed by white males.
As the contract now stands, Nagano will serve as General Music Director until 2025, a role he began in 2015.