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May 31, 2005

Opera - Age Of The Director "It's a fact that today opera is increasingly emphasizing theatrical values rather than musical ones. This may or may not be a good thing, but it's the way it is. And until conductors begin mentoring singers again, until opera houses work harder to understand voice types rather than mounting productions like "Turandot" and "Norma," according to what the audience wants to see, directors will continue to play a significant role in the art form." The New York Times 06/01/05

Toronto - Looking For A Horn The Toronto Symphony is auditioning for a new horn player. "In North America, the appointment of a new member of a professional symphony orchestra is a complicated process, full of protocols and safeguards intended to ensure that the selection is fair. Good orchestra jobs come up only rarely, and it's been decades since the TSO last searched for a principal horn: Fredrick Rizner held the job for 39 years, before retiring last year to Eastern Ontario, to start an antique business."
The Globe & mail (Canada) 05/31/05

How Recordings Have Changed Music "For music to remain vital, recordings have to exist in balance with live performance, and, these days, live performance is by far the smaller part of the equation. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we listen to CDs in order to get to know the music better, or to supplement what we get from concerts and shows. But, honestly, a lot of us don’t go to hear live music that often. Work leaves us depleted. Tickets are too expensive. Concert halls are stultifying. Rock clubs are full of kids who make us feel ancient. It’s just so much easier to curl up in the comfy chair with a Beethoven quartet or Billie Holiday. But would Beethoven or Billie ever have existed if people had always listened to music the way we listen now?" The New Yorker 05/30/05

EBay's Bootleg Biz Even as big recording companies prosecute downloaders for trading in copyrighted recordings, there's a better place to find illegal music: EBay. Sellers are offering lots of bootlegged recordings for sale, and for some reason no one's being sued. Rocky Mountain News 05/29/05

Shock - Wigmore Hall Director Quits "In a move that has shocked the British music world, Paul Kildea, artistic director of the Wigmore Hall - regarded as one of the plum jobs in the arts - has resigned after just two years in the post." The Guardian (UK) 05/26/05

Colorado Opera: You Will Donate Want a shot at the best seats in Colorado Opera's new theatre? It'll cost you the price of the tickets plus a "donation" of $100-$500 a seat. Gotta pay for that new building somehow. And the number of donors has gone up. Denver Post 05/29/05

Ringing Endorsement - Ringtone Tops Music Chart For the first time, a cell phone ring tone is set to top the British music charts. "Crazy Frog Axel F," a ring tone based on the sound of a revving Swedish mo-ped, is the first tune being used on mobile phones to cross into mainstream music charts." Yahoo! (AP) 05/29/05

May 30, 2005

The Boston Symphony - Model For America's Orchestras? The Boston Symphony, writes John von Rhein, "is a unique orchestra, a unique audience and a unique administrative vision that has made the Boston Symphony Orchestra the business model for other symphony orchestras, at a time when just about everyone in classical music, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is chanting the same litany of declining ticket sales, rising deficits and aging audiences." Chicago Tribune 05/29/05

Chicago's Difficult Season In the Concert Hall It was a bit of a difficult season for classical music in Chicago. "There are no easy answers to the difficulties classical music organizations are facing, and endless facets to the questions themselves. Classical music in America is far from dead, but the shape of its future may look quite different from its past." Chicago Sun-Times 05/29/05

Buena Vista Case Moves to Cuba After video links break down between Cuba and London in the case of disputed copyrights of songs made famous by the Buena Vista Club, the English judge moves hearings to Cuba. "The hearing is likely to take place in September at the British embassy in Havana, with lawyers abandoning gowns and wigs, but not necessarily resorting to Bermuda (or Cuba) shorts - and possibly gaining first-hand experience of local music in bars." The Guardian (UK) 05/29/05

Toronto Symphony Makes A Dramatic Comeback A few years ago the Toronto Symphony was an organization in trouble. Then came a dramatic turnaround. "The upshot? Over a three-year period, audiences have risen by 25 per cent. There are now 25,000 subscribers and the orchestra sells 230,000 seats per season. More than 20,000 young people (aged 15 to 29) have been recruited to the new "tsoundcheck" program alone, offering them good seats over the Internet for only $10 a ticket. The price makes going to the symphony competitive with a first-run movie." Toronto Star 05/28/05

Van Cliburn Finalists The Van Cliburn Piano Competition enters its final round. "For the first time in the competition's history, three Asian women have reached the finals. Two Italians and a Russian make up the men. " Dallas Morning News (AP) 05/30/05

  • Some Cliburn Demographics This year's Van Cliburn Piano Competition is a very international affair. But "of the 35 initial contestants, the largest group, 10, has graduated from or is still studying at New York's Juilliard School. Seven are or have been students of Yoheved Kaplinsky, the Israeli-born chairwoman of the piano department. Four list Robert McDonald among their teachers." Dallas Morning News 05/28/05

May 27, 2005

Detroit's Jarvi Legacy "Neeme Jarvi, who steps down from his post as music director next month after 15 seasons, has led the DSO through a golden age. The 68-year-old has raised the artistry and international standing of the orchestra to the highest points in its history. Jarvi's tenure has not been without its missteps and missed opportunities, but after 15 years, he has earned a place in the pantheon of the most important musicians in Detroit history." Detroit Free Press 05/22/05

May 26, 2005

The Fall of Hyperion? A while back, UK record label Hyperion released a CD of music by a French composer whose work had long been in the public domain. But then, a musicologist contacted the label, claiming that he had assembled the works on the disc from original manuscripts over hundreds of hours, and asking for a few thousand pounds for his trouble. Rebuffed, the musicologist sued, and won. "Hyperion took the case to appeal but lost again last week, leaving them facing legal bills of up to £1 million - a crippling sum for a small independent label. At first sight, the result seems a tragedy for the classical music profession, as Hyperion has produced some of the finest - and certainly most interesting - recordings made in Britain over the past quarter century." The Telegraph (UK) 05/26/05

The Anti-Orchestra Ivan Fischer is not a conductor who is content to do things by someone else's rulebook. "In 1983, when he was in his early 30s, Fischer decided to found his own orchestra and run it on very different lines from anything that had gone before. More than two decades later, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has become one of the world's great ensembles, playing to packed houses at home and astounding audiences abroad with its brilliance and intensity." And yet, the organization and culture of the orchestra are like nothing most musicians ever experience, emphasizing individual accomplishment as much as teamwork. The Guardian (UK) 05/27/05

Beethoven Overload? Not A Chance. Next month, Britain's BBC Radio 3 will play Beethoven. For six days. Which seems like a long time - not that Ludwig van isn't great and all, but, seriously? Six days? Long time. Still, Stephen Moss is up for the challenge, and just to prove that it's not all a waste of time, he's doing his own personal Beethoven marathon a week early... The Guardian (UK) 05/27/05

Leadership Vacuum In Honolulu Internal politics and bitter rivalries are roiling the Honolulu Symphony, which has seen its CEO, its president and several key board members resign in recent months. At the heart of the chaos appears to be a dispute over who should fill the post of president of the organization, and the infighting has spilled out into public, with the orchestra's board chair now offering to be the next one to step down. The symphony has been plagued by budget problems in recent years, and its musicians reopened their contract and accepted major salary cuts last season. Meanwhile, former Pittsburgh Symphony CEO Gideon Toeplitz has agreed to become the HSO's interim president, and will be in place within a few weeks. Honolulu Star-Bulletin 05/26/05

The National Violin The market for high-end string instruments has become so absurdly expensive in recent years that most soloists are dependant on the good will of wealthy benefactors to purchase and loan them a Strad or del Gesu. But for Min Lee, one benefactor just wouldn't have fit the bill. The rising young violinist plays on a 1704 Guarnerius fiddle purchased for her at a cost of $500,000 after an extraordinary public/private fundraising campaign spearheaded by the government of her native Singapore. Adelaide Advertiser (Australia) 05/24/05

Sandow: Orchestras Give Audiences Every Reason To Stay Away AJ blogger Greg Sandow wades into Drew McManus's Take A Friend To The Orchestra project, and isn't entirely sure why anyone should be so enthusiastic about the form. "There’s a dead zone between orchestras and their audience. The audience doesn’t know what’s going on. They don’t know what really happens at the concerts they hear—what chances are taken, what musical problems are solved, what anyone is trying to express. And of course any smart person who comes in from the outside can sense this. It’s engraved, somehow, on the whole orchestra experience: the blank rituals, the empty formality, the distant, scholarly program notes, all the rules about when to applaud, the very look of the people in the audience, who for the most part, and through no fault of their own, are only passively engaged. Who can blame anyone for staying away?" Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 05/26/05

Scottish Opera Soldiers On, Into An Uncertain Future As Scottish Opera prepares to cease operations for a year as part of the government's plan to "save" it, the company is mounting a touring production of Verdi's Macbeth. But there may be no clearer indication of the fiscal and creative hole Scottish Opera faces than the cuts forced on this tour - only seven singers and a pianist are making the trip, and the entire chorus will be disbanded by summer's end. The Scotsman (UK) 05/26/05

The Conductors You've Never Heard Of There may not be a more thankless job in an American symphony orchestra than that of staff conductor. These baton twirlers enjoy none of the accolades accorded to music directors and guest conductors, get paid a fraction of what every other musician in the organization gets, and are expected to be fluent not only in all the standard repertoire, but also in Broadway showtunes and pops material. Most of the concerts they conduct will be before audiences of restless schoolchildren, and their names will almost never appear in a serious newspaper review. All that having been said, the job may be the best sink-or-swim training any musician can get, and many staff conductors have gone on to big things of their own. Baltimore Sun 05/26/05

May 25, 2005

Classical Music Finds Home On The Web "Classical music has become a booming sub-culture on the World Wide Web. In this decade alone, hundreds of classical sites have surfaced, like green shoots after a warm spring rain. Encyclopedic, all-you-want-to-know sites cater to beginners and music professionals. Internet radio sites range from South Africa to South Florida (like Miami's Beethoven.com). Sites offer everything from collections of viola jokes — the knock-knock jokes of the music world — to basic night-at-the-opera diary entries." Palm Beach Post 05/22/05

Odd Choices For Cliburn Semifinals "The list of semifinalists in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, announced near midnight Tuesday at Fort Worth's Bass Performance Hall, had one jaw-dropper after another. What was the jury thinking?" Dallas Morning News 05/26/05

Classical Brit Winners Katherine Jenkins wins Classical Brit album of the year. "Welsh performer Bryn Terfel won the prize for male artist of the year, while US conductor Marin Alsop won the female award. Belfast-born flautist Sir James Galway was given a prize for his outstanding contribution to music, 30 years after his solo career began." BBC 05/25/05

Slatkin Back In London Leonard Slatkin, who recently ended a mixed tenure as music director of the BBC Symphony, has been named principal guest conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Slatkin was also recently named principal guest in Los Angeles, and he will continue as music director of Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony through spring 2008. His name also tends to pop up whenever high-profile American music director openings are discussed. Washington Post 05/25/05

OSM Strike Drags On How serious is the strike at l'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal? In the two weeks since the OSM's musicians walked off the job, the two sides have not met at the bargaining table even once. Still, things have taken a slight turn towards compromise, and negotiations could resume later this week. Meantime, the musicians are keeping busy not only with picket lines, but with the usual free concerts designed to drum up support and keep connections to the larger community open. CBC 05/24/05

Vox Populi Comes To The Concert Hall One of the most frequent complaint about modern classical music is that it ignores what the audience wants to hear in favor of intellectual calisthenics too difficult for most ears to comprehend. But the California-based Pacific Symphony shouldn't be hearing any complaints when it unveils its next commission, if only because the composer will have been chosen by audience vote. "The composer who captures the most audience ballots will walk away with a $5,000 commission for a work the Pacific Symphony will perform next season... The idea, conceived by symphony president John Forsyte, was a big hit in its first incarnation two years ago, attracting more than 200 submissions from composers around the world." Orange County Register 05/25/05

  • You Get What You Pay For The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has come up with a unique way to fund a major new commission - it's offered to pay composer Dennis Eberhard by the measure, and just to make things interesting, "individuals and organizations may purchase one or more measures of Eberhard's score for $25 apiece... Contributors to the commissioning project will receive a printed copy of their measure or measures, and they will be invited to a gala premiere celebration. In addition, they will have a chance to meet with Eberhard while he is composing the work to discuss its development." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/25/05

May 24, 2005

An iPod Experiment That Failed Last year, Duke University spent $500,000 on iPods for its students. The plan was hyped as a tech step forward. But the experiment wasn't exactly a big success... InsideHigherEd 05/23/05

The Philadelphia Orchestra's Kluger Years What was Philadelphia Orchestra president Joe Kluger's impact on his orchestra in 16 years at the helm? "He leaves behind an orchestra that for several years was worse for his presence, and in more recent years, better off. A lot went wrong at Philadelphia's most important cultural institution in his 16 years - an awful 64-day strike that took the mayor to settle, an impotent response to the orchestra's losing its national and international presence in radio and recordings, and the hiring of a music director whose name, when announced to musicians, was greeted with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. How much of what went wrong was Kluger's fault? How much the board's? The musicians'?" Philadelphia Inquirer 05/24/05

May 23, 2005

The Sound Of Music (With Emphasis On The Sound) "Some may call it sound design, sound sculpture or sound art, but it's actually music. Bypassing the visual sense, they send their messages and ideas straight to the brain with their aesthetic treatment of sound - and that is surely what music is. What is interesting to observe, though, is that in a world increasingly dominated by the visual, with adverts, text messages and multi-channel TV, sound and music is becoming an alternative and more powerful force, finding a way into our emotional lives and functioning in a way that art does." The Guardian (UK) 05/23/05

London Symphony Scores Coup By Landing Gergiev Valery Gergiev will succeed Colin Davis as music director of the London Symphony. "Gergiev will join the LSO for an initial three years from January 1 2007, while at the same time retaining his posts as artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic." The Guardian (UK) 05/24/05

Alsop - Woman Conductor On The Edge? "While female conductors are increasingly common among small and midsize symphonies, they have not penetrated the ranks of the world's top orchestras. Marin Alsop will be just the second woman in history to lead Holland's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra when she makes her debut in 2006." Denver Post 05/22/05

Talent And Money - How Do You Sort Out The Artistry? Atsushi Yamada conducts New york City Opera this week in Tokyo. "Mr. Yamada's rise to the podium is a testament to the spirit of artistic entrepreneurship: he helped raise millions of dollars for City Opera's foray to his native land, its first overseas tour in almost 20 years. But it also leads to questions about the role big money plays in the arts, particularly in the cash-desperate world of classical music, and how it influences artistic choices. Mr. Yamada, 41, studied and worked his way onto the City Opera's conducting roster; the company says he is a genuine talent and is well liked at the house, where he is an established presence, having conducted eight performances so far. But he also had the backing of a City Opera board member who was his boss at Sony, a longtime supporter of the opera. The New York Times 05/21/05

May 22, 2005

Fogel: Utah S&O Situation Will Improve American Symphony Orchestra League president Henry Fogel is on the ultimate road trip, meeting with musicians and managers at orchestras across the country in an effort to get a firsthand picture of the industry he's devoted his life to. This week, he's been in Salt Lake City, where he defends the beleagured CEO of the Utah Symphony & Opera, who has been accused of gross incompetence and poor planning by some of the US&O's musicians and donors. Fogel's take on the controversial merger of Utah's two largest classical music organizations is that such plans take time to come to fruition, and he believes that better days are ahead in Salt Lake. Salt Lake Tribune 05/22/05

The New Epicenter Of Classical Music It's China's century to lose, according to nearly every newsmagazine and commentator, but much of the country's projected economic and military dominance is still years, even decades away from materializing. Still, in the realm of classical music, China may already be the new frontier. "Conservatories are bursting at the seams. Young people crowd symphony concerts. Private music schools are flourishing, and urban parents jockey to hire the best tutors, seeing music as a path to status and educational achievement... Curiously, some experts say the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, the cataclysmic period of turmoil from 1966-1976, may be one reason Chinese-born composers and performers have soared to world fame, deepening a passion for Western classical music." St. Paul Pioneer Press (KR) 05/22/05

Music, Money, & The Politics of the Podium Atsushi Yamada is a staff conductor with New York City Opera, and will lead a performance of Madama Butterfly this weekend as part of the company's tour of Japan. But is Yamada really the top-flight conductor that such an assignment would indicate, or could his ascent to the podium have something to do with the millions of dollars he's raised for his employer? The New York Times 05/21/05

May 19, 2005

South Korean Wins Montreal Competition South Korean singer Sin Nyung Hwang has won the fourth Montreal International Musical Competition. The Geneva-based soprano won the top prize – worth $25,000 – Wednesday. CBC 05/19/05

Music For Babies "Numerous studies conclude that playing music to babies in the womb and in the early years helps build the neural bridges along which thoughts and information travel. And research suggests it can stimulate the brain's alpha waves, creating a feeling of calm; a recent study of premature infants found that they were soothed by the music." Now a new program aims at bringing music to the very young. "Sound Beginnings - and a planned "baby prom" next year - came about as babies and toddlers are rarely welcome in concert halls." BBC 05/19/05

London Symphony At A Crossroads Clive Gillinson Leaves a successful London Symphony behind. "First among British orchestras, it set up a New York office and a residency at Lincoln Center. Its record label, LSO Live, sells tracks on iTunes. Gillinson slashed concert tickets to a fiver with a view to attracting younger listeners and urged players to get a life outside the orchestra, making chamber music and educational ventures in what he reinvisaged as a 'portfolio career'. Life in the LSO is more varied than before; around one-third of the players have been attracted from abroad." And yet there are persistent artistics problems to solve, writes Norman Lebrecht. La Scena Musicale 05/19/05

Chicago Lyric In The Passing Lane Chicago Lyric Opera is a juggernaut of efficiency. "The 91 performances given last season generated box office revenues of more than $30 million, on an operating budget of $58.2 million. Fundraising topped $21.5 million, the highest in the company's history. Of that amount, $5 million came from Lyric's sold-out golden jubilee concert in October. The endowment campaign reached its goal of $50 million." Chicago Tribune 05/19/05

May 18, 2005

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, U Of Minnesota Merge Forces The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the University of Minnesota have signed a deal to tie their programs together. It "includes a shared conductor who will lead several ensembles in the university's School of Music, as well as join the SPCO staff. Beyond bringing orchestra members into closer contact with university students for hands-on training, the music school intends to develop courses and a doctoral degree program that addresses realistic and sometimes sobering career prospects for the next generation of professional musicians." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 05/18/05

Tucson Symphony Proposes Cuts The Tucson Symphony is proposing salary cuts, but the musicians so far aren't convinced. "TSO Executive Director Susan Franano would face a 10 percent cut of her $82,712 annual salary. Music Director George Hanson, who is paid $92,000, could see an 8.5 percent to 10 percent reduction. Musicians for the 76-year-old orchestra, could face around a 5 percent cut." KVOA (Arizona) 05/18/05

How The Internet Is Creating Fans For Bands Independent bands are finding that internet "social networking" sites are building audiences for them. "Artists are using the site to build massive social networks and spread the word about upcoming shows and CD releases. Startup bands like My Chemical Romance have launched careers exclusively through MySpace, collecting more than 100,000 fans through the service." Wired 05/18/05

Coming To A Concert hall Near You (Video Game Music?) Promoters are anxious to produce concerts of music found in popular video games. A sold-out concert in Los Angeles this week proved there's an enthusiastic audience... Wired 05/18/05

The Symphony Without The Symphony (It Can Be Done) "Many commentators have pointed out that the survival of the symphony is dependent on the vitality of the institution that has nurtured it, the symphony concert. This brings up another concern: How is that institution to survive if all that it offers are overplayed exercises in nostalgia? In other words, can a symphony concert succeed without a symphony? A pair of extraordinary concerts at Avery Fisher Hall by a visiting orchestra from Bamberg, Germany, argued persuasively that it could." New York Observer 05/18/05

Philly Heads To Asia The Philadelphia Orchestra is about to embark on a massive three-week tour of the Far East, and there's little question that they're going all out to impress the concertgoers of South Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Superstar soloists Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang will be the featured attractions, and an exhausting set of three complete Mahler symphonies will form the backbone of the tour repertoire, as well as the core of a live-to-tape recording the orchestra intends to release after the tour from concert tapes taken in Tokyo. The cost of the tour, large even by major orchestra standards, is $3 million. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/18/05

May 17, 2005

Young Conductor On The Move "With classical music on the defensive, a new breed of maestro has emerged - confident enough to reinvent the past, communicative enough to appeal to a wider audience. But they still have one hurdle to overcome before they pass the test of maturity, and it's a test 30-year-old Edward Gardner is acutely aware of." Financial Times 05/17/05

Chinese Pianists Dominate Cliburn Competition Chinese musicians are everywhere. "For the first time it's the biggest supplier of pianists in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which opens Friday at Fort Worth's Bass Performance Hall. Eight of the 35 contestants hail from the People's Republic. This from a country that as recently as 30 years ago outlawed Western music." Dallas Morning News 05/14/05

Chicago Lyric A Hit In The Ledger Chicago Lyric Opera had one of its strongest sweasons artistically. And it also managed to balance its budget for the 17th time in 18 years. "The season's budget was $58.2 million. Ticket sales brought in $30,035,108, while the annual fund-raising drive reached a record $21.5 million. The company also reached its goal of adding $50 million in pledges to its endowment fund, which currently stands at about $50 million." Chicago Sun-Times 05/17/05

May 16, 2005

How Marketing Killed Classical Music In America "Half a century ago, and before, individuals of vision - conductors, composers, entrepreneurs, even critics - heroically shaped the course of America's musical high culture. In more recent times, the fate of classical music in the US has been governed by the market place. The indulged and uninquisitive American electorate is paralleled by classical music audiences that ask for little and give little back. A tangible acuity of knowing attention still found in Berlin or Budapest is no longer much encountered in New York." New Statesman 05/16/05

Warner Music Losses Narrow With Downloads Warner Music reports reduced losses as declining CD sales are made up for by online downloading. "The New York-based recording company reported a loss of $18 million for the fiscal second quarter ended March 31. That compares with the prior year's $45 million loss. The company didn't provide a per-share figure. Revenue grew 4.4 percent to $767 million from $735 million. Recorded Music revenue expanded 4.9 percent to $621 million, 'led by digital sales mostly offset by declines in physical sales, the company said." Yahoo! (AP) 05/16/05

Opera Idol In Montreal Two hundred singers entered the 2005 Concours Musical International de Montréal. Now it's down to the finals. "The competition used to be a triumvirate of voice, violin and piano. But that's all changed. Voice is undoubtedly the star of the event at the Centre Pierre Peladeau, where music fans mingle with voice teachers and coaches, as well as aspiring singers from the Conservatoire, McGill and the Atelier lyrique of Opéra de Montréal. 'Voice is where it's at. Piano and violin are important, don't get me wrong, but everybody wants to know who the next great tenor or bass or mezzo is going to be'." The Globe & mail (Canada) 05/16/05

Benedetti Debuts At No. 2 Seventeen-year-old vilinist Nicola Benedetti has a hit. Her self-titled new album has landed at No. 2 on the classical charts after only a week on sale. "It is the highest ever position in the classical chart for a debut violinist in the first week of sales. In the popular charts, the album has achieved a position in the top 75 - also a record-breaking first week of sales for a classical violinist." The Scotsman 05/16/05

May 15, 2005

Melbourne Opera Merger Called Off Two Melbourne opera companies have called off a planned merger. "Independent opera companies Melbourne City Opera and the Melbourne Opera Company announced plans in December to merge under the new name VicOpera. The new company appeared destined to benefit from a State Government funding boost, but the merger has been scrapped." The Age (Melbourne) 05/15/05

Is Maazel Cheating, Or Just Using What He's Got? Multitasking is essential in today's classical music world, where music directors are expected to be fundraisers and cheerleaders as well as conductors, and composers can't even get a foot in the door without a finely honed set of self-marketing skills. But recently, composer/conductor Loren Maazel has been raising eyebrows with his own version of the musical multitask: spending his own money to get his own opera produced by one of the top companies in the world. "The London papers report that the Maazel project has caused bitter infighting at all levels of the company... Gifted composers would line up to write a commissioned work for Covent Garden. But Mr. Maazel has bought his way to the top without having paid his dues as a composer." The New York Times 05/15/05

Competing For A Place At The Table The competition among young up-and-coming classical singers is intense, occasionally brutal, and fiercely New York-centric. So what's a young singer supposed to do to get a bit of attention? One increasingly popular route to success is to take part in the dozens of high-profile competitions held around the world. "For those who are prepared and mature enough to handle the pressure, and who are granted a bit of luck, competitions can indeed launch a career. Young singers receive coaching from famous musicians while making valuable contacts. [But] to be sure, competitions are notoriously unpredictable." La Scena Musicale 05/14/05

Growing A Better Breed Of Conductor Ask any orchestra musician to name the biggest problem in their industry, and you'll likely hear, "not enough good conductors." But like the weather, everyone talks about the lack of conducting talent on the international scene, but nobody does anything about it. Except maybe Leonard Slatkin, whose five-year-old National Conducting Institute brings together talented young baton-twirlers to learn not only the finer musical points of the job, but also the diplomatic skills necessary to succeed in orchestral music's most difficult and multi-faceted profession. Baltimore Sun 05/15/05

Edmonton Symphony Back In The Spotlight Less than five years ago, it didn't seem too big of a stretch to suggest that the future of the Canadian orchestra was no future at all, with the cash-strapped and internally roiling Edmonton Symphony serving as the poster child for all that was wrong with the industry. These days, Edmonton has a dynamic new music director (who, incidentally, refuses to allow anyone to call him "Maestro",) a much-improved bottom line, and a growing national profile, highlighted this week by a visit to Canada's capital city. Toronto Star 05/14/05

Bringing The Mideast Together (For An Hour Or So) "For Tamar Muskal, an Israeli-American composer, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians goes beyond politics. It is music, it is poetry, it is the lone voice, speaking of pain and dreams... Ms. Muskal, who is Jewish and grew up in Israel, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said that at 39 she realized that pain is pain, no matter who does the suffering." Her latest composition attempts to reconcile the pain of both Israelis and Palestinians in a single work, combining music and texts from two cultures locked in seemingly permanent conflict. The New York Times 05/14/05

May 12, 2005

The "Turner Prize" Of Music? A new contemporary music award in the UK aims at being the "Turner Prize" of music. But what seems to be competing is an odd collection of sounds rather than music. "I can't help wondering where the music is in all these projects. And without music per se, it's hard to see how the New Music Awards can claim to reward work which has "new British music at its heart". Of course, a list consisting almost entirely of installations and "sound sculptures" neatly evades the ticklish question of what actually constitutes the "heart" of British music." The Telegraph (UK) 05/12/05

In Praise Of Mackerras Conductor Charles Mackerras has been racking up awards. There's a reason, writes Rupert Christiansen: "He is the most purposeful of conductors: a Mackerras performance invariably has energy, pace, bounce, clarity, shape. With his unique gift for getting music moving, he puts singers as well as orchestras on their toes - there's no slacking under his baton, no empty sentimentality or self-indulgence." The Telegraph (UK) 05/12/05

London Orchestra Captain Steps Down "Clive Gillinson has run the London Symphony Orchestra for the past 21 years, seen the orchestra establish itself at the Barbican in London, pioneered orchestral own-labels with LSO Live (or "LSO Clive" as the wags prefer) and fashioned a £17m music education centre at what was the crumbling ruin of St Luke's church, close to the Barbican. It is a formidable achievement, especially at a time when the recording industry has been contracting. Now Gillinson's long tenure is coming to an end." The Guardian (UK) 05/12/05

Former Quebec Premier Weighs In On Montreal Symphony Strike Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard says he's ready to step in and intervene in the strike at the Montreal Symphony. Bouchard is chairman of the orchestra's board. "The MSO earned its reputation as one of the top 10 orchestras in the world through touring and recording, but Bouchard says the inflexibility of the musicians' current contract makes it impossible to keep that up. 'The proof is in the pudding. For the last five years, we have not been able to tour abroad'." CBC 05/12/05

Concessions In Columbus The musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra have agreed to restructure their contract and take a massive pay cut in an attempt to keep the orgaization afloat financially. Individual musicians would see their salaries drop between $22,261 and $26,713 under the terms of the new agreement, which was reached after the CSO's board refused to announce the next season without major changes to the contract. Cincinnati Post (AP) 05/12/05

Florida Orchestra Pleads For More Civic Funding The Florida Orchestra is asking its home city of St. Petersburg to triple its contribution to the orchestra, to $221,000. The request comes as the orchestra prepares to move to a local church for a year as its hall is being renovated. "But the request could be a difficult one for the City Council's three-member budget committee... The committee also has to weigh requests from at least 10 other agencies, who want a piece of the $797,000 available for fiscal year 2006, which starts Oct. 1. The orchestra is competing with the Festival of States, which wants $100,000; the Pier Aquarium, which wants $92,000; and the Tennis Foundation of St. Petersburg, which wants $60,000." St. Petersburg Times (FL) 05/12/05

Legacy Of An Orchestra Executive Joe Kluger's departure from the executive directorship of the Philadelphia Orchestra will leave a large void not only in Philadelphia, but in the American orchestra scene writ large. For better or for worse, Kluger was a major player on the national scene, and he led his orchestra through some of its most tumultuous years, including a bitter strike in 1996. The orchestra's musicians don't seem terribly sorry to see him go, but the ensemble's board chair points out that he loved the ensemble enough to take a far lower salary than his peers in the industry. A search for Kluger's replacement will commence immediately. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/12/05

May 11, 2005

Aussie Orchestras Await Funding Fate Will Australian states agree to demands by the federal government in order to qualify for funding for orchestras? "Only South Australia's Government has confirmed it will meet the new benchmarks, ensuring the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's financial future. The federal funding also could be withheld if orchestras baulk at implementing industrial relations reforms recommended in businessman James Strong's review - but that is not expected." Sydney Morning Herald 05/11/05

Daniel's ENO Reign: Not Happy Paul Daniel's reign at English national Opera has not been a happy one, writes Rupert Christiansen. "Insiders reported that his relationship with the orchestra never really coalesced. Daniel has a Blairish desire to be thought a cool kind of a guy, but fiddlers and flautists are not so easily fooled, and Daniel never earned the respect that another of his predecessors, Mark Elder (a far steelier character), had commanded as music director in the 1980s. But this is less than half the story..." The Telegraph (UK) 05/11/05

Stearns: Garner Opera Works Michigan Opera Theatre created a lot of buzz about its Richard Danielpour/Toni Morrison opera "Margaret Garner", writes David Stearns. "It'll do fine (I think). Dramaturgical lapses are there, but the strengths of Margaret Garner are so considerable and wide-ranging that the piece is legitimately destined to make new friends for opera without alienating old ones." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/11/05

Philadelphia Orchestra President Steps Down Joe Kluger is stepping down as president of the Philadelphia Orchestra after 16 years. "Kluger's tenure makes him the second-longest current chief of a major American orchestra (after Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra president Steven Monder), according to the American Symphony Orchestra League. Kluger, 50, said that he will take on a consulting role with Adrian Ellis, whose firm, AEA Consulting, specializes in facilities and operational issues for arts groups. Kluger said that he does not know if that will be a short- or long-term step in his career." Philadelphia Orchestra 05/11/05

The Best In UK Classical? What (and who) was best in Brish classical music this year? The Royal Philharmonic Society makes its annual awards... BBC 05/11/05

Canada's Music Brain Drain Calgary's best music students aren't staying in Canada for school. Instead they're being recruited by music schools in the US, who are offering scholarships. "Yes, it means we are losing our best and brightest, but it is the only way they can achieve recognition on a worldwide basis." Calgary Herald 05/10/05

May 10, 2005

Did Buena Vista Composers Get Ripped Off? A court in London considers whether composers of the music played by the wildly popular Buena Vista Social club were properly compensated. "The argument centres on whether the composers of music that took the world by storm in 1997 were properly rewarded or, instead, received "at most a few pesos and maybe a drink of rum". The plot is complicated by allegations that the Cuban publisher is under the direction and control of the Cuban ministry of the interior." The Guardian (UK) 05/11/05

Yahoo! A New Music Store Yahoo! launches a discount music download service it hopes will attract downloaders away from illegal downloading. "Yahoo Music Unlimited is more like a cable TV service than a record store, letting subscribers play as much music as they wish for as long as they pay $6.99 a month or an annual subscription of $60." Los Angeles Times 05/10/05

Adelaide Symphony Gets A Bailout "South Australia's government will give more than $2.1 million to help clear the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's (ASO) debt. The state funding comes amid reports the ASO will get at least $5 million in federal funding in Tuesday night's budget." NineMSN 05/11/05

Frankfurt Hires Paavo Järvi The Frankfurt Radio Symphony has signed up Paavo Järvi as its new music director. Järvi is also music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Estonian-born conductor has signed a three-year contract, effective with the 2006-07 season. Cincinnati Enquirer 05/10/05

Aussie Orchestras Get Funding Boost Australian orchestras will get an additional $25 million in funding, says the government. "The extra funding for symphony and pit orchestras announced yesterday is to be spread over four years. It is designed "to help them become independent organisations with responsibility for their own artistic and financial future", Arts Minister Rod Kemp said. The Australian 05/11/05

What Does Your Cell Phone Ring Tone Say About You? "Ringtones, the catchy electronic snippets of popular songs that echo from sleek wireless phones, have become ubiquitous among teenagers to thirty-somethings. They were the first to adopt the wireless technology that not only announces incoming calls but also chimes out a little something about the owner's personality. But while hits by Usher and Missy Elliott may be all the rage on campus, they probably won't get the same reaction in the workplace." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 05/10/05

Montreal Musicians Picket Symphony Musicians of the Montreal Symphony were out walking a picket line Monday as the orchestra went on strike. "The union said orchestra management has demanded that musicians work more consecutive days than the labour law permits, for example, and has made insulting salary offers. Management at the symphony, which has a $3.4-million deficit, said in a statement Monday it regrets the strike and blamed the union for not allowing non-monetary changes to the contract that would have allowed for a resumption in recording and touring." Canada.com 05/10/05

Cleveland Orchestra Signs Up With Miami It's official - the Cleveland Orchestra has signed a ten year deal to play annual three-week residencies in the new Miami Performing Arts Center. "The visiting orchestra will be strengthening its existing relationship with the New World Symphony, based in Miami Beach, as well as establishing one with the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, putting students at both institutions together with world-class musicians. The Florida Philharmonic was likely to have been the resident orchestra at the PAC, until the Philharmonic went bankrupt." Miami Herald 05/10/05

  • Cleveland In Miami - Why? "As part of the overall strategy for the Cleveland Orchestra, it will make us an even more international institution. Alongside New York, Miami is probably the most international city in America today." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/10/05

May 9, 2005

Hall: An Honest Opera House Peter Hall is directing at Glyndebourne: "I think this is a much more honest opera house now than Covent Garden. I just went to see Rheingold and paid £175 for my ticket. That's a disgrace. This is our national subsidised opera. They should have double the subsidy and cheaper prices. Here, it's a private enterprise and people pay what it needs to charge, but no one's making money out of it. The artists work here for less than they normally get because the conditions are the best." The Guardian (UK) 05/10/05

Is Vinyl Making A Comeback? "According to Neilsen Soundscan, about 1.2 million vinyl records were sold in 2004 -- not overwhelming considering total CD sales approached 767 million last year. But that number is skewed because most vinyl records are sold by small independent stores and labels, and their sales are not reflected in Soundscan data. And those uncounted sales, while still a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, are significant, vinyl aficionados say. Together with the Soundscan numbers, they represent an uptick for serious collectors and audiophile purists." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/08/05

Could Strike Cripple Montreal Symphony? "The musicians of l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal are on the picket line. Management insists, puzzlingly, that the strike "in no way changes the OSM's reality." Eighteen months of nearly static negotiations have produced a poisonous atmosphere. Players and management are united only in their belief that the other side doesn't have a clue about what a symphony orchestra really needs." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/09/05

Toni Morrison/Richard Danielpour Opera Gets Debut In Detroit "Here is "Margaret Garner" at its best: the sprawling calamity of slavery telescoped into an intimately scaled portrait of love underscored by Danielpour's melting lyricism and placed within the spare set designed by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg. The burden of such a broad and bewildering historical canvas as slavery sometimes overwhelms Danielpour and Morrison, but these shortcomings are redeemed by ruminative expressions of a mother's love and heartfelt song." Detroit Free Press 05/09/05

  • "Garner" Wows The Crowd "Margaret Garner is a largely old-fashioned opera that nevertheless works. It works primarily because of the emotional resonances of Toni Morrison's story. It also works because the opera has been handsomely produced, with a strong cast, directed on stage by Kenny Leon and headed by that splendid mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves in the title role." Toronto Star 05/09/05

  • An Honorable Achievement, But... "Margaret Garner turns out to be an honorable achievement, if one that is often reluctant to seize the story's tragic elements by the neck and render them shocking. Danielpour's relentlessly lyrical score, though marked by episodes of limpid beauty, lacks dramatic momentum and contrast, with long, lethargic stretches that stop the opera in its tracks. Morrison may be a stranger to the medium, but she is familiar with the story on which she has weaved operatic variations." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/09/05

May 8, 2005

Is Your iPod Making You Deaf? "Audiologists believe tens of thousands of young people are causing serious damage to themselves, and are likely to suffer tinnitus and loss of hearing in later life. The experts say MP3 players should be designed to prevent people playing music above 90 decibels, about two-thirds of the maximum volume of a typical device." Scotsman on Sunday 05/08/05

Can A Baroque Choir Take On South Florida And Win? A 12-member chamber choir is a real success story in South Florida. So much so that the the ambitious choir's founder is expanding into a regional presence. "Some might say that Patrick Quigley's plans are more foolhardy than ambitious. In South Florida, where a symphony orchestra playing Beethoven couldn't stay in business, a 12-member choir performing Bach and Palestrina wouldn't seem to have wide populist appeal. Yet unlike many Cassandras who point to the demise of the Florida Philharmonic as a sign that classical music should be added to South Florida's endangered-species list, the optimistic Quigley sees vast potential for growth." The Sun-Sentinel (South Florida) 05/08/05

Downloading - Where Are The Women? A new study says women are not downloading music over the internet. "This is the new digital divide, with a huge survey by market information company TNS revealing that the vast majority of downloading is done by men - a staggering 96% of market share. People in the UK buy more music per head of population than in any other country, and we already have the highest ownership rates of iPods and MP3 players in the world. So why aren't digital downloads bringing music to women's ears?" The Guardian (UK) 05/06/05

Rock Looks For Alternatives To Radio Rock music is fading from the radio airwaves. So "record companies are attempting to adapt to modern rock's recent marginalization on the airways in major markets like Philadelphia, Miami, New York and Washington, D.C. by emphasizing other options for building buzz. In lieu of airplay, touring, blogs, ringtones, downloads, Internet and satellite radio, videogame tie-ins, alliances with brand marketers, film and TV exposure, sponsorships and placements in commercials all are growing in value." Yahoo! (Billboard) 05/08/05

Akron Symphony Says Goodbye To Music Director The Akron Symphony Orchestra says goodbye to music director Ya-Hui Wang, who has led the orchestra for five years. "If the conclusion of the concert was subdued, that was appropriate, given Wang's history. She has been earnest in her efforts, but concerts under her direction have often been below the orchestra's standard. It was to the credit of everyone on stage that they did so well by Saturday's challenging program." Akron BeaconJournal 05/08/05

Opera America Conference: Diversity Is Critical More than 400 leaders of America's opera companies gather for their annual conference. "Besides usual topics such as education, outreach, programming and how to woo corporate and private donors, the conference's most pressing issue addressed diversity in opera, which, conference organizers said, is critical if opera is to survive in America." Cincinnati Enquirer 05/07/05

More Piling On To Maazel's "1984" "The real irony about the 75-year-old Maazel's return to the Covent Garden pit, as conductor of his own work, is that he hasn't been there since 1978, six years before the title of the piece that has cost a million quid for six performances. Even as a conductor, he is 'past his sell-by date', to quote myself here six months ago, after hearing him re-open La Fenice in Venice with the most vulgar of Traviatas." The Observer (UK) 05/08/05

May 6, 2005

The Hot Band That Refuses To Record A band called the Bays is getting some serious attention. But the band refuses to record and make CD's, saying that live performance is an essential element to enjoying their music. "The Bays remind you that music is about experience rather than shopping. Making records may be "an aberration in the history of music", which has always been about performance." The Guardian (UK) 05/06/05

The Do-It-Yourself Recording Orchestra With the Philadelphia Orchestra announcing it will record every performance for possible later release on CD, might other orchestras be far behind? "Every situation is unique, but all of us are operating in a totally changed environment. In the old days, if things didn't work out with one recording company, there were always a dozen other options. Now there aren't any, and I think everyone realizes that. To make this happen, management and orchestra will have to be partners, not adversaries." Boston Globe 05/06/05

May 5, 2005

Beethoven Free For All The BBC is playing the complete works of Beethoven. "These concerts will be aired on Radio 3 and ‘streamed’ for a week on the website. This, as never before, is Beethoven for free – a gift to the world, just as the longsuffering composer might have wished. So radical is this departure from all prior conventions of broadcasting and distributing works of music that the consequences are simply uncalculated. No-one knows if ten people or ten million will download the Beethoven symphonies and whether, if kept, they will form the cornerstone for a new habit of hoarding classical music, a surrogate for record buying." La Scena Musicale 05/05/05

All That And He'll Need To Conduct, Too The Baltimore Symphony has a little more than a year to go before the final departure of music director Yuri Temirkanov, and the search for a replacement has been underway for months. But so far, there doesn't appear to be a frontrunner (despite early rumors that BSO management was tilting towards Marin Alsop) and community surveys have indicated that concertgoers don't much care whether the new boss is an American or agrees to live in Baltimore, two qualifications frequently valued by music critics and orchestra insiders. The BSO is also struggling to bring a massive accumulated deficit under control, and the very real need for reinvigorated fundraising will figure prominently in the search process. Baltimore Sun 05/04/05

OSM Strike Not Really About The Money Ask the musicians of l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal why they have called a strike, and they will describe the OSM's management as unwilling to pay going market rates for a top-notch orchestra. "But the heart of the two-year-old contract dispute remains management's desire to gain more control over working conditions. The two sides have spent over 40 bargaining sessions arguing about 100 workplace concessions demanded by executive director Madeleine Careau... Players said that some concessions on Careau's list were either unprecedented in the industry or not in accordance with Quebec's labour laws." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/05/05

  • Backlash Brewing "Ticketholders to last night's Montreal Symphony Orchestra performance expressed anger that a threatened strike on Monday could cut short a season subscribers have already paid for." And while some concertgoers were sympathetic to the musicians' plight (they have been working without a contract for 18 months,) many said that a strike was not the way to solve the problem. The musicians say that they are open to further negotiations, but none are scheduled before the Monday strike deadline. Montreal Gazette 05/05/05

Dreaming Of A Better Tomorrow In Cincinnati As you might expect, Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi would like to have some input into the proposed renovation of his orchestra's concert hall. One problem with the existing hall is that it seats 3,400 - almost 1,000 more than the average American orchestral venue - and there is a "constant perception of underachieving" even when attendance is good. But Järvi's first concern is not for his musicians, but for the audience: "a drink before the concert in a trendy new bar, dinner afterward in a Music Hall café, a place to buy CDs and books, and great music" are all parts of the modern concertgoing experience, and orchestras are increasingly looking to up their "hip" factor as a way of attracting new audiences. Cincinnati Enquirer 05/05/05

May 4, 2005

Maazel Opera Lacks "Voice" Anthony Tommasini weighs in on Lorin Maazel's new opera "1984": "Unfortunately, though there are some compelling elements to "1984" and the creators received a fairly rousing ovation by the expectant audience, the opera is hampered by Mr. Maazel's undistinguished score. The music is never less than thoroughly professional. But Mr. Maazel lacks a personal voice as a composer. What constitutes a compositional voice is hard to define. But you know it when you hear it." The New York Times 05/05/05

I Went To Hear A Pianist... Charles Michener used to lament a dearth of great young pianists. This season though, has featured a rich stew of finger-wagglers... New York Observer 05/04/05

Toronto Opera Has A Terrific Year Toronto's Canadian Opera Company - a year from moving into a new home - has had its best year at the box office in a dozen years. "Box office revenue also rose, grossing more than $8.9 million, a 17-per-cent increase from the previous season. The company reported an 8.8-per-cent increase in the number of season ticket subscriptions during 2004-05. Sales for the upcoming season have already reached more than $6 million." CBC 05/04/05

"1984" - A Wretched Opera Andrew Clements hates Lorin Maazel's new opera "1984". "It is both shocking and outrageous that the Royal Opera, a company of supposed international standards and standing, should be putting on a new opera of such wretchedness and lack of musical worth." The Guardian (UK) 05/04/05

  • Operatic Fast Food, Quite Enjoyable One might be skeptical of Lorin Maazel's new opera "1984," getting its premiere this week at the Royal Opera House, writes Rupert Christiansen. But "stir the mixture, and the result is a cleverly concocted piece of operatic fast-food, stuffed with musical additives and devoid of substantial nurtritional value, but quite engrossing and enjoyable. The audience was clearly absorbed throughout and the reception was generally enthusiastic." The Telegraph (UK) 05/04/05

The Philly Orchestra's New Record-Everything Policy The Philadelphia Orchestra' has decided to record all of its concerts, and will release recordings of the performances it likes. "We are in the business of telling audiences that every performance is different. The recordings we're making are not designed to document perfection, but to capture the excitement of the live concert experience. If it's good and we're happy with it, we'll release it. The orchestra's new three-year agreement with Ondine for at least three releases a year makes it the only Big Five orchestra (Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia) with a record deal." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/04/05

May 3, 2005

Montreal Musicians Set A Strike Date The musicians of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal have announced that they will go on strike next Monday after working without a contract for a year and a half. The musicians claim that OSM management's demands for wage freezes and incremental raises will drive the organization into the artistic ground, and further note that the orchestra has not had a pay raise in 9 of the 14 years since 1991. The strike announcement brings to a head a dispute which had been simmering for months, with musicians frequently wearing red shirts onstage to call attention to their situation. CNW Telbec 05/04/05

  • Management: Strike Solves Nothing OSM management insists that it is demanding nothing but vital concessions from its soon-to-strike musicians. "The strike will not change the issues that the OSM is confronted with, as much on the international scene as in the Montreal market. In light of those issues, and as is the case with most great symphony orchestras, the OSM must establish conditions that foster the resumption of touring and recording, taking into account the new reality of the world of classical music. In Montreal itself the OSM faces progressively stronger competition, and it is important that the Orchestra equip itself with a framework of more flexible labour relations if it is to preserve its place in the music and entertainment market." CNW Telbec 05/04/05

Muti Back In Milan, For A Moment Riccardo Muti was back at La Scala this past weekend, but don't get excited. The deposed Milan maestro returned as a guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic. "As fans threw long-stemmed white roses onto the stage amid thunderous applause and a chorus of bravos, Mr. Muti - looking solemn but moved - acknowledged the cheers with a nod, placed a single rose on the podium and exited, stage right." The New York Times 05/04/05

Houston's Grand Operatic Secret (Pay Attention, San Francisco) Opera may be hot again, but precious few American cities can boast of having a truly world-class opera company. One of the lucky few is Houston, where the Grand Opera marked its 50th birthday last weekend, and Joshua Kosman says that you don't have to look very hard to see how the company has achieved its success. "To speak of the Houston Grand Opera is to speak of David Gockley, the visionary general director who has led the company since 1972 and made it what it is today." Gockley will shortly be leaving Houston to take up the reins of the San Francisco Opera, and Kosman says that the Bay Area can realistically hope for a newly reinvigorated company under his leadership. San Francisco Chronicle 05/03/05

Milwaukee Ticket Sales Jump It's been a while since the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra got any good news about its ticket sales, but this week, the orchestra announced that single ticket sales have jumped 20% in the current season, and credited the MSO's newly customer-driven marketing focus for the gain. The orchestra has also been playing a new series of "scaled-down performances of that weekend's concert programming combined with a video presentation designed to introduce the music and composers to a new audience," which have attracted large numbers of new ticket-buyers. Milwaukee Business Journal 05/03/05

Opera Embraces A Multi-ethnic Future Opera has enjoyed a distinct resurgence in the past decade, and for the first time in American musical history, operatic casting has begun to reflect the racial diversity of the country. But despite the visible strides in casting, "opera company executives say there is still plenty of room for improvement in diversifying casts. And, they add, there is even more room for improvement, when it comes to opera audiences, which are an average of 4 percent minority nationwide, though 31 percent of Americans are of an ethnic minority." Detroit News 05/03/05

Who Knew Stuffy Old Rich People Had Radios? In an effort to draw in new audiences, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra recently started running a tongue-in-cheek series of radio ads with the tagline "You'd be surprised who goes to the TSO." Each ad featured a humorous description of a supposed subscriber with decidedly offbeat personal habits meant to demonstrate that orchestra concerts are "not only for stuffy old rich people." As it turns out, though, the stuffy old rich people who listen to the city's classical music station were unamused, and the ads have been pulled from the air. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/03/05

Mostly Mozart Reconfigures This summer, the Mostly Mozart Festival will reconfigure its home at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. "One goal of the new structure was to break down the formality of the concert hall and enhance the personal and musical connection between players and listeners. "We're eager to bring back the populist feeling of our origins," Lincoln Center executive Jane Moss said, citing the festival's early days, when all tickets sold for $3. The project is also intended to provide an acoustical setting more appropriate to the sound of an 18th-century orchestra." The New York Times 05/03/05

May 2, 2005

World Premieres - Why Bother? "The unique claim of a concert being the only one of its kind because it contains the first hearing of a piece of music is the one hook that has proven to grab the attention of orchestras, opera companies, and chamber music presenters. With that label firmly affixed, contemporary music can be tolerated. Whether the new work flops is now hardly the matter. The assembled audience can at least say to an acquaintance that they heard the world premiere of such and such piece, even if they didn't like it." But does the "world premiere" concept really serve music in the longer term? NewMusicBox 05/05

Bar-Hopping? Nahhh. Let's Go Hear Some Beethoven! ArtsJournal blogger Drew McManus has declared May to be Take A Friend To the Orchestra Month, and in case that sounds like a dubious proposition in a culture where orchestral music sometimes calls to mind stuffy surroundings and elitist snobbery, Drew has enlisted the help of more than a dozen critics, bloggers, musicians, and administrators to explain how to sell your friends on the concept. Up first is former Chicago Symphony executive director Henry Fogel, who once personally convinced a sixty-year-old Texas pilot to come hear a performance of Mahler 5, while simultaneously rescuing the CSO's instruments from an overturned truck on a remote highway. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 05/02/05

La Scala Loses A Tour, But May Gain Labor Peace La Scala has canceled a planned tour of the UK after being unable to secure the services of conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. The tour was originally to have been led by Riccardo Muti, who resigned as La Scala's musical director last month, leaving Milan's famed opera house scrambling to find replacements. However, there is evidence that the labor strife which has engulfed La Scala for much of the last year may be ebbing, as union leaders rescinded their call for an ongoing series of opening-night strikes. National Post (CP) 05/01/05

May 1, 2005

Maazel Finances Opera, Prompting Charges Is a new Royal Opera House production a "vanity" project? "Lorin Maazel, the conductor-composer whose new opera of George Orwell's 1984 opens tomorrow at the Royal Opera House, has put more than £400,000 of his own money into the production, the Guardian has learned, leading to accusations that Covent Garden is staging a vanity project." The Guardian (UK) 05/01/05

Recording Companies Rev Up For DualDisc "Until a few years ago, labels automatically took their shiny bread-and-butter format for granted and all the way to the bank. Customers had few other options and rarely balked when list prices were raised. But the unlimited possibilities of music downloads have transformed the playing field, turning the glamorous CD into a badly aging star that needs a major face-lift. For a music business desperate to steer people into stores and away from illegal download sites, that cosmetic surgery couldn't come soon enough. Infamous for infighting and contentious disagreements, all four major record labels are setting their differences aside and supporting DualDisc, a new format that they believe offers the best of the audio and visual worlds." Chicago Tribune 05/01/05

Winnipeg Symphony Backs Away From The Abyss Two years ago, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra was plunged into crisis and delivered into the hands of the provincial government in a desperate attempt to prevent a complete collapse. To say things have improved is an understatement. "As the WSO's current season closes this evening at Centennial Concert Hall, the 65-player orchestra is enjoying rising attendance, a balanced budget, and guarded optimism about the future. Since a new board took over the WSO last year, fundraising has revived, and a deficit of nearly $3-million has been cut in half. The city and provincial governments have forgiven about $400,000 in loans, and the federal government has tossed in a transition grant of $250,000." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/30/05

If You Build It, They Might Come, For A While Orange County, California (just outside of Los Angeles) has a beautiful new concert hall, and big plans to make use of it. But will the public care enough to keep coming to the hall once the novelty has worn off? "Behind the scenes and off the record, the classical powers that be are worrying and wondering about the outcome... There is a great deal of casual interest in classical music here, but connoisseurship doesn't seem to run deep." Orange County Register 05/01/05

It's Sort Of A Cross Between Electronica and Teddy Ruxpin "Circuit bending started about 10 years ago when a geographically diverse group of basement tinkerers began to experiment with soldering guns and the cast-aside first-generation electronic Christmas gifts of their childhood. They discovered that if you pop the top off anything that has a simple circuit board and makes a sound -- an '80s-era talking doll, for instance -- you can hot-wire it and produce squawks that the manufacturer never had in mind, squawks that in some cases had never before been heard. United by the Internet, circuit benders started sharing notes and trading pointers, and now they're a certified subculture." Washington Post 04/30/05

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