Munich Boris

 Two very erudite, sophisticated South American opera lover friends of mine have recently defended to me the work of Calixto Bieito, a Spanish director who not only brings opera into the present but frequently uses graphic images of sex and violence. The immediate subject was a Boris Godunov, described to me, in which allegedly Boris could have been Joseph Stalin at his cruelest. This despite the … [Read more...]


I first heard Julius Rudel conduct on two consecutive nights in the fall of 1957, my first year as a graduate student in New York: Turandot with Frances Yeend and Susannah with Phyllis Curtin and Norman Treigle. I had never heard either opera, and his dynamic leadership as the conductor made a huge impression on me. He had joined the New York City Opera in 1943 even before the company started … [Read more...]


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Photo credit: Elise Bakketun; Marcy Stonikas, Sarah Larsen; Seattle Opera's Consul A lot of ink has recently been spilled about the demise of opera. Audiences are supposed to be drifting away; the number of subscribers is dwindling; people generally are not interested in our art form; all is gloomy, and opera has been described as being pushed off a precipice by public disdain and … [Read more...]

Der Rosenkavalier Controversy


When the noted and thoughtful critic of the Washington Post, Anne Midgette, wrote a piece criticizing British critics for dismissing Tara Erraught’s Octavian in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier because she was overweight, she was dead to rights. Ms. Erraught is maybe slightly heavier than ideal, but opera is not the movies, not now and I hope not ever. I attended this Rosenkavalier in Glyndebourne on … [Read more...]

Ben Heppner

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The announcement of Ben Heppner's retirement took me back more than twenty-five years to June of 1988 when a tenor I had never heard auditioned for me. We were planning a new production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg, and he, described as an heroic tenor, had just been named a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera's National Auditions. When I heard his "Am stillen Herd"---even in a … [Read more...]


I am honored to be a member of the artistic panel making the selection for the Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2014. Ms. Nilsson set aside a great amount of money to make this largest single award in classical music significant and designated that it be given to an active artist or organization that was fulfilling the kind of dedication to the highest standards of opera and/or concert to which she had … [Read more...]


Talk to almost any European in the opera business, and he or she will make some comment about the wicked control American donors have over the productions for which they give the funds. They usually bemoan the fact that art is sacrificed to the conservative will. No matter how many times I say that no donor to Seattle Opera has ever even suggested that he or she have anything to do with the look, … [Read more...]

The Cost of Opera

In 1763, just when Christoph Willibald Glueck was in the process of reforming opera and creating the art form as we know it today, Samuel Johnson described opera as "an exotic and irrational entertainment." Its irrationality comes from its inability to pay its way and its consequent need to be supported--first by the nobility, then by the Gilded society of a century ago, and today by a multitude … [Read more...]

San Diego

The news that San Diego Opera is closing its doors has come as a horrible shock to everyone in opera. The New York City Opera's demise was predicted for so many months that although it was sad when it happened, it was not exactly a surprise. The news from Southern California came as a bolt out of the blue even to those most knowledgable in opera. First of all there is enormous sympathy and … [Read more...]


I went to San Francisco last Thursday, March 14, for Grandparents' Day at my three grand daughters' school, Hamlin. They are in the first, second, and sixth grade, and I was able to see a lot of their work and talk to their teachers. All the grandparents or special friends were treated to a talk by the head of the school, a very well-spoken woman originally from New York and a graduate of Chapin. … [Read more...]