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Friday, February 28, 2003

Fred Rogers, 74 "For all its reassuring familiarity, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a revolutionary idea at the outset and it remained a thing apart through all its decades on television. Others would also entertain the young or give them a leg up on their studies. But it was Fred Rogers, the composer, Protestant minister and student of behavior who ventured to deal head-on with the emotional life of children." Fred Rogers died yesterday at his Pittsburgh home, at the age of 74. The New York Times 02/28/03

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Viñoly: Architect To The World By any account, architect Rafael Viñoly was something of a prodigy. He's racked up a series of high-profile projects around the world, and has developed a reputation for sensitivity to the needs of the project. "You don't simply accept the client's program at face value, as if your job is to be some kind of short-order cook. What you really want to do is figure out the underlying needs, which the client may never have fully understood. Then you work to define the program. You are not going to get a pre-cooked meal but something especially prepared." Los Angeles Times 02/25/03

Terry Gross At Bargain Basement Prices Terry Gross is host of Fresh Air, one of America's public radio top interview shows. But WHYY in Philadelphia, where the show originates, doesn't list Gross among its top-paid employees. In 2001, Gross earned $85,000, making her one of the lowest-paid national hosts. "In an interview, Gross said she had considered herself underpaid compared with other hosts of nationally aired public radio shows. Since then, though, the station has raised her salary 'substantially,' she said. 'I'm satisfied,' she said." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/24/03

Monday, February 24, 2003

Alex Ross Remembers Lou Harrison: "A roly-poly guy who reminded everyone of a sun-kissed Santa Claus, Harrison seemed for a long time to be the only happy composer in America; unlike so many of his congenitally embittered ivory-tower colleagues, he not only accepted his marginal status in the nation's culture but revelled in it. Yet he was, in many ways, an imposing figure—at once the prophet of the minimalist movement and the last vital representative of the mighty populist generation led by Aaron Copland." The New Yorker 02/24/03

Head Of The Class – Covent Garden’s Pappano Covent Garden waited four years waiting Antonio Pappano, its new music director. “The man is a live wire, and after a few months he has electrified the entire building. The Royal Opera needed just an invigorating shock. ‘Years ago, some one gave me Solti’s memoirs, and when I got to the part where he described coming to Covent Garden as music director I had the weirdest feeling: I knew in my bones that I would get this job’.” The Observer 02/23/03

South African Playwright Has AIDS Gibson Kente, 69, one South Africa’s most prominent playwrights, said last week that he has AIDS, “becoming one of only a handful of celebrities to go public about AIDS in the country worst hit by the disease.” Kente helped pioneer theater in South Africa’s black townships during the years of apartheid rule. Why go public? “I have HIV, why not make some use of it?” Backstage 02/21/03

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Sink Or Swim At The National Charles Saumarez Smith didn't get much of a honeymoon as the new director of the UK's National Gallery. Faced from the outset with questions about his qualifications, and basic sniping over whether he might be 'too nice' for the job, Smith is now staring down the barrel of a public relations cannon. His mission: to persuade the Heritage Fund to pony up a sizable chunk of the £29 million he needs to raise to keep a famed Raphael on the gallery's walls. The Guardian (UK) 02/22/03

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Leading The Way The dearth of African-Americans in the classical music business is well-documented, and role models for young black musicians are few and far between. That makes the success of composer Adolphus Hailstork all the more impressive. Not only is Hailstork one of America's preeminent academic composers, he has made his mark on the industry by basing many of his works on music with great significance to the African-American experience. "When conductors and performers see a well-crafted piece, they not only come back to me but to other black composers as well. When a piece works and I walk onstage in front of a predominantly white audience, I know I've changed their world in many ways." Detroit News 02/20/03

Missing Diva Still Missing It's been a week since soprano Sumi Jo abruptly up and left Australia, abandoning a performance of "Lucia" for Opera Australia without a word. No one at the company has yet heard from her. "Even Jo's manager, Tony Russo, hasn't had a phone call explaining her actions. 'I haven't spoken to her yet. She took everyone by surprise. I still don't know what came to pass but she's not a canceller'." Sydney Morning Herald 02/19/03

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Ted Perry: Music With A Conscience Ted Perry was a singular voice in the music business. He founded and ran Hyperion as a small recording label and "modest as it was, Hyperion became a marque of musical conscience, a reproach at the preposterous Classical Brits to the fixed smiles of the bottom-liners and their forgettable novelties. 'When I first knew him, he was driving a minicab at nights to pay the musicians he recorded by day. The gleam in his eye was an urge to share good music with anyone who might love it - chaps like himself, without social pretensions or academic qualifications, whose grey horizons could be tinted by an exposure to aural glories." London Evening Standard 02/19/03

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Lou Harrison: "The Take-Home Pay Is A Melody" Kyle Gann remembers Lou Harrison, who died recently at 85. "The 'greatest living composer' label some pasted on him in recent years was an uneasy fit. He was too one-of-a-kind personally, too multifaceted musically. His works contain passages of aimless wandering that are hard to defend to skeptics, yet emblematic of what we love about him: that he relished life and didn't believe in hurrying." Village Voice 02/18/03

Daniel Gioia: Poet/Businessman Who is Daniel Gioia? He's just taken over as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts after a career as a poet and businessman. "Gioia has successfully straddled the worlds of art and business. He has published poetry and criticism in top literary journals while rising to the position of vice president of marketing for General Foods, where he was responsible for determining how best to market Jell-O." San Francisco Chronicle 02/16/03

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Blurring Lines And Making Enemies Tan Dun is one of the most successful composers of his generation, and recently, he has become one of the most controversial as well. "Some hear the sound of the future in the mingling of East and West and high art and popular culture in his work. Others hear pretentiousness, vulgarity, and cultural opportunism." The reaction may be somewhat akin to the backlash that greeted singer Paul Simon when he began appropriating African melodies for use in his own American-style folk-rock tunes. The debate is over where the line is drawn between sampling of artistic influences and outright theft of culture. Boston Globe 02/16/03

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Collector Behind The Curtain So who is Joey Tanenbaum, the art collector who this week announced a massive donation of 211 works of 19th-century art to an Ontario gallery? And what motivates the collector to spend so much of his time and money acquiring such very specific pieces? Well, the short answer is that he's a gregarious, talkative 71-year-old real estate magnate from Toronto, "a man who loves to tell stories, so it should be no surprise that he has a deep feeling for the narrative power of art, the very quality that relegated the French academic painters to the dust bin of history." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/15/03

  • Previously: Hamilton Gets Tanenbaum Collection "Real-estate and steel magnate Joey Tanenbaum and his wife Toby have announced an immense donation of 211 European 19th-century works to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, a gift that will make the Southern Ontario city a destination for scholars of the period." The collection is valued at as much as CAN$90 million, and includes works by Gustave Doré, Jean Léon Gérôme, and Eugene Carrière. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/12/03

Shoot First, Do Your Research Later. Or Never. "Only last fall, the National Rifle Association was beside itself with joy as Michael Bellesiles, the professorial darling of the gun-control crowd, went down in flames after being caught faking his research. Now the proverbial shoe is on the other academic foot: John R. Lott Jr., a point man for the pro-gun set whose resume has noted positions on the faculties of the University of Chicago's law school, Stanford University and Yale, stands accused of the same scholarly crime." Chicago Tribune 02/14/03

  • Previously: Bellesiles Stripped of Prize Historian Michael Bellesiles has been vilified by the political right, ostracized by his colleagues, and forced out of his professorship since charges of falsified research in his controversial book on America's "gun culture" hit the front pages several months back. Now, Columbia University is stripping Bellesiles of the prestigious Bancroft Prize it awarded him when the book was originally published. For the record, Bellesiles continues to stand by his research. Washington Post (AP) 12/14/02
Thursday, February 13, 2003

Opera On First And Ten Keith Miller played football for the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos. But his love of opera has outlasted his football career. "Last fall, he won a full-tuition scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts, the prestigious, highly selective, post-graduate incubator for future opera stars. 'You watch a veteran football player like Jerry Rice make a catch, and he moves with such fluid grace and beauty. Hours and hours of practice and preparation make it look completely effortless. Same thing on the opera stage. A singer opens his mouth and out comes a sound that makes time stand still'." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/13/03

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Muschamp Uncensored New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp has been one of the loudest voices in the debate over what should fill the huge space currently known as Ground Zero. But now, some observers are charging Muschamp with promoting the designs of architects to whom he has close ties. "Critics love to provoke, of course, but with the Ground Zero discussion down to a pair of finalists chosen by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, another question is being asked: Is Mr. Muschamp—long a lightning rod for criticism—getting too cozy with his advocacy? Some within the architectural community think so." New York Observer (first item) 02/17/03

Welcoming Back One Of The Greats Ben Heppner is back at The Met, after more than a year of recuperation from health problems that stole his famous voice. Heppner looks great (he's lost 60 pounds,) feels better, and this week at New York's famous opera house he gave "a performance greeted by roars of approval from the Met audience and applause from James Levine himself, who put down his baton at one point to join in the ovation." Toronto Star 02/12/03

  • Previously: Heppner Returns When last we heard from Ben Heppner, he was walking offstage in the middle of a program complaining of vocal problems. Now he's back, singing a program in Boston. Richard Dyer reports: "The Canadian tenor has emerged from 18 difficult months of vocal problems and cancellations. He has taken charge of his life; he must have dropped 50 pounds since the last time we saw him, and he looks terrific. And it is a relief and a joy to report that the mighty voice is back in full flood. This listener heard only one insecurely supported tone in the program, and it was quiet and in the middle register." Boston Globe 01/13/03
Monday, February 10, 2003

Havel: From Playwright To President And Back Vaclav Havel's presidency of the Czech Republic has ended. "Awkward and shy, Havel is a curiously natural director. Forty-odd years ago, he started out as a stagehand and a playwright. He was an acolyte of Beckett and Ionesco—the theatre of the absurd. The sense of the absurd extends to his own life. There is surely no modern biography that is more improbable yet dramatically coherent. Havel's is the rare life, Milan Kundera has written, that resembles a work of art and gives 'the impression of a perfect compositional unity'." The New Yorker 02/10/03

Sunday, February 9, 2003

From The Met To Disney (And Back Again) Francesco Zambello is an acclaimed director who has worked in the world's top opera houses. So why is she working for Disney, creating a show for their theme parks? "I'm a populist, an opera evangelist. I believe in making shows that speak to a broad audience. I'm not afraid of the word `entertainment.' So far the sort of mainstream hit scored by other 'serious' directors of opera and drama like Trevor Nunn (with "Cats"), Nicholas Hytner ("Miss Saigon") and Julie Taymor ("The Lion King") has eluded Ms. Zambello, and not for lack of trying." The New York Times 02/09/03

Friday, February 7, 2003

Mandela, Artist Nelson Mandela is enjoying a surging art career. He has been making drawings in charcoal and pastel of his time as an inmate at the brutal Robben Island prison. "In just five months, the 84-year-old former South African president and Nobel Peace laureate has sold more than 1,000 lithographs of five drawings. The inspiration for the new career came when art publisher Ross Calder saw Yoko Ono was using John Lennon's sketches to raise money for charity. He took the idea to Mandela, suggesting he could do the same. 'I may be artistic, but it's in the back, far recesses of my mind. It will take a lot to get that out'." New Jersey Online (AP) 02/07/03

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Czech Republic - Where Artists Lead Playwright Vaclav Havel has stepped down as president of the Czech Republic. So is the country ready for another artist to lead it? Musician Karel Gott, who has topped the Czech charts for much of the last four decades, has been proposed by a group of rock musicians, and he says he's interested in running for the job. BBC 02/06/03

Welser-Möst At Work When the Cleveland Orchestra selected the young phenom Franz Welser-Möst as the man to succeed Christoph von Dohnanyi as music director, some in the orchestral world expressed surprise that the ensemble many consider the best in America would take a chance on a relatively unproven talent. But Welser-Möst is reportedly working out quite well in Cleveland, despite the incredibly heavy workload music directors are expected to take on in this country. "With utter resolve and politeness, Welser-Möst has proved that he sticks to his artistic guns. And he's delighted to be working with an orchestra that is so open-minded."
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/06/03

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Wild-Man Critic Leslie Fiedler [who died last week at 85] "made his name, in the late '40s, as a lit-crit prodigy in the grim-faced Cold War literary establishment known today as the New York Intellectuals or "the family." He could easily have set himself up simply as an Upper West Side sage. He was charismatic and leonine and had the credentials — an outsized oeuvre, ease with languages (Japanese, Italian), lecture gigs all over the world. Crowing was his natural idiom. He was a master of hectoring overstatement..." Slate 02/05/03

Mayhew To Run Covent Garden "[London's] Royal Opera House has appointed a woman to its top post for the first time, announcing Tuesday that Dame Judith Mayhew will succeed Sir Colin Southgate when he retires as chairman in August. New Zealand-born Mayhew, currently chairwoman of the University of London's Birkbeck College, will join the Opera House board next month." The Opera House is coming off a financially successful run of the Nicholas Maw's much-discussed operatic adaption of Sophie's Choice. Andante (AP) 02/05/03

Monday, February 3, 2003

Lou Harrison, 85 American composer Lou Harrison, died Sunday in a Denny's in Indiana on his way to a festival of his music at Ohio State University. "Mr. Harrison's primary contribution to Western music, aside from the sheer beauty of his works, was his wide-ranging, deeply felt connection to the musics of non-Western cultures, Asian especially. He studied in Taiwan and South Korea and was deeply immersed in Javanese music. He built several gamelans, or Indonesian percussion orchestras, spawning a movement that spread through North America (there are some 200 ensembles built in direct emulation of Mr. Harrison's)." The New York Times 02/04/03

  • Goodbye Lou Harrison "grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, studied music at San Francisco State College, composition with Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, and pioneered with John Cage in creating and performing works for percussion ensemble. 'Lou's passing is so symbolic of the end of an era. His deep connections to Schoenberg, Ives, Cowell, and Cage made him a real icon, even beyond his own compositional career'.” San Francisco Classical Voice 02/04/03

Culture Minister As Uninspired Artist UK culture minister Kim Howells has big ideas about art. He wants boldness. He wants imagination. He wants something new. So you might think the art he made himself might be all (or even some) of these things. You'd be wrong. "It turns out that his idea of art, as manifested in the example of his own work sold at a charity auction (to the organiser, a friend) for £60 is disappointingly, or gratifyingly if you want to put the boot in, dull. Dull isn't the word. This laborious, insipid excuse for a drawing is a piece of middle-class kitsch so lacking in life that it could win the Daily Mail's competition for 'real' art. Howells' drawing is nerveless and oddly lacking in warmth - the very opposite of his public persona." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/03

Spacey To Join Old Vic Kevin Spacey has agreed to take an active role in the management of London's Old Vic Theatre. "The actor, who is already on the board of trustees, is understood to have agreed to spearhead the theatre's artistic and commercial endeavours. Despite playing host to some of the most celebrated actors, including Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike and Vivien Leigh, the theatre's rich history has been overshadowed for some time by its lack of funds and desperate need for refurbishment." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/03

Fogel To Become American Symphony Orchestra Leagure CEO Henry Fogel will take over as CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League when he retires as manager of the Chicago Symphony later this year. As manager of the Chicago orchestra since 1985, Fogel became one of the most influential arts administrators in the United States. Andante 02/02/03

Vaclav Havel Retires Playwright Vaclav Havel retires this week after 13 years as President of Czechoslovakia and then - after the 1993 secession of Slovakia - of the Czech Republic. "Of all the world's leaders in our time, Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel have been the most loved and admired. When he took the leadership of the 'Velvet Revolution' in 1989, and when he moved into the Castle high above Prague as President of the Republic, it seemed that the Czechs and Slovaks were the luckiest people in Europe. And, for a time, the Czechs and Slovaks thought so, too..." The Observer (UK) 02/03/03

Sunday, February 2, 2003

August Wilson And The History Of An Era Certainly, no playwright of August Wilson's generation — he is 57 — has proved as ubiquitous. Every one of his first eight dramas has played in New York, seven of them on Broadway, and collectively they have received nearly 2,000 productions, from amateur companies to regional theaters to London's Royal National Theater. Mr. Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes, been a Pulitzer finalist four other times, and taken seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards." A new production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" on Broadway seems to bring his career full circle. The New York Times 02/03/03

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Creating The Iconic Writer Mordichai Richler was a major literary presence in Canada. But his cult fame has grown sionce his death a year and a half ago. "Since his death, at 70, in July, 2001, from complications related to kidney cancer, Richler has continued to be a significant, vibrant presence in Canadian culture. There's even a type font named after him, for Yaweh's sake. But it seems we're going to be hearing, seeing and thinking about him even more if various plans to enhance and heighten his legacy come to fruition in the next five years." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/01/03

Running An Opera Company, Focused On The Future Richard Bradshaw is conductor and administrator of the Canadian Opera Company. And right now he and his company are "so focused on the new facility that everything - from subscriptions to programming - is calculated around the projected opening of the opera house in the summer of 2006." So what's a typical day like, running a big opera company? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/01/03

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