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On the Future of the Metropolitan Opera (continued)

Reviewing a new history of the Metropolitan Opera in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, I write: “The Met has never enjoyed the services of a shrewd and practical visionary. There is no one in the company's annals to set beside Henry Higginson, who created the Boston Symphony in 1881; or Oscar Hammerstein, whose Manhattan Opera combined integrated musical theater, new repertoire and stellar artists before being bought out by the Met in 1910; or George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, who invented the New York City Ballet in 1948; or Harvey … [Read more...]

The Elephant in the Room at the Met Opera Negotiations

According to my Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Opera House -- physically and metaphorically -- signifies a notion of "grand opera" that is increasingly unsustainable. To read the rest: … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s America

The current Times Literary Supplement (UK) features my latest rant on Dvorak as an American composer, as follows: Earlier this summer, Ivan Fischer came to New York with his Budapest Festival Orchestra to offer two memorable concerts of music by Antonin Dvorak. The repertoire included Dvorak’s last two symphonies: no. 8 in G major, and no. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”). On the web, Fischer commented in a filmed English-language interview: “[Dvorak] came out of the nineteenth century patriotic emotional group of composers. And at that … [Read more...]

Remembering Artur Bodanzky

Sony's 25-CD set "Wagner at the Met: Legendary Performances" reminds us that when the Metropolitan Opera was a great Wagner house -- how times have changed! -- it was also a permanent home to great conductors. My "Remembering Artur Bodanzky," in the current issue of Barry Millington's excellent Wagner Journal, expounds: An abundance of evidence – written and recorded – suggests that from 1885 to 1939 the world’s foremost Wagner house, judged solely by the caliber of musical performance, was the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. In Europe, … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s “Hiawatha” Symphony — Part Two

My last posting introduced the Hiawatha Melodrama, proposing a radical re-interpretation of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. As a postscript, here is a visual rendering of the Melodrama’s fifth movement by my colleague Peter Bogdanoff. As concocted by myself and the Dvorak scholar Mike Beckerman, the Melodrama aligns text from Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” with music by Dvorak. The world premiere recording is part of a new themed “Dvorak and America” Naxos CD (Naxos 8.559777) featuring PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s “Hiawatha” Symphony

Is Dvorak’s New World Symphony a programmatic Hiawatha symphony? With the Dvorak scholar Mike Beckerman, I’ve composed a 35-minute Hiawatha Melodrama for narrator and orchestra that combines Dvorak with verses from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. A new Naxos CD, “Dvorak and America,” includes the world premiere recording, with PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordonez. Here’s movement five, in which “The Hunting of Pau-Puk-Keewis” aligns with the finale of Dvorak’s symphony: Dvorak himself cited The Song of … [Read more...]

A Mexican Composer Whose Time Will Come

Gustav Mahler predicted, “My time will come” – and he was right. Anton Bruckner is another composer whose posthumous fame, decades after his death, far eclipsed scattered acclaim during his lifetime. The relative paucity of post-1930 canonized symphonic repertoire impels the question: who else is awaiting such discovery? The surest candidate I know is Silvestre Revueltas, whose dates are 1899 to 1940. Revueltas is sui generis, impossible to place, an unfathomably original talent. His birthplace – rural Mexico – is the surest point of … [Read more...]

What I Thought I Wrote about “Porgy and Bess”

Anyone who writes books learns sooner or later that a book has no fixed meaning. In my case, the discovery came in 1987, with Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music. The book was reviled and proscribed, extolled and prescribed. This was nothing less than I had expected, having assaulted a high icon. What I had not expected was that so many would read a book different from the one I thought I had written. I recall only one review – among many dozens – that felicitously … [Read more...]

Wagner at Coney Island

In the 1890s, when Wagnerism was at its height, Wagner’s American disciple Anton Seidl (1850-1898) would lead concerts fourteen times a week at Coney Island. He mainly conducted Wagner. The concerts, at the seaside Brighton Beach Music Pavilion (capacity 3,000), included children’s programs and the Seidl Society children’s chorus. Seidl himself composed a work for the children, “Good Night,” the manuscript of which resides at the Seidl Archives at Columbia University. “Good Night” received its first performance since 1898 a few weeks ago as … [Read more...]

Shostakovich Decoded

The Pacific Symphony, an orchestra that does things differently, mounted a “Shostakovich Decoded” festival over the past two weeks in collaboration with Chapman University. There were more than a dozen events, including a conference on Stalin and culture, an exhibit of Stalinist kitsch, master classes and lectures, and a potent variety of concerts. The central participants included Solomon Volkov, the author of Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, and the actor David Prather, whose re-enactments of Shostakovich remembering were a tour … [Read more...]

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