Rebecca Mead has a go at the 1996 song whose official title is “Three Lions”: “It has been suggested that the song is about the heartbreaking condition of being a fan, which, in soccer-centric terms at least, it is. But it is also a song about English defeat — or, to put it more precisely, English defeatedness. … It’s a song about decline and regret and loss, about the tempting allure of resignation — the English emotional default — and the terrible pain of hopefulness.”
Many things once thought worthless—vinyl records, Brutalism—have grown in value. The Internet, which leaves no take unturned, has been predicting a compact disc comeback for years. After seeing what my lost Felt CD was now selling for, I began checking the prices of the CDs I’d held onto. A solo album by Kevin Rowland, of Dexys Midnight Runners, turns out to be worth $100 to $200 on Amazon. A couple Alex Chilton discs fall within the same price range. I was pleased, but scandalized too; I’d been so negligent with this treasure.
The irony is that what “Hamilton” represents now is exactly what opera used to be: a thrilling, contemporary, immersive stage presentation that’s a union of story, text, music, image and movement, and that gets under the skin and into the blood of a wide audience that feels it speaks profoundly to them. There’s something addictive about “Hamilton,” and that’s partly a result of spending three hours fully concentrated on sound and spectacle, straining to get every word, alongside hundreds of other people doing exactly the same thing. You don’t get that from a recording. Nor, often, do you get it in an opera house
Anna Meredith: “It’s five short pieces about the first world war using a big-ass orchestra, young musicians, a choir and the spectacular, eye-boggling visuals of 59 Productions. It’s not soldier’s stories but the mechanics of how they communicated: codes, redaction, field postcards.”
Peter Sellars, who is re-creating the 2005 opera for a run in Santa Fe, says he’s also reconsidering elements of it. “Here the story is, of course, the Los Alamos laboratory, … but also the ‘downwinders,’ the people living with all these cancers from all the test sites — and the pueblos that are 10 minutes away from Los Alamos, where most people and their families were employed.”
Bernard Foccroulle is getting ready to go. What’s his legacy at the Aix-en-Provence Festival? “During the past 11 years he has made the Aix festival … feel more connected: to young artists, whom it has assiduously fostered; to new work, which it has commissioned in quantity and quality; to the operatic canon, which it has refreshed with provocative stagings and musical visions; to new audiences; and to its Mediterranean region, which it has celebrated with forays into North African and Middle Eastern styles without seeming patronizing.”
Elizabeth Rowe has been the face of the orchestra in marketing campaigns, and she and the only other woman who’s a principal in the orchestra were featured soloists in a tour of Japan. Yet “pay disparities can be significant. Ms. Rowe, 44, is paid about $70,000 less each year than John Ferrillo, 62, the principal oboist, based on data in the lawsuit and tax records. That is despite the fact that they play next to each other and are both ‘leaders of the orchestra in similarly demanding artistic roles,’ according to the lawsuit.”
“If you’re looking for virtuoso virtue-signallers, then classical music is the place to start. But right-on competitions are merely the gruesome fruit of something more deeply rooted: an intellectual culture poisoned by late 20th-century identity politics and postmodern verbiage. That’s a problem in other disciplines, of course, but at least artistic and literary pseuds attract mockery. It flourishes in university music departments because no one gives a toss what happens there.”
“His return to the stage on Friday — to headline the season opener at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in the Berkshires — is being closely watched not only by his fans, but also by the music industry. … The select group of artists who can still sell out concerts on the strength of their names includes Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Renée Fleming — and Mr. Lang.” Michael Cooper explains what kept Lang Lang away from playing and what’s at stake now.
“Elizabeth Rowe, who joined the BSO in 2004 after winning a blind audition for the role of principal flute, says in the lawsuit she’s asked for years to be paid the same as the principal oboe — the best comparison to her unique position — but the orchestra kept her pay well below that of her peer.” The difference is currently $70,000.
“ENO is now a shell of the great and pioneering company it was when Peter Jonas was general director in the 1980s. Under Jonas, director of productions David Pountney and music director Mark Elder, ENO developed enormous self-confidence, great visual elan and an in-your-face aesthetic that combined high camp with raw violence.” Now the company lurches from crisis to crisis, runs fewer performances of duller productions, and rents out its house for half the year. Stephen Moss has a few suggestions for making ENO great again – including getting rid of its ‘white elephant’ of a theatre.
“Like many courtships, this one was sealed with a ring. The Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda, the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, had left an operatic post this spring at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, amid administrative and political upheaval. The Zurich Opera House came calling. ‘I said, ‘Do you want to be my chief conductor?” Andreas Homoki, the artistic director in Zurich, recalled recently. Then he offered Mr. Noseda the icing on the cake: ‘I said, ‘Do you wanted to do the Ring with me?””
The Russian conductor takes up the post at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, at which time he’ll step down from his current position at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, where he will have spent a successful 15 years. Petrenko succeeds Charles Dutoit, who resigned this year following accusations of sexual harassment and assault.
Massey Hall has been the best room in Canada for 124 years. Doesn’t that mean anything? Playing in that room, looking out across the floor, to the two balconies that are so close you can almost touch them, the over-lacquered red walls and black poles? This room stands in witness and testament to all the greats who have performed on its stage.
Since entering the pop-music world, the judgments I would have made when I was in classical music about pop, I increasingly understand why they would have been irrelevant. And it’s made me appreciate that most classical music isn’t about the technical shit either. Pop includes a lot of what is called “extra-musical information.” The lyrics, that’s not music, that’s words representing outside ideas. The artwork, the music videos—all this stuff that’s not the music, but that is used to create the product. But it turns out that’s true in classical music. There’s no Mahler No. 9 without knowing his daughter died.
“Truly great works build a bridge not only between the concerns of their time and a longer historical struggle, but also between the performer’s feelings and the common well of human sentiment. The most consequential protest songs get referenced again and again for a reason: their power, both felt and understood, never dies.”
Germany, of course, is walking a tightrope of history. “As Germany struggles with increasing attacks on Jews and Israel is under pressure for killings of protesters along its border with Gaza, a growing clash over B.D.S. is spilling over into the cultural scene. It has divided art and music festivals that aim to foster cultural dialogue, and even sparked a feud between the mayor of Munich and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.”
“James Taylor was 22 when he bought 175 acres of woods with the proceeds from his first record deal. On a stormy June afternoon nearly half a century later, Carly Simon, his ex-wife; their children, Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor; Ben’s partner, Sophie Hiller, and their friends, the musicians John Forté and David Saw, were gathered in the rambling house that has grown up like a wagon wheel around the original structure, with hallways that hopscotch over rooms and staircases in odd places.”
Anne Tomlinson has been at the helm for 22 years, taking the chorus numbers from 100 to 450 and from three ensembles to six. Though she’s firm with the kids at rehearsal, “it is quite clear that plenty of fun is being had. The fun, however, is in the execution of the craft. And craft is elevated above all else.”
Anthony Tommasini: “For 80 years, New York audiences — and critics, including me — have felt as much affection for the Frick’s music room as the artists who have performed there, even ones of international renown. It truly is the closest thing to a 19th-century music salon this city has to offer. But the beloved room is, sadly, now on borrowed time.”
When you want to perform Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Gruppen” in the Tate Modern, and you really, really, don’t want the three orchestras to fall out of sync, you have to take rather a lot of meetings. The three conductors: “Pencils in hand, they laid out their scores on a table and mimicked their orchestras’ parts in a cacophony of hummed notes, whoops, grunts, bleats and birdlike sounds — and every once in a while, in unison, a triumphant’Bang!'”
[The gossip] is the human comedy, that’s what I like. I came into music because nobody was writing about it in a way that interested me. Musicologists were writing arcane and abstruse things which had no relation to who the composer was, where he or she was at that particular time in her life. They weren’t answering the questions of, “Why is this piece meaningful to me, why is this phrase meaningful to me?” In the way that you’d ask in every other human transaction from the restaurant to the bedroom. And so I started asking those questions.
“David Mellor said that while he thought begging the prime minister to buy the Coliseum for the ENO had been ‘a major contribution to the cultural life of the country’, he now thought it was an ‘act of stupidity’. His intervention has been sparked in part by the decision of the ENO management to lease out the Coliseum in London for almost half the year [to producers of commercial musicals].”
“My central aim was to give the reading public an informed yardstick of opinion by which they could measure their own reactions to a given performance. … Contrary to what many assume of critics, I took no delight in panning performers. I always tried for balance in my reviews. I appreciated the power of the pen but was often reminded of the limitations of language when it comes to evoking arguably the most word-proof of the arts.”