- Metropolitan Opera Gets Its First New Music Director Since 1976: Confirming a fairly open secret, the Met chooses Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. But there are a couple of catches. First, Nézet-Séguin won’t take on the job full time until 2020, leading Anthony Tommasini to worry how the Met will do in the meantime. Second, the announcement was paired with a press release from the Philadelphia Orchestra announcing an extension of Nézet-Séguin’s contract with that orchestra (he’s committed for the next ten years). Peter Dobrin says the arrangement is good for Philadelphia. But the Met’s outgoing music director James Levine tried to juggle the Met job while simultaneously being music director of the Boston Symphony and it didn’t work out so well. Still, Alex Ross argues that “it’s hard to imagine who would have been the wiser choice.” And then he puts his finger on perhaps the real issue: “What is needed at the Met—as at many other big organizations, notably the New York Philharmonic—is not some magical charismatic personality who will pacify all parties but a fundamental rethinking of the institution.”
- A Looming College Crisis: College debt is at an all-time high. Tuition is unaffordable for more and more families. And colleges are starting to see declines in enrollment. Meanwhile, some questions about whether college degrees are necessary: “The majority of jobs being created today do not require degree-level qualifications. In the US in 2010, 20% of jobs required a bachelor’s degree, 43% required a high-school education, and 26% did not even require that. Meanwhile, 40% of young people study for degrees. This means over half the people gaining degrees today will find themselves working in jobs that don’t require one.” And inside colleges, growing unrest for those hired to provide education: “Morale is horrible on campus. There are too many highly paid administrators, and there’s a lack of clear leadership. We have stepped down on the ladder that we were climbing for about 10 years.”
- Can Art Change The World?
– Exhibit A: The Bilbao Effect: Nearly 20 years ago Frank Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Bilbao opened and cities have been chasing “The Bilbao Effect” ever since, trying to revitalize cities through iconic architecture. Latest to try is the Chinese city of Harbin, where a striking new Opera House is the most anticipated building of the year.
-Exhibit B: Richard Primus makes an interesting argument about how “Hamilton” is changing the ways Americans think about the writing of the US constitution: “If you can change the myth, you can change the Constitution. Hamilton is changing the myth. For decades, originalism in constitutional law has had a generally conservative valence. Now, week by week, the thousands of patrons who pack the Richard Rodgers Theater and the hundreds of thousands more who listen obsessively to Hamilton’s cast album or download the viral videos are absorbing a new vision of the American Founding. And so the balance shifts. With the Supreme Court on the brink of moving leftward and Hamilton electrifying audiences from the Grammys to the White House, the lawyering class’s intuitions about the Founding are poised to change.
- Is ISIS Funding Itself With Looted Antiquities? “Everyone seems to agree that ISIS is digging up and selling archaeological artifacts to make money. But no one seems to agree on how much money it’s actually making from its illegal antiquities trade: amounts have ranged from US$4 million to $7 billion.” The University of Chicago’s Fiona Rose-Greenland has formed a research team – called MANTIS – to find out.
- Louvre Shuts To Evacuate Priceless Art: This week rising floodwaters topped the banks of the Seine and threatened Paris. Workers at the Louvre and D’Orsay museums scrambled to move their art to safety. Here’s what it was like inside the deserted Louvre. By Saturday the water had receded enough to sound the all-clear.