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October 31, 2004

Voigt Out Of Another Strauss Production Deborah Voigt was supposed to sing her first-ever Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at Vancouver Opera this month. "The diva arrived a week late for rehearsals but everyone understood. A resident of Florida, she had just come through some terrifying hurricanes. What everyone did not understand was her unpreparedness. It soon became apparent that she was not ready to sing what could become one of the most important roles of her career. And so, her management announced that she would be withdrawing from the production, stating in a news release that she had stretched herself too thin, a singularly unfortunate turn of phrase considering that she had been released from a production earlier in the year by London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden for being too fat." Toronto Star 10/31/04

What's Next For The Met? What does the appointment of Peter Gelb to run the Metropolitan Opera mean for the country's artistic future? "What will his artistic priorities be? This question can't be answered without knowing what James Levine intends his own role to be now that his title has been downsized from artistic director to music director. Will Mr. Levine, busy in his new job as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Mr. Gelb divvy up the artistic responsibilities? It's not yet clear - not even, I suspect, to them." The New York Times 11/01/04

Shostakovich Looking For Home A home is being sought for Shostakovich's collections of thousands of recordings and manuscripts. "The collection was owned by conductor Roman Matsov, a close collaborator of Shostakovich. The recordings are stacked in the Estonian apartment where Matsov lived before his death in 2001, aged 84. Matsov's son, Mark, is having trouble paying rent on the flat and fears the collection could lose its home." BBC 10/31/04

Crossover, A Primer "Crossover used to be the special realm of opera singers, who dipped into the vernacular by enthusiastically singing folk songs or reluctantly pandering with a bit of pop fluff." But that was then. Now crossover is a way of life for performers and the genre has been mainlined... Newark Star-Ledger 10/31/04

You're A....Ooh... Rockist? "A rockist isn't just someone who loves rock 'n' roll, who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock 'n' roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher. Over the past decades, these tendencies have congealed into an ugly sort of common sense." The New York Times 10/31/04

Adelaide Symphony Looks For Stability The Adelaide Symphony lost its two top executives last week. With an accumulated deficit of about $2.5 million, and with an operating loss of a further $150,000 predicted for this year, the orchestra is looking ahead to more stability... The Australian 11/01/04

Philly Hoping To Avoid A Strike "A contract extension for musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra expires just after midnight tonight, but players say a strike is not imminent." That doesn't mean that a settlement is near, only that the orchestra is scheduled to play children's concerts this week, and striking against a bunch of kids wouldn't look too good. Still, there seems to be at least some optimism that a deal could be reached without a work stoppage, especially with the mayor of Philadelphia now taking an aggressive and active role in the process. Philadelphia Inquirer 10/31/04

Play-And-Talk In Cleveland The Cleveland Orchestra will avoid a work stoppage when a 2-month extension of its current contract expires tonight, with an open-ended play-and-talk agreement and an agreement from management that the existing deal will be honored until a new one is settled. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/31/04

Met Opera Names Record Exec To Succeed Volpe The Metropolitan Opera has named Sony Classical president Peter Gelb to succeed Joseph Volpe as general manager. The appointment came more quickly than some observers were anticipating - Volpe won't leave his post until 2006 - and Gelb could be seen as an unexpected GM, having had no direct experience in the performance world. "The Met has 850 full-time and 1,200 part-time employees and a budget of $204 million, and it mounts as many as 30 productions a year. The general manager has to deal with 18 unions, scores of instrumentalists and temperamental stars." The New York Times 10/30/04

  • Will The Met Go Commercial? Peter Gelb got his first job at the Met, as an usher, when he was still a teenager. Now he'll be expected to continue Joe Volpe's successful run, and to steer the massive company through an increasingly difficult time for classical music in general. Gelb's years at Sony Classical made him a target for purists - he shut down several specialty sub-labels and made "crossover" music a priority - and some longtime Met observers wonder if he will take a similarly commercial approach in his new post. The New York Times 10/30/04

Chicago Negotiations Down To The Wire The Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians' contract will expire at midnight tonight, and the players have already cleaned out their lockers at Symphony Hall in anticipation of a possible strike. "CSO contract negotiations are usually contentious, and settlements typically come at the last minute. Though there was no strike in 2000, the talks that led to the CSO's current four-year contract were regarded as particularly acrimonious." Chicago Sun-Times 10/30/04

  • Latest From Chicago: Extension Indicates Progress The CSO contract has been extended again, this time for a single day, in the wake of last-minute talks that both sides have called productive. The musicians have scheduled an all-orchestra meeting for Tuesday morning, when they will either vote to ratify or a new contract or call a strike. Chicago Tribune 10/31/04

We're Critics, Not PR Flaks At the recent symposium on the future of classical music criticism, a familiar argument raged over the role of the critic in promoting the form. "The assumption seems to be that music journalists can help keep classical music alive by constantly writing how wonderful it is and how terrific all those folks are who play it." But besides being an absurd line of reasoning, doesn't cheerleading demean the whole idea of intelligent criticism? "Critics, in every field, are indeed advocates. But not only for performing artists. We also must consider the audience and defend them from mediocrity and worse. At the core of this job is an allegiance to great art, and to those who create it." Rocky Mountain News 10/30/04

October 29, 2004

Chicago Symphony Likely On Strike Course With less than 72 hours before their contract runs out, it looks likely that musicians of the Chicago Symphony will be going out on strike. "During the last two weeks key issues such as salaries, health care and pension costs and work rules have not been broached even in conversations between the negotiating committee and management representatives, let alone as serious talking points, sources say." Chicago Tribune 10/29/04

NY City Opera Negotiating On New Home Rebuffed in its attempts to move to lower Manhattan, New York City Opera is negotiating to build a new home near Lincoln Center. The New York Times 10/29/04

October 28, 2004

Music Biz Of The Future (Could It Please Happen Now?) Clearly, the way of the future is getting music over the internet. And this will be good for the music business. "But the question facing the music industry is when that future will arrive. And the issue is most urgent for the four big companies that dominate the production and distribution of musicóUniversal, Sony/BMG, Warner and EMI." The Economist 10/28/04

The Secret Of Mozart's Skull "In a controversial operation, scientists have exhumed several skeletons from Mozart's family vault in Salzburg, where the composer spent most of his life. On Monday they appear to have discovered the remains of the composer's 16-year-old niece Jeanette, whose bones could unlock the mystery of whether the skull, currently kept by Salzburg's Mozarteum Foundation, really is Mozart's." The Guardian (UK) 10/27/04

Breslin: My Life With The Big Man SuperAgent Herbert Breslin sits down with Norman Lebrecht: "Breslin in his prime would play the media and the music business like a fairground accordionist, simultaneously squeezing and stroking to pump out hullabaloo. He could be tiresomely obscene or irresistibly comic - Puck to Pavarotti's Bottom - but there never any doubt of his driving passion. He might have made a bigger career in showbiz, but Breslin was devoted heart and soul to vocal beauty, and to Pavarotti as its supreme exponent." La Scena Musicale 10/28/04

Organized Crime Unit Recovers Missing BC Violins "Two violinists from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra have been reunited with their instruments after they were stolen seven months ago." The instruments, both of which were valuable 19th-century specimens, were taken out of the back seat of a car, and were reportedly recovered by a branch of the Vancouver Police known as the Intelligence Unit for Eastern European Organized Crime. Global BC (Canada) 10/27/04

Chicago Still In The Red, But Improving The Chicago Symphony Orchestra ran a deficit of $2.3 million on a budget of nearly $58 million in its 2003-04 season. That's the bad news. But the good news is that the red ink is about $1.7 million less than the CSO had anticipated, and significantly less than the $7 million deficit of a few years ago. Still, the orchestra was forced to withdraw more than $9 million from its endowment in the past year to cover operating costs. The CSO's management team has pledged a return to balanced budgets by the 2006-07 season. Chicago Sun-Times 10/28/04

Major Shakeup At Adelaide The entire upper management team of Australia's Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has resigned just a few weeks before the ensemble launches its much-anticipated Ring cycle. Tempers had reportedly flared at Adelaide in recent weeks over the management's plan to combat persistent deficits by replacing full-time players with part-time freelancers. The orchestra's outgoing chairman took a shot at the federal government for what he calls the "persistent underfunding" of the ASO. Adelaide Advertiser 10/28/04

October 27, 2004

Top 40 Not What It Used To Be "Just 2,000 copies are enough to crack the Top 40. The figure is less than a third of what it would have taken to make it into the chart as recently as six years ago, and is a clear sign of the decline of the singles industry. The number one, long viewed as the ultimate prize in the music business, reached a new low last week when Swedish DJ Eric Prydz had the worst sales ever recorded for a chart-topper." The Independent (UK) 10/24/04

Rachmaninoff Manuscript Found Lost for 100 years, the manuscript of Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony surfaces. "The first four pages of music have at some stage become detached and are missing, as is a title page - hence, perhaps, the fact that it has remained unidentified for so long. Most of the final page, on which there might have been a date and signature, has also gone astray. But the handwriting, the paper and the manner in which Rachmaninov made corrections - all are as they should be." The Telegraph (UK) 10/28/04

Crisis Over, Pittsburgh Symphony Is In The Black "The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra finished its 2003-04 fiscal year with a $463,000 surplus, a far cry from the $1.73 million shortfall the year before." Foundation, individual and corporate giving was up, and operating expenses were down by $2 million, largely due to pay cuts of 7.8 percent for musicians and 10 percent for staffers. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/27/04

October 26, 2004

Modern Maturity (Needed For Levine & Boston) James Levine may indeed be what the doctor ordered for the Boston Symphony. But his first concerts indicate that the relationship needs consderable maturing, writes Justin Davidson. "The classical music world is hoping for a golden age in Boston, and the inscrutably genial Levine isn't lowering any expectations. This concert was not the apotheosis of that relationship, but the prelude. Let the work of subtlety begin." Newsday 10/26/04

Hot Off The Ringer Cell phone ring tones have become a big source of revenue for recording companies. Now Billboard Magazine says it will start publishing a weekly top ringtones chart. "The new chart, known as the Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart, will reflect the "Top 20" polyphonic ringtone sales for each week, including song title, artist, previous week's position and number of weeks on the chart." Yahoo! (AP) 10/26/04

ABBA-Slumming With von Otter Mezzo Anne-Sofie von Otter is an established star. And what is she recording next? And album of ABBA songs. Really? "Why apply a refined instrument that is trained to achieve a supernatural range on the works of a band that groomed itself for the most feeble-minded of musical conventions, the Eurovision Song Contest?" La Scena Musicale 10/21/04

de Waart: Rebuilding Hong Kong The Hong Kong Philharmonic has had a tumultuous few years. Now Edo de Waart has taken over the orchestra. "Although de Waart's primary appeal is to the government, his comments seem equally pitched to the business community, from which he hopes to generate more private support. 'The challenge for a symphony orchestra in Asia is figuring out what and for whom we play. On one hand we're an inventor, trying to perfect our product. But we're also the shopkeeper, keeping track of who's buying'." Financial Times 10/26/04

Belfast Opera House To Get Facelift The Belfast Opera House - the city's most prominent theatre - has been granted approval for a makeover that will update the building to accomodate modern productions and audiences... Eircom.net 10/26/04

October 25, 2004

Rapping The Political Front Rap is popular all over the world, where it has been adapted into local cultures. "The rap form allows a powerful voice for political invective, and is being used on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The appeal of hip-hop has found a voice in the alienated Arab-Israeli/Palestinian communities within Israel, dominated by the Jewish majority and identifying with the sentiments of US rappers in their struggle against discrimination." The Guardian (UK) 10/25/04

A Gaddafi Opera? "The dance-hip-hop collective, Asian Dub Foundation, is planning a production of Gaddafi (working title), due for February 2006, with a rapper playing Gaddafi and a chorus comprised of his all-female cohort of bodyguards. Why is it that The Producers springs to mind with visions of Gaddafiís bodyguards instead of Gestapo lovelies goosestepping ŗ la Busby Berkeley?" The Scotsman 10/25/04

Downloading Flourishes Despite Industry Lawsuits In the past year, the recording industry has sued thousands of music downloaders for copyright infringement. "Previous studies reported that music downloading dropped as much as 50 percent after the RIAA started suing individual file traders." But a new study says that's not true. Indeed, file-trading is flourishing... Wired 10/15/04

Davis: What's Up With The Levine Hype? Peter G. Davis marvels at the James Levine phenomenon: "Not since the days of Arturo Toscanini has a conductor been so extolled in the local press as a musician without flaw." But Davis wonders why: "Despite his ubiquity, Levineís musical personality remains, for some of us at least, just as mysterious as his private nature. Iíve read the raves over the years, but I canít recall one that attempted to describe, let alone analyze, the specific nature of his interpretive aims and how they change our perception of the music." New York Magazine 10/25/04

Page: One Of The "Worst Opera Productions" I've Ever Seen Tim Page has been to a lot of operas. So when he writes about the Washington National Opera's production of Il Trovatore that: "the production is a thoroughgoing horror, and Saturday night in particular provided one of the worst performances of any opera I've ever seen. Graves aside, the singers strove mightily to pull themselves up onto the lowest rungs of mediocrity (were we really at the Kennedy Center?)" you might want to pay attention... Washington Post 10/25/04

Fischer-Dieskau, Gil Win Music's Richest Prize "Baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Brazilian singer, guitarist, and composer Gilberto Gil are the winners of the 2005 Polar Music Prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music announced today in Stockholm. The 14-year-old annual prize, which is usually awarded to a classical musician and a pop or jazz musician, is the world's biggest music prize, at one million Swedish Kroners, or approximately $135,000." PlaybillArts.com 10/25/04

Springer To Close In Debt? Jerry Springer - The Opera is a hit right? Well, it could close in London as early as today. "The award-winning musical has fallen prey to one of the worst years for ticket sales in West End history which, combined with the financial impact of a legal action against the Daily Mail, its producers say, has pushed the show into crisis." The Independent (UK) 10/25/04

When The Bad Stuff Endures "Pop music has often been described as a disposable commodity, yet the music industry's relentless repackaging of the past tends to ensure that pop songs are for life and not just for three minutes. But what happens when the artists themselves cannot but cringe at the enduring success of their more pathetic efforts?" The Telegraph (UK) 10/25/04

October 24, 2004

A Cheaper (Better?) Piano? The piano is 300-year-old technology. So can it be improved? Made more cheaply? An engineering professor is looking in to it. "Is there some material other than wood that will produce the dulcet sound of a Steinway without costing a mint? Can we figure out a way of constructing the keyboard-action mechanism (the keys striking the strings) so that it doesn't take an army of craftsman to put it into place? Can you change the shape of the piano and still allow it to resist the 20 tonnes of pressure the wires exert? Can piano wire be made differently?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/24/04

A Jazz Beachhead Will Lincoln Center's new jazz temple revive interest in the art form? "No one will doubt the scope and ambition of the venture, which marks the first time a cultural center has been conceived from the ground up to honor jazz, a music now virtually ignored by the country that invented it. Whether future generations will look upon the grand edifice as a turning point for indigenous American music or a glorious last stand for an art form that's slowly slipping from public consciousness (at least in the U.S.), Jazz at Lincoln Center clearly showed no hesitation in making its plans." Chicago Tribune 10/24/04

Classically Speaking - Today's Classical Music Critic There are plenty of things wrong with the way classical music is covered in today's newspapers. A symposium in New York last weekend focused on what it's like to be a classical music criic... Akron Beacon-Journal 10/24/04

Florida: An Inhospitable Climate For Classical Radio? South Florida classical station WKAT went out of business in August. Was it because the region couldn't support a classical station? "The fact is WKAT's failures were largely self-inflicted, a result of disastrous managerial decisions and the inherent problems faced in presenting symphonic music on AM." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 10/24/04

Jazz Has A New Palace. Does Anyone Care? Lincoln Center's glittering new jazz center is impressive both acoustically and visually, but is that enough? "When the last sax had sounded and the last champagne bottle was drained, a quandary remained: Will the 'House of Swing' revitalize jazz, or merely embalm it?" Dallas Morning News 10/23/04

How To Sound Gay It's somewhat appropriate that, in a year when being gay became unavoidably, irritatingly "cool" in the pop culture sphere, the classical music world appears to be obsessing over the phenomenon of the gay composer. But some scholars are going well beyond traditional views of homosexuality, and are suggesting that the "American sound" created by composers like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein is, in fact, the sound of a "queer sensibility" which is unique to gay composers. But can you really hear gayness in a piece of music? The New York Times 10/24/04

It's Not Who You Teach, It's How Many Senators You Know In Philadelphia, the new music-focused Orchestra 2001 is looking (so far, unsuccessfully) for a $20,000 grant to fund a groundbreaking music education series for underprivileged children. Meanwhile, Philly Pops got $150,000 in government funds last year for educational activities that were not exactly the height of creative engagement. Worse, the pops orchestra hasn't even used the vast majority of the money. Why the inequity? David Stearns says that it has little to do with artistic integrity, and a whole lot to do with political connections. Philadelphia Inquirer 10/24/04

Philly Mayor Deep In The Orchestral Trenches It was something of a surprise when Philadelphia mayor John Street, who has never taken a leading role in the city's arts community, stepped into the middle of the acrimonious Philadelphia Orchestra contract negotiations last week. But apparently, Street means to stay involved in the delicate contract talks: after brokering a new extension of the existing agreement, the mayor and his Commerce Director have taken a direct role in the process, and hope to use their combined clout to avoid a work stoppage. The intervention means that both musicians and management will likely have to stop posturing and actually make a good-faith attempt to settle their differences. Philadelphia Inquirer 10/24/04

Levine Sweeps Into Boston In High Style Say this for the Boston Symphony Orchestra: it knows how to welcome a maestro to town. A champagne reception, a black-tie dinner featuring such celebrities as James Taylor and John Williams, and a gala concert with ticket prices as high as $2500 kicked off James Levine's tenure as the BSO's 14th music director this weekend. Boston Herald 10/23/04

  • Starting Off With A Bang Levine and the BSO pulled out all the stops for the maestro's debut, performing Mahler's monumental "Symphony of a Thousand", which requires a mind-boggling 328 musicians. Richard Dyer liked what he saw. "[Levine's] conducting was undemonstrative, but vividly detailed and obviously inspiring. Only a little of it was invisible weaving; most of the time his baton sliced through plenty of space, and decisively... There was an occasional rough edge or sloppy entry in the orchestral playing, but an edge-of-the-chair intensity and excitement carried all before it." Boston Globe 10/23/04

Another Audubon Controversy The Audubon Quartet is making headlines again, three years after the group was dismissed from the faculty of Virginia Tech in the wake of recriminations and lawsuits stemming from the group's decision to split with its first violinist, David Ehrlich. The Audubon has continued to perform with a new first violinist, ever as Ehrlich has continued to challenge the group's right to perform at all. Now, Ehrlich has been suddenly and unexpectedly rehired at Virginia Tech as an "outreach" coordinator, and the music faculty are furious. Roanoke Times 10/24/04

  • Previously: STRING QUARTET HAS TO PAY: (link expired) A Pennsylvania judge has ordered three members of the Audubon String Quartet to pay the fourth member - David Ehrlich - more than $600,000. The group had thrown the first violinist out of the group 20 months ago after disagreements. The judge "ruled that Ehrlich was part owner of the Audubon Quartet, and therefore entitled to 25 percent of the group's assets." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/18/01
October 22, 2004

Will Levine Transform Boston? The James Levine era begins at the Boston Symphony this evening, and to say that expectations are high would be a gross mischaracterization of the situation. "Levine has such a strong artistic vision it will reach beyond the BSO players and audiences. BSO audiences will take their ears to other organizations and will be listening in a different way." Boston Herald 10/22/04

Pops Goes The Producer The Boston Pops has made a lot of money from recordings over the years. But with the recording industry all but getting out of the business of recording orchestras, the Pops had a big void to fill. So the orchestra has decided to self-record and produce its own recordings... Boston Globe 10/22/04

Broken Lessons - Music Instruction In The UK What's wrong with music instruction in the UK? Well, for starters, students from poor families are largely shut out of lessons. A study also found that there was "clear gender stereotyping" in the choice of instruments, and found little being done to tackle this.
BBC 10/22/04

October 21, 2004

Crookall To Run Indianapolis Symphony Simon Crookall has been named executive director of the Indianapolis Orchestra. "A 44-year-old Englishman who has worked in Scotland for nearly half his life, Crookall has been with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for nine years, eight as chief executive." Indianapolis Star 10/21/04

A Month Of Listening - Taking The Music Industry's Temperature Just where is music going at the moment? One journalist decides to take the industry's temperature by listening to every CD released in the month of October. "I'm struck not just by the sheer quantity - 25,793 CDs were released last year, over double the figure produced in 1994 - but also by the variety. The cost of entry into the market is lower than it ever was before. It costs less to manufacture CDs, and it costs less to record an album. At the same time, the gap between those albums that sell in huge quantities and those that don't is probably greater than ever." The Guardian (UK) 10/22/04

Opera's New Contemporary Themes "With many opera companies facing stagnating ticket sales and aging audiences, composers and producers are turning to contemporary conflicts and headline news in a bid to lure new crowds. A new batch of contemporary operas -- from rappers rhyming about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to an experimental musical about Microsoft boss Bill Gates -- sets out to change that image." Seattle Post-Intelligencer (AP) 10/21/04

October 20, 2004

What Does It Mean To Be A Classical Music Critic? What's the role of a classical music critic in the 21st Century? A symposium in New York last weekend dissected the profession. "The idea of critic as advocate was a central theme of the symposium and was alternately supported, tolerated, and scornfully dismissed." Gramophone 10/20/04

Philadelphia Orchestra, Players, Extend Contract Talks Seeking to head off a strike by musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra set for Thursday, the city's mayor called players and management into his office Wednesday and got both sides to agree to a ten-day extension of talks. "Orchestra management says it is facing a $4.2 million deficit, and had asked the musicians to agree to a reduction in the size of the orchestra or a pay cut or a combination of both. It also wanted to change the pension system in a way the musicians say would reduce benefits. The musicians countered that cuts in personnel or pay would undermine the quality of one of the world's great orchestras." The New York Times 10/21/04

  • Philadelphia Orchestra Players Pessimistic In Contract Talks "Players of the Philadelphia Orchestra [Tuesday] reviewed the latest contract proposal from management, which they said was a lot like the first contract proposal from management, which they said looked a lot like management was trying to force a strike." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/20/04

October 19, 2004

Domingo To Run Metropolitan? Who will be the next general director of the Metropolitan Opera? Insiders say Placido Domingo is on the short list. "Mr. Domingo is quietly pursuing the position, meeting individually with several Met board members, the officials said. In addition, he spent time with members of the board's search committee on Oct. 6." The New York Times 10/20/04

Starbucks Brews Up New Music Biz Starbuck's has unveiled its new music business, which lets customers select and burn CDs while they sip their brew. "Coffeehouse customers use computer tablets to select from 150,000 tracks, which include reggae, world music, jazz and religious songs. The tablets transmit the selections to the CD-burning machine, which can burn two discs at a time." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/19/04

Lincoln Center's New Jazz Palace Lincoln Center opens its new theatre complex devoted to jazz. Ben Ratlif says that while it's too soon to pass judgment on the complex's finer points, "already these rooms impressively translate into bricks-and-mortar reality how the planners of Jazz at Lincoln Center have raised the stakes for jazz to become visible and powerful in the city." The New York Times 10/19/04

October 18, 2004

Pappano Saves The Day The London production of La Forza del Destino that was thrown into chaos three weeks ago when La Scala chief conductor Riccardo Muti quit in a huff has opened on schedule, and Andrew Clark says that the Brits are very lucky. "When Muti withdrew [because of] changes made unilaterally to his scenery, [Royal Opera conductor] Antonio Pappano did a very noble thing. He dropped all his engagements, quickly learned the score and threw himself into rehearsals. The Royal Opera can count itself lucky to have a music director who not only leads by example, but is a born Verdian." Financial Times (UK) 10/18/04

  • No, He Doesn't Andrew Clements declares the new La Forza a consummate disaster. Muti, whose departure may have been about more than scenery, was the only reason the Royal Opera House wanted the production in the first place, and when he cut out, "the company was left with the part of the package it never wanted: a staging of monumental awfulness. The music director, Antonio Pappano, gamely took over in the pit, but the Royal Opera deserves little sympathy for the mess, since it had been happy to compromise artistic standards in the first place by importing the show just to pander to an overrated conductor." The Guardian (UK) 10/19/04

  • Previously: Muti Quits Touring Production Conductor Riccardo Muti has withdrawn from a touring La Scala production of La Forza del Destino set for London's Royal Opera House, in a dispute over, of all things, scenery. The argument centers on several small chunks of wall used in the Milan production, which the ROH had deemed too large for its stage. After several weeks of argument, Muti had had enough, and abruptly quit the project. The Independent (UK) 09/24/04

Jarvi's Replacement Still A Long Way Off The Detroit Symphony is taking its time in the search for a new music director to replace Neeme Jarvi - in fact, the orchestra may play two or three full seasons without an official leader after Jarvi departs next summer. So why the delay? Part of the problem is the lack of great conductors in the world, but "a more subtle issue has been management's inability, dating back at least a decade, to lasso enough A-list guest conductors and nurture relationships that might blossom into a music directorship." Detroit Free Press 10/17/04

Living The Orchestral High Life In San Diego Don't lump the San Diego Symphony in with all those North American orchestras struggling to make ends meet. The ensemble, which recently received an unprecedented $120 million gift from a local couple, is flush with cash, and the financial security is starting to translate into measurable artistic gains as well. The average musician's salary will jump $14,600 this season, and the marketing budget has tripled. A $3 million office renovation has been completed, and the SDSO ended the 2003 fiscal year with a $600,000 surplus. So what's next? More fundraising, of course. San Diego Union-Tribune 10/17/04

Opera Of The People Opera North, the regional company based in Leeds, England, has reported a 25% jump in ticket sales, and a demographic breakdown shows that the company has succeeded in attracting an audience that goes well outside the wealthy elite crowd normally associated with the form. At a time when many UK opera companies are struggling to attract audience as well as funding, Opera North's success story is a major surprise, and other companies may begin to take a look at its programming strategies, which have included some unorthodox productions in recent years. The Observer (UK) 10/17/04

Music Looking For A Partner Composers are almost always happiest when they know for whom they are writing, and when they can tailor their latest work to a specific musician's talents, especially in the realm of vocal music, where the subtle discrepancies between voices of can make a world of difference in performance. In an effort to promote such collaborations, a new workshop has been launched by the composer John Harbison and the soprano Dawn Upshaw, bringing together young singers and composers who have never met, but who will be expected to make music together by the end of the session. The New York Times 10/17/04

October 17, 2004

Levine In Boston When James Levine debuts as music director of the Boston Symphony next weekend, he will do so as arguably the most scrutinized conductor to take over a major American orchestra in the last thirty years. A master of networking and publicity, Levine is also credited with transforming the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra from a glorified pit band to one of the country's top instrumental ensembles. Questions about his health notwithstanding, the BSO is expecting nothing less than a rebirth on the coattails of its new leader. Boston Globe 10/17/04

  • Yet Another NYC-Boston Rivalry Days after he debuts in Boston, James Levine will travel back to New York to put his new toy on display at Carnegie Hall, where comparisons between the quality of the BSO and the Met Opera Orchestra are sure to be made by the sharp-tongued Big Apple critics. Over the course of the season, Levine will conduct six Carnegie concerts: three with the Met, and three with Boston. It's almost as if the same guy is managing the Yankees and the Red Sox, and for classical music fans in the Northeast, it should be an interesting matchup. Boston Herald 10/07/04

  • Assessing The Agenda Richard Dyer sees three big tasks ahead for James Levine and his new orchestra. "The first is improving the quality of the BSO. The second is renewing and refreshing the repertoire. And the third is bringing the public along on the journey." Boston Globe 10/17/04

The Great Beta Blocker Debate The use of so-called "beta blocker" drugs is rampant in the classical music world, where a single mistake can be career-threatening and the tiny muscle motions needed to control a performance can be seriously affected by a sudden attack of nerves. But even in private, most professional musicians never talk about the prevalence of the drugs, for fear of admitting weakness. Still, performers and doctors alike defend the use of beta blockers, pointing out that that they are far less harmful than the alcohol and Valium that musicians of the past used to overcome nervousness. The New York Times 10/17/04

  • Previously: The Musician's Steroid? Music is probably not the first profession that springs to mind when one thinks of the problem of performance-enhancing drugs. And yet, the use of an anxiety-reducing drug called Inderal to get an increasing number of classical musicians through stressful auditions and solo performances is a hot-button issue in the industry. The drug is legal, non-habit-forming, and has no serious side effects, and yet, many musicians believe that using it amounts to a kind of cheating every bit as serious as an athlete's use of steroids. The Partial Observer 09/27/04

Wynton's Dream Realized You can't talk about Lincoln Center's new jazz complex without bringing up the man who single-handedly spearheaded the drive for its construction. "For [Wynton] Marsalis, who has been artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center since its mid-1980s inception, this moment will represent the realization of a cherished dream: a glittering, multileveled, permanent home in the heart of Manhattan for the music to which he has sworn passionate, unwavering allegiance." Newsday (New York) 10/17/04

Ohlsson's Crosstown Doubleheader It happens to the best of us: a busy day combines with a brief brain lapse, and suddenly, you've double-booked yourself. It's a tricky situation for anyone, but when you're one of the world's most popular concert pianists, it's a major headache. Enter Garrick Ohlsson, who is scheduled to appear in both Newark and Montclair, New Jersey, this coming Friday night. Unfortunately, cancellation was not an option for either concert; fortunately, the two towns are only 12 miles apart. The solution: Montclair's concert will be pushed up by half and hour, and as soon as he is done taking his bows, Ohlsson will dash off to Newark, arriving minutes before he is scheduled to take the stage. The New York Times 10/16/04

More Than Just The Backup Band Most classical music enthusiasts are aware that the Dallas Symphony has elevated itself over the last decade or so to a position in the top ranks of American orchestras. But toiling in the shadow of Dallas is another outstanding ensemble that usually gets mentioned in the national press only as the resident orchestra for the Van Cliburn piano competition. Once a regional chamber orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony has thrived under the leadership of music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and William Littler says that the group deserves to be taken seriously in any discussion of North America's top orchestras. Toronto Star 10/16/04

October 15, 2004

Miami Losing Classical Radio (Again) The AM radio station that stepped into South Florida's classical music void when the local public radio station abandoned the genre three years ago has been sold to a religious broadcaster, and will likely cease its classical programming by the beginning of 2005. WKAT had struggled to attract advertisers since going classical in the fall of 2002, and even arts benefactors in the area weren't terribly interested in helping the station out. Eventually, the station's owners were forced to sell in order to pay outstanding bills. Miami Herald 10/15/04

Jazz Finds A Home At Lincoln Center Lincoln Center's new $128 million performing arts center has finally brought jazz officially into the fold at New York's flagship musical institution. "No longer will it be squatting in someone else's territory, as it was at Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. Now Jazz at Lincoln Center can create concerts with a much greater sense of freedom in the practical aspects of scheduling and staging than it could in the past. The new complex, within the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, includes three performance spaces," ranging in size and style from a 140-seat nightclub to a full-size hall seating 1,200. The New York Times 10/15/04

October 14, 2004

Will Safe Programming Be The Orchestral Death Knell? Orchestras seem to be pulling away from adventurous programming as a knee-jerk reaction to short-term fiscal problems. But Norman Lebrecht fears that such decisions will only hasten the demise of orchestral relevance. "While a programme of family favourites may stabilise finances and reassure creditors, it casts into acute doubt the survival of the symphony orchestra in the modern world. Who, after all, needs so many orchestras if they all play the same music and none of it is new? It is a question that is starting to trouble hardcore supporters of live music." La Scena Musicale 10/14/04

Lucerne's All-Star Orchestra There was a time, not too long ago, when the Lucerne Festival was only a minor blip on the classical music scene, but these days, the Swiss town is among the most important stops for the world's top touring orchestras. But it wasn't until Claudio Abbado came on board in 2000 that the festival developed the idea to create its very own dream ensemble. "What Abbado proposed was for the festival to have its own orchestra once again, but one of a very special nature... Its 40-odd members would be supplemented by players from the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, as well as front-rank chamber musicians and soloists. Indeed, the orchestra's roll-call was astonishing." The Guardian (UK) 10/15/04

Getting Political, Without Words As artists, pop stars, and authors leap headlong into the political fray, why can't composers do the same? Obviously, it's a bit tricky for artists who work with notes and rhythms alone to make it explicitly clear that their latest symphony is meant as an endorsement of a particular candidate or policy, but some are trying anyway. "Although we rarely hear about it, the new music community is actively challenging convention, as it always has, using a wide range of artistic means to engage in a civic dialogue that stretches well beyond the scope of the upcoming election." NewMusicBox 10/04

  • Where's The Anger? Composer Phil Kline, who has penned a song cycle based on Pentagon briefings and anti-war material, worries that composers aren't angry enough about the state of the world to really make a difference. "I have a feeling that as far as the pain and the anger and the alarm in the music, we probably haven't heard anything yet, because I think a lot of us are just beginning to wake up." NewMusicBox 10/04

October 13, 2004

Choosing The Conductor Of The People North Carolina's Asheville Symphony is looking for a new music director for the first time in 22 years, and it has narrowed its search to three candidates. Nothing unusual there, but the orchestra's method of evaluating the finalists is something quite different from the usual behind-closed-doors insider review. "After their performances, the conductors will each be rated by the 12-member search committee and an informal board of consultants of about two dozen people in the community who are reasonably knowledgeable about music and the symphony." In other words, the audience gets a quantifiable voice in the hiring process. Asheville Citizen-Times 10/14/04

What Really Made Mozart Tic According to a new documentary, Mozart may have suffered from Tourette's Syndrome. Researchers believe that the composer "self-medicated" his condition with his music, able to control his tics so long as he was absorbed in his art. The documentary highlights Mozart's "inability to rein in impulses, the sudden boredom, his sense of mischief and his scatalogical obsession, which all point to Tourette's." The Telegraph (UK) 10/14/04

Gay Chic Comes To The Opera The English National Opera will take the unusual step of launching its 2005-06 season with a potentially controversial new opera by Irish composer Gerald Barry. The work, entitled The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, concerns "lesbian love, passion and jealousy set against the backdrop of a fashion studio," and will feature an all-female cast. The ENO's new artistic director, SeŠn Doran, has made it clear that he intends to put his own stamp on the troubled company, and plans to mount at least two new works each season. The Guardian (UK) 10/14/04

October 12, 2004

Stockhausen's Seven-Part Licht To Debut Twenty-five years in the making, "German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's epic Licht cycle is to be staged in its entirety for the first time. The European Centre for the Arts Hellerau in Dresden will stage the 29-hour piece in 2008 to coincide with Stockhausen's 80th birthday." BBC 10/12/04

Want Musical Kids? Surround Them With Sound "Educators and others agree that early and regular exposure is the key to developing a child's true appreciation for music. ... The music appreciation process should be fun, too, experts say. But whatever form of music you seek to promote with your children, there are time-tested rules: expose them to the music early and often; make music a recurring positive experience; and be creative." Washington Post 10/12/04

More Opera, More Of The Time With its Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts due to open in fall 2006, Toronto is heading toward a richer operatic future, more like that of another opera-mad North American city. "What made San Franciscans so susceptible to the plight of consumptive sopranos and murdered tenors? Sheer exposure has had a great deal to do with it. Since the War Memorial Opera House threw open its many doors in 1932, the city of the Golden Gate has possessed what most cities on this continent still lack, a house specifically designed to accommodate the stage works of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner." Toronto Star 10/12/04

October 11, 2004

So Why Won't Anyone Admit To It? Lip-synching is back in the news, thanks to a recent Elton John tirade against Madonna's acceptance of an award for "best live act." But as pop stars continue to protest that they would never think of miming their songs, a consensus is building that, for the most part, it doesn't actually matter whether the biggest stars sing or not. After all, in today's world of high-gloss glitter pop, no one is really buying a ticket because of the vocal talents of the performers. A Britney Spears (or Madonna, or Christina, or Ashlee, or whomever) show isn't about music - it's about selling an image, and the singing is well and truly secondary. The Age (Melbourne) 10/11/04

Liverpool Phil Tries Some Executive Control A rescue effort is underway for the beleagured Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, led by veteran record producer Andrew Cornall, who has been named the orchestra's executive director and given wide-ranging power to make changes in the organization. The appointment is seen as a move away from a structure which placed responsibility for programming largely in the hands of the music director. The Phil's current MD, Gerard Schwarz, was recently informed that his contract would not be renewed. The Guardian (UK) 10/11/04

Quietly, Competently, The Phil Gets A Deal Done In a year when orchestra negotiations in many American cities have turned quite publicly ugly, the New York Philharmonic's new deal was inked with a minimum of acrimony. The contract is also a departure from the recent trend of major cutbacks and artistic compromises that have plagued some ensembles, and though the NY Phil musicians will lose their place as the highest-paid ensemble in the country, they will take no wage or benefit cuts, and are hopeful that their deal will set a precedent for other groups. The New York Times 10/11/04

The Conundrum Of The Modern Composer Talk with a composer these days, and you likely won't have to dig very deep to find some serious bitterness over the direction of the classical music industry. Orchestras are deathly afraid of driving away audiences with difficult contemporary works, record labels are only interested in pop-crossover junk, and the spectre of serialism still makes most listeners wary of anything new. Still, with obscurity comes freedom, and "a lot of the dross around composing and what it means has been cut away and people are certainly expressing their hearts more." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 10/10/04

When Did Traditionalism Become Controversial? As conductors go, Raymond Leppard is a realist, and he is eager to spread the gospel of performance within an appropriate scale to smaller orchestras across America. For instance, why would an orchestra with 65 musicians ever attempt to mount performances of Mahler symphonies and Strauss tone poems intended for orchestras of 100, when there is an endless supply of music (Mozart, Haydn, etc.) specifically intended for the smaller-sized ensemble? And while new music is all well and good in theory, Leppard stresses that "when you're so busy chasing notes in a 20th-century score, you can't pay attention to your neighbors." Louisville Courier-Journal 10/10/04

Canada's Musical Salon The old European idea of the intellectual salon has combined with the modern concept of marketing to the multitasking generation to create a wildly successful concert series in Toronto. The Off Centre Music Series, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, offers prelude concerts, guest lecturers, social interaction, top-notch pastries, and of course, the main event, presented less as a formal concert than as a gathering of friends around a common love of music. Toronto Star 10/10/04

Letting The Music Speak For Itself The Delaware Symphony is not an ensemble most people would think of as cutting edge, but a new marketing technique is being pioneered in Wilmington which larger orchestras probably should have thought of years ago. "Instead of the traditional orchestra pamphlet simply listing programs and prices, which is often geared toward listeners who already know what they want, the Delaware Symphony's "Guidebook" takes potential ticket buyers gently by the ear and leads them through the season's repertoire." The season brochure is accompanied by a 30-minute CD which features musical samples, and the orchestra's music director talking about the music. Philadelphia Inquirer 10/10/04

Will Early Starts And Silent Films Put Butts In The Seats? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is hoping to fit itself into the busy lives of modern professionals with a new series of concerts aimed at multitasking, sleep-deprived workaholics. The concerts will begin quite early in the evening, and will run no more than 90 minutes, with no intermission. Gone will be the traditional orchestral formalwear, and a host will guide the audience through the program. Another new series will focus on film music, with the CSO providing live accompaniment to a Charlie Chaplin film projected above the stage. It's all about attracting that elusive new audience that has become the Holy Grail for every American orchestra. Chicago Sun-Times 10/10/04

A Brief History Of Supertitles They're ubiquitous now, but operatic supertitles are actually only 20 years old, and it's easy to forget how such a simple invention changed the face of the entire form. Toronto's Canadian Opera Company was the first to try the idea back in 1983, and the practice spread quickly despite the objections of purists, making even the completely uninitiated able to follow the often convoluted plots unfolding on stage. But a technology that most operagoers take for granted now is far more complicated and accident-prone than most of us realize, and it was only fairly recently that supertitles entered the computer age. Baltimore Sun 10/10/04

Return Of The Protest Song This election year has focused the entertainment industry like nothing since the Vietnam era, and after decades of staying out of such debates, pop musicians have penned a stunning number of protest songs and partisan anthems. From classic rocker John Fogerty to blues man Keb' 'Mo to a metal band called Lamb of God, everyone in the music biz seems to be getting political, and a lot of what's out there is actually good music. The New York Times 10/10/04

October 10, 2004

NY Phil Settles Contract, Sets Up Possible Domino Effect The musicians of the New York Philharmonic have agreed to a new three-year contract, ending the speculation over which of the largest American orchestras would settle first. The new deal, which is expected to set the pace for bargaining at the other major orchestras, calls for weekly salary increases which will eventually raise the minimum weekly scale to $2,180, and improvements to the musicians' benefit package. The New York Times (AP) 10/10/04

Mediation For SF Chorus The management of the San Francisco Symphony and the union representing the professional members of the orchestra's chorus have agreed to mediation in an effort to avoid a work stoppage which could have begun this coming week. San Jose Mercury News 10/08/04

  • Previously: SF Symphony Chorus May Strike The professional members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus are threatening to strike next week's performances if progress is not made in their ongoing contract negotiations. 30 of the chorus's 180 members are paid, and those singers are members of the American Guild of Musical Artists. There is no word on whether the unionized musicians of the symphony itself would cross a potential picket line. San Francisco Chronicle 10/08/04

Sacramento Controversy Has Arts Groups Looking For Distance Since the Sacramento Bee began to raise serious questions about the business ethics and practices of the new Sacramento Symphony, the arts community has been forced to choose sides in the increasingly divisive debate. A glance at the newspaper's letters page reveals that, while some in the community just want to listen to music, there is a distinct desire on the part of other orchestral groups in the area to completely disassociate themselves from the beleagured symphony. Sacramento Bee 10/08/04

LA Phil Boosts Endowment Less than a year ago, the endowment of the Los Angeles Philharmonic was barely as large as its annual operating budget, and the lowest among major U.S. orchestras. But this week, the Phil announced that it has raised $75 million for its endowment, and plans to raise $25 million more over the next three years. The largest single gift in the endowment drive is from the Disney Foundation. Big News Network (Australia) 10/09/04

October 8, 2004

SF Symphony Chorus May Strike The professional members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus are threatening to strike next week's performances if progress is not made in their ongoing contract negotiations. 30 of the chorus's 180 members are paid, and those singers are members of the American Guild of Musical Artists. There is no word on whether the unionized musicians of the symphony itself would cross a potential picket line. San Francisco Chronicle 10/08/04

Bypassing The Middleman As the corporations that control the popular music market continue to tighten their grip and shrink their playlists, bands outside the increasingly narrow "mainstream" are turning to the vaguely defined world of internet buzz to market themselves. With the recent proliferation of web sites designed to be "people hubs" (bringing users together around common interests or relationships), musicians have seen an opportunity to generate interest in their work without having to crack the playlist at MTV or ClearChannel. The Christian Science Monitor 10/08/04

October 7, 2004

How To Run A Concert Venue: Don't Rely On Ticket Sales St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, which is the main home to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the secondary concert site of the Minnesota Orchestra, has balanced its books for the second year running, after years of red ink. "The Ordway embarked on an austerity program and stepped up its fund-raising efforts for the 2002-'03 fiscal year, raising $3.6 million. The theater nearly matched that figure this year... as the Ordway seeks to decrease its dependence on box office revenues." St. Paul Pioneer Press 10/07/04

Piano's New Music Box "It is doubtlessly an intimidating challenge to improve the architecture of Rome, but leading Italian architect Renzo Piano may have done just that with his design of the city's new Parco della Musica. This new music complex, almost a decade in planning and construction, not only provides Rome with attractive new musical venues, but also acts as a large-scale infill project by returning a previously underused site to the city's urban fabric." Tandem 10/10/04

Scottish Opera Goes Begging Desperately searching for ways to stay afloat financially, Scottish Opera, which will be forced by the Scottish Executive to go dark for a year in summer 2005, is considering mounting a tour outside of Scotland to be paid for by England's Arts Council. "There is concern that if the opera drops out of sight, the road back will be even tougher. Staging a brand-new opera in Scotland, however, could potentially cost up to £400,000." So if there is a tour, Scottish audiences may miss out on seeing their own opera company. The Scotsman (UK) 10/08/04

Following The Leader The UK's music industry trade group is preparing to file lawsuits against 28 illegal file-traders, in a mimic of the anti-piracy tactic that has been used effectively by industry groups in Europe and the US. The European group will soon be suing a new group of nearly 500 file-swappers; the US recording companies have sued nearly 6,000. BBC 10/07/04

  • Does File-Swapping Really Hurt Anyone? One illegal downloader offers a counterpoint to the recording industry's assertion that the practice is destroying their businesses. "I've never burnt a CD and sold it on. It isn't done. You just do it for your own use. I probably spend more on music now since I started downloading." The Guardian (UK) 10/08/04

October 6, 2004

Clutch Performances There's never an easy solution when a soloist cancels on an orchestra, and for the Oregon Symphony last weekend, a sudden hand injury to pianist Louis Lortie only hours before showtime left a major void in their concert where Rachmaninoff's 3rd should have been. On one half-hour's notice, the orchestra's musicians agreed to sight-read Tchaikovsky's ultra-familiar 4th symphony as a replacement, and won a standing ovation for their efforts. Even more amazingly, with one concert still to be performed the next night, the symphony managed to convince an award-winning soloist to board a plane from Alabama to the Pacific Northwest and perform the original concerto with no rehearsals. The Oregonian (Portland) 10/06/04

October 5, 2004

Minor Orchestra, Major Discord Canada's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra made headlines a few months back with a pitched internal battle over a decision to terminate its music director. The orchestra has been trying to put the incident behind it, but much bitterness remains. Three members of the board of directors have resigned in the last month, and the remaining members are still sharply divided, with the minority side pushing for conductor Martin Fischer-Dieskau to be rehired. CBC News 10/05/04

  • Previously: Ontario Orchestra Decides Not To Rehire Music Director Several months ago the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony fired music director Martin Fischer-Dieskau. But an uprising among the orchestra's supporters won a commitment to re-hire him. After months of negotiations, though, the orchestra has decided not to rehire him. "Negotiations between Fischer-Dieskau, the symphony board and management fell apart over the weekend, with the symphony eventually deciding Tuesday evening that it could not meet with the Berlin-based conductor's demands, which reportedly included full artistic leadership of the symphony." CBC 04/28/04

Iranian Hardliners Cancel Outreach Concerts "A series of concerts organized by foreign embassies in Iran have been cancelled at the last minute, apparently due to increased curbs on cultural events by the Islamic republic's hardliners, diplomats said yesterday. Two jazz concerts organized by Italy's embassy were cancelled last week just hours before the Italian performers -- who had flown here for the event -- were due to take to the stage... In addition, diplomats said a series of Swiss embassy-sponsored classical music soirees due to take place this week were ordered to be cancelled without any explanation." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/05/04

Are Reggae Protests Hiding Racist Undertones? Several prominent reggae artists have recently faced widespread protest and condemnation for their antigay lyrics, and some have even found themselves disinvited from events and awards shows. But many of the same groups that have been so furious in their condemnation of the exclusively black reggae singers seem to take a wholly different tone when dealing with the viciously homophobic (but blond/blue-eyed) rapper Eminem. Could there be a twinge of racism behind all the protest? Boston Globe 10/05/04

October 4, 2004

Dodging Tomatos Before The Overture The English National Opera's current revival of Calixto Bieito's much-hated 2001 production of Don Giovanni is causing critics and opera devotees the world over to wonder whether those involved in the show have taken leave of their senses. Mark Stone, who has the lead in the revival, doesn't quite see what all the fuss is about, but as he reveals in his online diary leading up to opening night, he's more than a bit nervous about his decision to accept the role. Opera News Online 10/04/04

  • It's Really Not That Bad So how bad is Bieito's Don Giovanni? Not bad at all, says one critic, and while all the simulated sex on stage does frequently make the singers look quite uncomfortable and damned silly besides, there's nothing here to offend anyone with prior knowledge of how lascivious opera plots can be. Oh, and in case anyone cares, the cast is apparently singing Mozart's music quite well... Financial Times 10/05/04

  • Previously: The Worst-Reviewed Opera Ever (Take Two) It isn't often that a production of a Mozart opera can inspire critics to foam at the mouth, and yet, the English National Opera managed it three years ago with Claixto Bieito's mounting of Don Giovanni. "A crude, anti-musical farrago", a "coke-fuelled fellatio fest", and a "new nadir in the vulgar abuse of a masterpiece" were but a few of the barbs hurled ENO's way. So what does a company do after such a spectacular critical failure? Bring it back for an encore, apparently, and the reviews ("I should sooner poke my eyes out and sell my children into slavery than sit though it again") aren't looking any better the second time around. The Guardian (UK) 09/29/04

Well, They Do Have The Word "Royal" In Their Names London's Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music are being accused of class bias after a study revealed that less than half of applicants from state-run public schools were accepted to the schools, despite a government benchmark of 88%. The schools complain that they cannot be expected to admit unqualified students, and that music education has been so devalued in the public schools that a generation of pupils has grown to university age without any high-level understanding of the subject. The Guardian (UK) 10/04/04

Cincy's New Contract Has Serious Cuts The Cincinnati Symphony has inked a new contract with its musicians, and the particulars are an ominous sign for musicians in a season in which most of the major American orchestras are negotiating. "It includes a two-year wage freeze, renegotiation of the orchestra's health-care plan and a reduction through attrition in the number of full-time musicians from 99 to 92." Cincinnati Enquirer 10/04/04

Leading From Within The news stories about the Pittsburgh Symphony's new artistic leadership model made copious use of the term "triumvirate." But, says Andrew Druckenbrod, the PSO's plan is far from the idea of a three-headed boss, and that's a good thing, given the clashes of ego that could be involved in such an arrangement. "In truth, no one is succeeding Mariss Jansons as music director -- not [Sir Andrew] Davis, not all three of the conductors. That's the heart of the revolution of the PSO's announcement: The changed relationship between an artistic leader and the orchestra that gives the musicians and staff more power in deciding the future of the group." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/03/04

The Little Label That Did Nonesuch Records has always been an anomaly in the world of the American recording industry. More than merely a collection of artists, this label actually inspires loyalty in its customers, many of whom will go out of their way to purchase a Nonesuch album, sure that their money will not be wasted. Indeed, the "tiny, vigorously eclectic label... has become a kind of American cultural institution. It has an influence far out of proportion to its size, and some think it could be a guidepost for a record industry in desperate need of direction." The New York Times 10/03/04

Gramophone Artist Of The Year To Kozena Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena has been voted artist of the year in the UK's Gramophone Awards. Kozena, who has made headlines recently for becoming pregnant by Sir Simon Rattle, has risen quickly to become one of Europe's most prominent classical voices in the last few years. The award is voted by the readers of Gramophone magazine. The Independent (UK) 10/02/04

October 3, 2004

Sacramento Symphony Exec Quits, Charges Unethical Accounting The executive director of the organization that oversees the newly formed Sacramento Symphony has resigned, and is accusing the Metropolitan Music Center of mismanaging funds and playing fast and loose with business ethics. Rachel Lewis also insists that she never signed the musicians' checks which bounced following the orchestra's opening concert, and further claims that she tried to convince the MMC to cancel the concert due to a shortage of funds for payroll. The MMC's board of directors is vehemently denying all of Lewis's charges. Sacramento Bee 10/02/04

  • Previously: Sacramento Symphony Bounces Checks To Musicians The newly formed Sacramento Symphony played its season premiere this past weekend, and issued paychecks to its musicians. Monday morning, the checks bounced. "Although the checks cleared on Wednesday, the situation raised questions about the financial position of the symphony and its parent organization, the Metropolitan Music Center." The MMC is reportedly operating in the red, and still owes money to a Los Angeles-based chamber orchestra from a concert in 2001. Still, the orchestra is insisting that the rubber checks were merely a banking error. Sacramento Bee 09/30/04

  • An Organization Built On Lies? Questions about the ethics and business practices of the Sacramento Symphony and its parent organization were first raised two weeks ago, when a newspaper investigation concluded that the MMC was "falsely claiming association with several prominent artists and support from local businesses and organizations." Sacramento Bee 09/17/04

People Will Listen, If You Teach Them How The newly rekindled San Antonio Symphony held an outdoor concert last week aimed at the city's Hispanic population, and (almost) nobody came. Yes, it was a broiling-hot day, but Mike Greenberg suggests that the SAS may be trying to attract new audience members without making a real commitment to the most basic audience-building technique. "A Mexican American doesn't have to make any more of a cultural 'leap' to the symphony than does a German or Polish or Italian American... [But] to build an audience for the long term, the symphony needs to take a long-term view of its educational and outreach missions, and I don't think it's done that very well." San Antonio Express-News 10/03/04

Seriously Deep Music Shaft Chamber No. 41 is not a particularly glamorous name for a concert hall, but for the Donbass Symphony Orchestra, the cavernous shaft sunk 200 meters deep in a salt mine in eastern Ukraine made a fine space for its debut concert. "Instead of cocktail dresses and dinner jackets, most of the audience were dressed in winter coats. The temperature underground was a chilly 14 degrees Celsius." BBC 10/03/04

Another Day, Another Contract Extension Following the lead of the nation's major orchestras, the musicians and management of the Florida Orchestra have agreed to continue working towards a new collective bargaining agreement despite the expiration of the musicians' current deal. The orchestra's current base salary is roughly $24,000 for a 31-week season. St. Petersburg Times 10/02/04

Madison's New PAC Good Enough For Chicago Madison's new Overture Center for the Arts, designed by Cesar Pelli and built at a cost of $205 million (all of which was paid by a single donor,) has opened its main concert hall with a performance by the Chicago Symphony, and if musician reaction is any indication, the little university town in Wisconsin has constructed one of the country's great concert halls. "Several CSO players reported that they could hear themselves and each other with greater clarity than at perhaps any hall they have played... Pelli and Chicago-based acousticians Kirkegaard Associates have created a beautiful, bright and open auditorium with a feel of intimacy far exceeding that of the much smaller 1,500-seat Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago's Millennium Park." Chicago Sun-Times 10/02/04

October 1, 2004

The Oundjian Era Begins In Toronto Ever since Peter Oundjian was appointed music director of the Toronto Symphony, questions have abounded about whether the hometown kid and relative newcomer to conducting really has enough game to lead one of North America's top ensembles. Oundjian clearly isn't lacking in confidence, however, and his first programs with the TSO featured Beethoven's 7th and Mahler's 1st, two of the most well-worn staples of the romantic era. The result, according to William Littler, was not unimpressive, but "bravery is not a synonym for wisdom," and Toronto may need to have some patience with its still-developing conductor. Toronto Star 10/01/04

Taking The Direct Route Orchestras everywhere love to talk about their commitment to music education. But the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has taken the unusual step of adopting a specific school where the music program was in danger. Last year, Wilkinsburg High School didn't even have enough instruments for the kids who had signed up for band. Then the PSO, which already had a relationship with the school, showed up and played a benefit concert, raising $17,000 for the music program. The orchestra is repeating the benefit this year, with the aim of solidifying music as a core component of the school's curriculum. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 10/01/04

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