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November 30, 2004

Union Performers Sue San Francisco Opera Union performers are suing San Francisco Opera in part over performances at a birthday party for music director Donald Runnicles. "The suit, brought by singers, dancers and production staff members, accused the opera of refusing to go to arbitration or to follow grievance procedures over the charges. 'They blatantly ignore us. They just kind of do what they want to do, and if it happens to violate the contract, 'Oops!' " The New York Times 12/01/04

Downloading Continues Despite Threats New research indicates that despite legal threats and aggressive anti-downloading efforts, the rate of downloading hasn't declined in the past year. "While some people would have been scared off by the legal actions, others will be all the more determined to do it." BBC 11/30/04

Woman Conductor Breaks Barrier At SF Opera Earlier this season Sara Jobin made history as the first woman ever to conduct a mainstage opera at the San Francisco Opera. "At this point the only people who have trouble with the idea of a woman conductor are sometimes board members, especially older women who have had to fight the hard battles themselves. They look at me and think, 'Why would an orchestra pay attention to you?' But of course the orchestra doesn't pay attention to me, they pay attention to the music." San Francisco Chronicle 11/30/04

November 29, 2004

Classical Music Recording In A "Golden" Age The classical music recording industry is dying, right? Not so fast, writes Anthony Tommasini. "Despite the financial struggles in the industry, it feels as if we are in the midst of a golden age of classical recording. So what's going on? Several things, no doubt. Being forced to cut back production drastically has made label executives come up with projects that matter, recordings that truly contribute to the discography. "Smaller is better" may be a cliché, but that approach has paid off for the classical recording industry." The New York Times 11/30/04

Battling Boredom (The Enemy Of Good Criticism) What's the worst crime against music criticism, asks Jen Graves? Boring writing. "True criticism is activism on behalf of a vision. It is crucial to be well-informed, but beyond that, it is better to be wrong than boring. Like orchestras, classical critics allow themselves to be suffocated by false burdens of 'greatness' and posterity." The News-Tribune (Tacoma) 11/27/04

Minnesota Orchestra Signs New Contract With Musicians Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have ratified a new three-year contract that begins with a wage freeze. "Extraordinary circumstances in recent years require extraordinary gestures on our part. This will be an unprecedented second consecutive contract with a wage freeze in the first year and containing an overall salary increase significantly below the cost of living." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 11/30/04

Barenboim Sets Up Palestinian Music Kindergarten Daniel Barenboim's latest peace initiative in the Middle East is setting up a music kindergarten for Palestinian refugee children. "Classical music is not something one associates with Arabs. But if we can enrich their young lives, and give them pleasure from creativity ... then we can build a bridge between Europe and the Middle East." The Guardian (UK) 11/30/04

Failing Angels There's a big problem trying to turn something as sprawlingly theatrical as "Angels in America" into an opera. "It isn't enough simply to reflect what is already there, or to enhance the mood like a film score," writes Rupert Christiansen. "Music must be the driving force, the medium of revelation. This is the hurdle at which the composer Peter Eötvös and his librettist wife Mari Mezei fall flat on their faces. Their adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner's apocalyptic epic of Aids and the spiritual turmoil of the Reagan era, condenses rather than expands the theatrical original, squeezing a gallon of drama into a pint-pot of opera." The Telegraph (UK) 11/29/04

November 28, 2004

UK City Seeks To Ban Anti-Gay Music Brighton city council members want to prohibit the sale of anti-gay music in the city. "They passed a motion this week urging Virgin Megastore, HMV and MVC in Brighton not to stock music by certain reggae artists who have been accused of glorifying the killing of gay people." The Guardian (UK) 11/27/04

Legal Downloads Boost Music's Bottom Line Sales of music singles are down again. But legal downloads are soaring. "Around 1.75 million download tracks were purchased during the quarter, compared with 7.3 million singles. And download sales, currently running at around 250,000 a week, are expected to accelerate around Christmas time as thousands of digital players are received as gifts. Had digital sales been added to the overall total, the market would have shown a 9% increase on the previous quarter rather than a 12% decline." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/04

KC Center Gets Three Big Anchor Tenants Kansas City's new $300 million performing arts center will be home to three of the city's biggest arts groups when it opens in 2008. The Kansas City Symphony, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Kansas City Ballet have all signed letters of intent, promising to take up residence in the PAC for at least 20 years, and have agreed to rental terms with the center's management. "The commitments let the Missouri Development Finance Board add $12.5 million each year over 2005-2006 to the annual allowable tax credits. The board currently has a $10 million annual cap." The PAC suffered a funding setback this November, when voters rejected a bistate tax which would have created a significant new source of arts funding. Kansas City Star 11/27/04

When Concert Halls Attack! The Los Angeles Philharmonic's glittering new home may be glittering just a bit too much for its neighbors. "The world-famous Walt Disney Concert Hall -- crown jewel of downtown Los Angeles' revival -- must lose some of the luster from its polished stainless-steel exterior before somebody goes blind, according to a new report. The brilliant rays blind drivers, pedestrians and nearby residents, and create sauna-like conditions in condominiums and businesses. Temperatures on the sidewalks surrounding the hall have been measured at up to 138 degrees." Los Angeles County officials are considering a plan to sandblast the shimmering stainless steel walls of Disney Hall to dull the glare. LA Daily News 11/26/04

Come See The Music Classical music aficionados are a notoriously conservative bunch, particularly in Philadelphia, where attempts to modernize the concertgoing experience have nearly always been met with overt hostility. Video screens, in particular, have always been most unwelcome guests in the concert hall, even when the music demands their presence. "The issue is crucial among many who care about the future of classical music: The rationale is that visualizing this centuries-old art form could compensate for dwindling music-education programs in public schools, and could help cultivate a new, under-40 audience... Success often rests on two factors: Suitable visual content and the technical coordination with the music." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/28/04

Naxos Goes Modern Mention Naxos, the low-budget, high-volume classical label that has been one of the only success stories in an otherwise-blighted corner of the record industry over the last decade, and you won't find a lot of love from many musicians and other guardians of high recording fees and big-name promotions. But Naxos is quietly expanding its reach in the music world, and a major new project has the company commissioning, recording, and promoting a series of ten new string quartets from the British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. "The conventional wisdom at most major labels is that it's hard enough to sell new music. Going out and helping it come into being is virtually unprecedented." The New York Times 11/27/04

November 24, 2004

NY City Opera Has New Chief New York's City Opera has elevated its development director to the post of executive director. Jane Gullong's ascension displaces Sherwin Goldman, who will remain with the company and dedicate himself full-time to the daunting task of finding the company a new home. City Opera had hoped to be the anchoring arts tenant of the new Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, but its application was turned down. The company is denying rumors that Goldman was forced out of the top job by the board. The New York Times 11/24/04

You Only Think You Don't Like Classical Music Enrique Fernandez is the new classical music critic of the Miami Herald. This is a tricky job, since South Florida lost its symphony orchestra a year ago, its classical radio station this year, and shows very little interest in the form at all. And after all, when serious music is rejected by the community, isn't that reason enough to just let it die a quiet death? Not a chance, says the critic: "What [we love] best in [our] native traditions is, indeed, classical. Classical in its strict rules, like the rumba of the Afro-Cubans from the province of Matanzas, polyrhythms of a Bachian or Mozartian complexity. Or classical because it was infused with European classicism, like the woodwinds and strings of the danzón -- a genre that would lead to the mambo and the cha-cha-chá." Miami Herald 11/21/04

A Shining Ring, But Most Will Never See It The Adelaide Ring is beginning its second weeklong run of Wagner's four massive operas, and by all accounts, this is a Ring for the ages, both musically and visually. So how can it be possible that no audiovisual record is being made of its existence? Yes, a complete CD set is planned, but opera (particularly Wagner) is more than just notes, and needs the impact of its staging to be fully appreciated. The sad truth seems to be that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's director of television has no use for opera, and has declined all offers to broadcast or even record it. Sydney Morning Herald 11/25/04

November 23, 2004

NZ Symphony Wants Funding Boost The New Zealand Symphony says it needs an extra $1.5 million a year from the government to stay healthy. The orchestra already gets $10 million/year in government subsidy. Last year it predicted it would earn a small surplus. It has recorded a $140,000 deficit and fears losses could increase to $1.3 million by 2006-07. New Zealand Herald 11/24/04

Coming To A Phone Near You - Beethoven Boosey & Hawkes, the world's largest classical music publisher has signed a deal to license classical music to mobile phone networks and ringtone retailers. "Several hundred classical hits will be available as ringtones, including Stravinsky's Petrushka and, at the more popular endof the classical spectrum, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite or Danny Boy. Ringtone sales account for about 10% of the $32bn (£17bn) global record market and are forecast to grow to $5.2bn by 2006." The Guardian (UK) 11/23/04

NJ Schools Ban "Messiah" Performances A New Jersey school district has banned schools from performing religious music. "The district has banned students from performing music related to any religious holiday — defeating the purpose of the schools' traditional 'holiday concerts'." New York Post 11/19/04

November 22, 2004

America's Orchestras And Their New Deals With ratification of the Philadelphia Orchestra's new contract with its musicians, four of America's top orchestras have signed new deals. So who won and who lost? "Negotiations this time around were generally more bitter than in the recent past. Attendance and endowments were down, and costs and deficits were up. Strikes loomed, angry rhetoric flew and mediators were called in." The New York Times 11/23/04

Five Years Later - A Royal Opera House That Matters Five years after London's Royal Opera House reopened after an expensive makeover, it's a very different institution, writes Norman Lebrecht. And that's a very good thing... La Scena Musicale 11/17/04

Levine In Boston - Thrilled To Be Here By all accounts, James Levine is thrilled to be working at his new job in Boston, writes Alex Ross. "Levine is preëminent among American conductors, yet he remains a curiously contested figure." The New Yorker 11/22/04

Operatic "Angels" As An Opera Angels in America was a hit play and an acclaimed TV event. But "what possessed Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos to make an opera out of this already operatic play? 'The dream scenes, the hallucinations, ghosts, heaven ... these are fantastic for music. It's much harder to make an opera out of real life. And the situation with Aids creates great drama - the characters are touched by the knowledge that their life might be cut short at any moment'." The Guardian (UK) 11/22/04

Is The Recording Industry Business Stabilizing? Recording company EMI says that the decline in the music recording business has been halted. "The world's third-largest music company said the global music market declined 1.3% over the six months to the end of September, compared with a 10% drop in the same period last year. EMI said a return to growth in the US, Japan and south-east Asia offset a flat performance in Britain and a continued decline in Germany." The Guardian (UK) 11/22/04

November 21, 2004

The National Music (And Language) Why does some music sound specifically English or French or German? Researchers have discovered that "the music differs in just the same way as the languages. It is as if the music carries an imprint of the composer's language. The researchers say that consciously or not, composers may have used the rhythm and melody of their native language to influence their music, especially around the turn of the 20th century, a time of particular musical nationalism." The Guardian (UK) 11/21/04

Inside The New La Scala The new La Scala is due to reopen December 7. "The new La Scala will be luxuriously - but much more scantily - clad. The red velvet of the theatre's seats has been renewed. Its boxes have been relined in crimson silk. But to get back its original acoustics, 11 coats of paint have been removed from the walls, the fitted carpets have been ripped out and the linoleum that covered the floors of the boxes has been stripped away to reveal terracotta tiles." The Guardian (UK) 11/21/04

Searching For Vivaldi Surprisingly, there is still much Vivaldi waiting to be rediscovered. But "Vivaldian detective work these days is done not just by mainstream scholars but also by mavericks, on the fringes of the academic world. And against all odds, it's mavericks who have made the most noise recently in two definitely curious finds." The New York Times 11/21/04

National Symphony Signs New Contract Washington DC's National Symphony has a new four-year contract with its musicians. "The base weekly pay will remain at $1,844 for the first six months of the new agreement (retroactive to September), rising to $2,077 by the last year. (This is a minimum, with many musicians making considerably more; the orchestra's concertmaster, Nurit Bar-Josef, earns more than $300,000 a year.) NSO musicians agreed to assume greater responsibility for health insurance costs." Washington Post 11/20/04

A New Blueprint For The Philadelphia Orchestra The Philadelphia Orchestra's new contract with musicians is an interesting document. "The three-year labor contract negotiated by Mayor Street and approved last night by orchestra musicians not only stipulates the usual salaries and health-care benefits but it also provides a blueprint for enormous change, laying out more clearly than ever who the orchestra sees as its constituents." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/21/04

  • Dobrin: Retiring From An Orchestra Is Matter Of Conscience Retirement from a symphony orchestra is a tough thing. How do you know when it's time to go? asks Peter Dobrin. But there are musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra who are there and need to understand that. "Once again, the orchestra finds itself in need of family therapy. In this nasty contract fight, management and players once again hardened their positions as adversaries. Resistance to retirement has emerged as an act of protest, at least so far. But musicians should remember that their most solemn responsibility is to the art form, and sometimes that means knowing just the right moment to sound the swan song." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/21/04

Study: Music Education's Startling Decline In California Music education is down by one third in four years in San Diego, says a new study. "Music's mortality rate is even greater statewide. Enrollment in music classes is down 50 percent from 1999-2000 to last school year. There are two major causes. One is money. Some local school boards have eliminated music teachers as part of millions of dollars in budget cuts. The second is pressure to raise test scores, which has prompted educators to add extra reading and math classes that crowd electives out of school schedules." San Diego Union-Tribune 11/19/04

  • Opera Class Between Basketball And Football Every week teens from all over the Bay Area head to opera class after school. "The Bay Area's only teen opera training program to put on full-scale productions during the school year attracts dozens of 13- to 19-year-old participants from San Jose to San Leandro. These budding baritones and sopranos aren't your stereotypical glee club or drama class devotees. One-fourth of the cast dashes between school sporting events and stage rehearsals." San Jose Mercury-News 11/21/04

November 19, 2004

If It Ain't Baroque... The eminent baroque ensemble Apollo's Fire is teaming up with the Cleveland Instutute of Music and Case Western Reserve University to provide leadership for CWRU's pre-professional baroque orchestra, which is designed to give special training to music students with a particular interest in period performance. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/19/04

How Dare They Rehearse At A Rehearsal? The Boston Symphony has a long tradition of offering the public access to occasional "open rehearsals," and the events have historically borne less resemblance to an actual rehearsal than to a casual performance. In fact, on the occasion that a conductor or soloist has actually attempted to use these scheduled services to work on a piece of music at some level of detail, the BSO has been guaranteed to receive multiple letters of complaint from those patrons in attendance. Still, new music director James Levine is making it clear that a rehearsal is a rehearsal, and he has no interest in plowing through repertoire for its own sake. Boston Globe 11/19/04

It Ain't Over Yet In Philly... The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra have delayed yesterday's scheduled vote on their new contract agreement, with some musicians saying they felt "rushed" by the process. Another musicians-only meeting is scheduled for today, and the committee that negotiated the deal is still confident that they can resolve and outstanding questions surrounding the contract. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/19/04

  • Previously: Street Smarts: A Deal Gets Done In Philly An all-night bargaining session between the musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra has led to a tentative 3-year agreement, thanks to another intervention from Philadelphia Mayor John Street. The musicians will take a wage freeze in the first year, but by the third year, they will have the highest minimum salary of any orchestra in the US. Mayor Street's involvement in the talks was applauded by both sides, and it was evident that a deal would not have been possible without his mediation. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/17/04

Pittsburgh Symphony Salaries To Take Huge Leap The Pittsburgh Symphony has not been on the radar screen of those watching orchestral negotiations this year, which makes sense, since the PSO's contract won't expire until fall 2006. But the musicians of Pittsburgh have been watching the contract battles quite closely, because their own deal contains an unusual clause, under which they will be rewarded for their willingness to take recent pay cuts with a whopping 23% raise in the final year of their current contract. That figure comes from calculating the average of the pay scales of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Philadelphia Orchestra, and will take the Pittsburgh scale to $102,403. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/19/04

November 18, 2004

Who Needs Schools When We Have Peter Gabriel? Say what you want about the superiority of classical music or the complex intricacies of jazz, but according to novelist Dave Eggers, there's simply nothing like good old-fashioned American pop music to get the creative juices flowing and make you smarter. "Like many citizens, I think a regular regimen of intense listening to the more literary or even pretentious songwriters should replace standard education... Music-as-learning-tool combines the three most potent sources of persuasion: a trusted voice, sublimity and endless repetition." The Guardian (UK) 11/19/04

Nothing Attracts People To The Arts Like Fistfights & Incest The BBC has snapped up the rights to a TV broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera, and will air the satirical look at America's most over-the-top talk show host in January. A spokeswoman "said it was part of the BBC's strategy to introduce a new generation of viewers to opera. The BBC have also commissioned six comedy operas from the makers of the hit West End show." BBC 11/18/04

Slatkin Out At National Symphony Leonard Slatkin's contract won't be renewed past the 2008 season. "Public information was kept to a polite and restricted minimum. Slatkin's current contract, which was to expire in 2006, will be extended two years, either as a courtesy to the conductor or to buy the orchestra more time to choose another music director -- or, as seems likely, a combination of the two." Washington Post 11/18/04

November 17, 2004

Detroit Symphony Won't Renew Perlman Contract After four years, the Detroit Symphony has decided not to renew Itzhak Perlman's contract as the orchestra's principal guest conductor. "Though Perlman, one of the world's most famous violinists, will no longer hold an official post, his relationship with the DSO — which has blossomed from a risky experiment into a rousing artistic and marketing success — will continue." Detroit Free Press 11/14/04

Are Concert Stagehands Overpaid? It can cost $40,000 to rent Carnegie Hall for the night. What drives up costs? Partly it's the stagehands' union. For example, "in the fiscal years ending June 30, 2001, 2002 and 2003, Carnegie stagehand and properties manager Dennis O'Connell made between $309,000 and $344,000 annually, second only to former executive and artistic directors Franz Xaver Ohnesorg and the late Robert Harth. That's more than some principal players in major symphony orchestras. Three stagehand colleagues came in third, fourth and fifth, earning more than, say, Carnegie's senior staff or director of development." OpinionJournal.com 11/17/04

A Band With An Internet Career The the band Wilco's recording company wanted changes in the band's latest album, the group decided to leave and make its work available over the internet. It's been a good business move as the group has built a following. Why don't more musicians embrace downloading? "What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them. Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either." Wired 11/17/04

Music Downloaders An Advertiser's Dream "The debate over the legitimacy of file-sharing networks rages on as the music industry continues its threats to close the services down for good. Meanwhile the millions of downloaders are proving both an advertiser's dream come true and a branding nightmare." BBC 11/16/04

November 16, 2004

The New South Bank (Really!) For more than a decade, London's much-maligned South Bank Arts Centre has been talking about reinventing itself, without much actual progress. But two years ago, with the Barbican Centre unveiling a major upgrade across the Thames, things got serious on the South Bank. "Enter, in 2002, as chairman the former banker and press baron Lord Hollick, whose close links with New Labour and reputation for hard-headedness could only be welcome... Together with the supervisory architect, Rick Mather, they have managed to save the SBC by thrashing out a modified longer-term version of the development which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and funding bodies find acceptable." The Telegraph (UK) 11/16/04

Street Smarts: A Deal Gets Done In Philly An all-night bargaining session between the musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra has led to a tentative 3-year agreement, thanks to another intervention from Philadelphia Mayor John Street. The musicians will take a wage freeze in the first year, but by the third year, they will have the highest minimum salary of any orchestra in the US. The musicians' pensions will also be moved from an in-house plan to the national plan administered by the players' union, and there will be a temporary reduction in the number of full-time musicians. Mayor Street's involvement in the talks was applauded by both sides, and it was evident that a deal would not have been possible without his mediation. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/17/04

Music To The Max Composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is 70 this year and being feted in a style befitting a man who has transformed the Scottish music world. "When he announced a few years ago that he had written his final symphony, and that his focus would now be centred on the intimate world of chamber music and a cycle of ten string quartets, many wondered if this was a euphemism for early retirement. In fact, as the quartets roll off the Maxwell Davies production line with remarkable ease and efficiency, a phenomenal rejuvenation process is taking place." The Scotsman 11/15/04

November 15, 2004

Election Notwithstanding, Runnicles Will Stay Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles, who had speculated that he might choose to leave the U.S. if President Bush were reelected, has apparently decided to remain stateside after all, agreeing to a 3-year extension of his contract as music director of the San Francisco Opera. The new contract will keep Runnicles in San Francisco through the 2008-09 season, which will end several months after President Bush leaves office. San Francisco Chronicle 11/15/04

Of Thee I Sing (In Praise Of Choruses) There are thousands of choruses in America. But "I often wonder why so many of us have such a poor image of choral singing. Is it because almost anyone who can sing can be a member? Do we think only those who play instruments are "real" musicians? Did we have a poor experience in school? Did we suffer through ill-prepared programs sung by poor voices? Or is it that we only support "big-name" groups under world-famous conductors?" The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/14/04

Northern Lights - Will New Music Center Transform North England? "Sage Gateshead, a £70m music centre designed by Foster and Partners, could completely reorient Britain's artistic map when it opens on December 17. It won the biggest lottery grant in the country outside London - £47m - and is the latest and most ambitious of Gateshead's confident wedge of new landmarks, alongside the Baltic art gallery and the blinking-eye bridge." The Guardian (UK) 11/14/04

Opera Singers - Does Size Matter? How much should physical appearance count for opera singers? "Vocal endowment is obviously the most important factor in casting a role, but is it everything? Shouldn't the element of drama in opera demand that singers look reasonably like the characters they portray? And what about the new generation? Do younger singers who have grown up in a visually oriented age believe that looking good and staying in shape are prerequisites for a career?" The New York Times 11/14/04

The Women Pianists The world of concert pianists has traditionally been male. "But things have begun to change, especially in the past decade or so. Although it's impossible to make precise comparisons, more top-drawer female pianists are probably touring internationally today than ever before." Denver Post 11/14/04

November 14, 2004

La Fenice Retakes Venice The reopening of Venice's La Fenice, one of Europe's historic opera houses, was a grand civic occasion. "With le tout Venice and more on hand, the operatic reopening was as much a political and social occasion as a musical moment. Special guests included King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium; Romano Prodi, the outgoing president of the European Commission who is busily planning his return to Italian politics; and a host of ministers and officials. Venetians who simply wanted to be there paid the equivalent of $1,290 each for the privilege." The New York Times 11/15/04

Has The World Given Up On Scottish Opera? The UK's music world seems to have accepted that Scottish Opera will be going dark for at least a year next fall, under a bizarre bailout plan proposed by the Scottish Executive. Andrew Clark insists that the supposed rescue plan should not simply be accepted by the public, especially since the Executive's real aim may be to dismantle the company completely. "The axe has already fallen on the chorus. What about the orchestra and ancillary staff? Are they going to hang around for a year to see if there is a company worth reviving when the trickle of subsidy resumes in mid-2006?" Financial Times (UK) 11/12/04

Ozawa To Open Music Academy "Conductor Seiji Ozawa, artistic director of the Vienna State Opera, will open a music academy overlooking Lake Geneva. The daily Tribune de Geneve said Friday the academy will offer students the opportunity to perform chamber music with world-class professors. Ozawa, who spent 29 years with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, hopes to attract the best young talent in Europe to the school in the village of Blonay, above Montreux... Tuition will be free, [and] Ozawa hopes to admit 20 to the inaugural class next summer." Modesto Bee (AP) 11/14/04

Backing Away From Black The Houston Symphony is trying out a new dress code for its female musicians, allowing the players to back away from the traditional all-black garb which was conceived as a way to be sure that no one player stood out from the pack. After complaints from musicians about the code, and some backstage discussions about potential changes, "management OK'd the idea and helped write guidelines so that no one showed up in 'an Elizabeth Hurley outfit.'" Houston Chronicle 11/12/04

Philly Orchestra Asks Mayor For Help, Again A week ago, Philadelphia Mayor John Street triumphantly announced that he had brokered the "framework" of a new agreement between the musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and expected that the two sides would fill in the details quickly and easily. Instead, the negotiations have stalled yet again, with "many key aspects of the deal in dispute," and Mayor Street is being asked to resume his role as mediator. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/14/04

The Adelaide Ring Will Not Be Broadcast Australia's first Ring Cycle, premiering this month in Adelaide, has been turned down for broadcast by the country's largest TV and radio network. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says that the fees which would be commanded by the performers involved simply make a broadcast unthinkable. The production costs for the cycle are already at AUS$15.3 million, and a CD project is planned for a 2005 release. The Australian 11/15/04

  • The Music May Be The Easy Part What does it take to put on a Ring Cycle? Well, you'll need five years to plan the logistics, enough orchestra musicians to cover 16 hours of music, 35 scenery trucks, a tech crew of 80 professionals, a conductor healthy enough to get through the damn thing without collapsing, and oh yes, "a 10x16-metre curtain of water that doesn't splash the orchestra, make too much noise or drown the audience." The Age (Melbourne) 11/13/04

November 12, 2004

Fenice Reopens 8 Years After Fire Venice's La Fenice opera house reopened Thursday night with a gala performance. "Every detail of the original 18th Century building has been faithfully reproduced and state-of-the-art sprinkler fire protection and an underground freshwater reservoir have been installed to stave off any future disaster. And on Thursday night a glittering gathering of celebrities and politicians attended the first opera performance in the reconstructed theatre." BBC 11/12/04

Australia's First "Ring" (An Exercise In Excess?) "State Opera South Australia's $15.3 million production of Der Ring Des Nibelungen is Australia's biggest and most ambitious theatrical undertaking, yet only 6000 people will get to see it. This production, Australia's first, is a global diary note on the calendars of rich European and American Wagnerites wanting to see this watershed Australian foray into high German opera. Then, after 12 nights costing more than $1 million a night, it will be mothballed with no plans to perform it again. It is an exercise in excess." Sydney Morning Herald 11/12/04

November 11, 2004

At The Met - Wrong-Way Gelb? Norman Lebrecht is impressed with the Metropolitan Opera's choice of Peter Gelb as its new top man. Impressed in the wrong way. "When I tell you that the new man has done more over the past decade to remove classical music and opera from public consumption, you will understand that the simmering scandal at the Met has the gelignite to blow a hole in opera far larger than all the petty mishaps of English, Scottish and French national operas put together." La Scena Musicale 11/11/04

Cleveland Orchestra Musicians Approve New Contract Musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra have approved a new two-year contract. "Under the new Cleveland agreement, the musicians will be compensated for the first time for Internet streaming of radio broadcasts. But the players will pay more for their health care, and their annual pension won't rise during the contract period." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/11/04

November 10, 2004

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra In The Black The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra reports a surplus of $200,000, reversing a $750,000 deficit the previous season. The orchestra recently reorganized its management, spreading out decisions on running the orchestra. St. Paul Pioneer-Press 11/10/04

Famed Fenice To Reopen This weekend Eight years after fire gutted Venice's famed La Fenice, the opera house is set to reopen this weekend. "The latest restoration, some critics have carped, has certainly achieved authenticity, but without easing such discomfort. Still, La Fenice's place in the great opera houses of the world is assured, no matter how cramped some of the seating may be." New Zealand Herald 11/10/04

Opera Australia Moving To Casino? Opera Australia has to find a temporary home while the Sydney Opera House is being refurbished. Where to go? One option is a local casino. The company "declined to speculate on how opera audiences might feel about mixing with casino clientele, but said everything possible would be done to make the experience enjoyable." Sydney Morning Herald 11/12/04

All-Music, All-The-Time - Are We The Poorer For It? In the era of the iPod, any music is available at any time, wherever you are. But Bernard Holland wonders if maybe this easy access doesn't cheapen the musical experience. "Is it all too easy? Any music critic will tell you that the eager anticipation of new recordings fades with their unsolicited, almost daily flow into the office. Would knowing a little less actually make us smarter, or at least hungrier? I do wonder if spiritual muscle tone is being softened." The New York Times 11/06/04

November 9, 2004

Long Lost Kapell Recordings Revealed A cache of privately recorings from pianist William Kapell's last tour (he died in a 1953 plane crash in Australia at the age of 31) has surfaced. "The emergence of these more than three hours of recorded music is a tale of serendipity, of a collector's passion and of a music lover's act of selflessness. And when the recordings, preserved on three 16-inch acetate discs, are turned over to Kapell's widow at a New York restaurant tomorrow, a new chapter will begin: the question of whether they will be commercially released." The New York Times 11/10/04

Saturn - The Galaxy's Largest Musical Instrument? Scientists have discovered that Saturn's rings "play" musical notes. "The tones are short, typically lasting between one and three seconds, and unlike the ethereal sliding tones associated with other cosmic processes, every one is quite distinct. The evidence suggests that each tone is produced by the impact of a meteoroid on the icy chunks that make up the rings." New Scientist 11/09/04

Cleveland Chamber Symphony On The Abyss The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has "won numerous national awards for adventurous programming, presented more than 100 world premieres and kept a familiar group of the city's superb players - not to mention a largely familiar audience - on the edge of their musical seats." But after 23 years, the orchestra is on the verge of extinction... The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/09/04

Report: Downloading Bad For CD Sales A new US report suggests that downloading hurts CD sales. "The report, commissioned by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, studied the habits of 412 students. It said the US music industry lost one fifth of a sale for each album downloaded from the internet. The study contradicts a previous report, conducted in 2002, which said swapping songs online had no negative effect on music sales." BBC 11/09/04

November 8, 2004

La Scala Moves Back Home "After a three-year exile on the city's outskirts, the famed opera company is returning to its renovated 18th Century theater in the heart of Milan in time for its traditional Dec. 7 opening night. The contested renovation was completed a few weeks ahead of schedule, giving conductor Riccardo Muti time for rehearsals. Muti tested acoustics of the "new" La Scala with a 40-minute rehearsal last Friday, and theater officials reported that the maestro broke into applause at the end to express his satisfaction with the sound quality." Chicago Tribune (AP) 11/08/04

Jazz's Next Big Diva? Twenty-three-year-old singer Gwyneth Herbet is the hottest young thing in UK jazz. "In only 18 months, Herbert has gone from trying to persuade landlords to turn off the telly and let her sing in their pubs, to rehearsing for the concert she’s giving at the Queen Elizabeth Hall to open the London Jazz Festival on Tuesday. Not long ago she was lucky if she could get someone with influence in the music world merely to agree to listen to her demo tape. Now she can count princes and pop legends among her admirers." The Scotsman 11/09/04

Atlanta Opera Director Resigns William Fred Scott has resigned as Atlanta Opera's director. "The artistic director's exit caps a turnover of the $5 million opera's top managers in the last 18 months. Almost since the company was formed in the mid-1980s — to fill the gap when New York's Metropolitan Opera ceased its annual tours to the city — the Atlanta Opera has struggled with deficits, inadequate venues and artistic unevenness." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/04/04

Cleveland Orchestra Voting On New Contract Musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra are voting this week on a new contract. "The orchestra's previous contract expired Aug. 29, but it was extended to Oct. 31 to allow negotiations to continue. Last week, the parties agreed to continue talks past the second deadline." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/08/04

November 7, 2004

Australia's First-Ever Ring Australia is about to see its first-ever fully-staged production of Wagner's "Ring." "After the weightiest of preparations in the history of Australian opera, the singers, orchestra and conductor are in place, the costumes finessed, and the audience readying itself to descend on Adelaide, mostly from interstate, America and Europe." The Age (Melbourne) 11/06/04

Encore, Schmencore! What is it about pop concerts and encores? "There isn't a soul on earth with even a passing connection to the popular culture who isn't familiar with the faux art of the encore. Jackson's divalicious milking of the audience was an especially unsavory example, but the fact is that, by and large, most encores are simply the final two or three songs of a show preceded by a built-in adulation break. They're not only prescribed, they're scripted. Typed on the set list. Preprogrammed by the lighting technician. Complete with pyro, videos, and confetti-strewn finales. We live in the auto-encore age, and we jump through the hoops like trained animals." Boston Globe 11/06/04

  • Encores? What's Wrong With A Little Extra Sugar? "Yes, encores are as predictable as a Nor'easter in January. Yes, crowd members not only can predict that there will usually be an encore, they can sometimes name at least one song that will be performed -- for Prince, it's ''Purple Rain"; for Patti LaBelle, it's ''Over the Rainbow." Still, encores are part of the unwritten covenant between artist and audience. It's dessert, the last bit of sweetness to polish off a stunning meal. The main show finishes, the fans stomp and scream, fire up their lighters if they're feeling kitschy, and when the artist feels he has been duly adored, he returns like a conquering hero." Boston Globe 11/07/04

Talk About Your Last-Minute Replacements Baritone Ian Vayne thought he was headed to his local opera house to spend a relaxing evening watching a new production of Bizet's Carmen. Instead, Vayne wound up on stage in the role of Escamillo after the scheduled singer was felled by a heart attack. He knew the part, but had only fifteen minutes to learn the staging and choreography for the show. He received a standing ovation for his trouble, as well as the undying gratitude of the company. The Guardian (UK) 11/06/04

Chicago Symphony Has A Deal The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year contract which will raise their base salary to $114,000 by 2007, keeping them among the ranks of the highest paid orchestras in the world. The deal also provides retirement incentives for older members of the ensemble, and allows the CSO to reduce the full complement of musicians from 111 to 106 through such attrition. There will be no reduction in the number of musicians on stage for any given concert. The musicians also agreed to pay a higher share of health insurance costs. The agreement comes a week after the musicians had cleaned out their lockers in anticipation of a possible strike. Chicago Tribune 11/07/04

Philly Mayor Brokers "Framework" For Orchestra Deal The musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra have agreed on what Mayor John Street is calling a "framework" for a new collective bargaining agreement, following a week of intensive negotiations mediated by the mayor himself. The details have yet to be filled in, but Street says he expects a deal to be done within the next 7 to 10 days. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/07/04

Expanding Opera's Reach Back in 1996, the Houston Grand Opera decided that it was high time for it to acknowledge the demographic shift underway in the U.S., and premiered a new opera, Florencia, written in Spanish and focused on Latin American sensibilities. "Drenched in the seductive atmosphere of Magic Realism, it became a surprise hit which has not only been revived in Houston but staged as well in Los Angeles, Seattle, Mexico City and even Manaos," the Brazilian opera house where Florencia was set. Now, the company has commissioned a second opera from the same composer, leading to talk of a new place for Hispanic culture in the operatic literature. Toronto Star 11/06/04

A Hoosier Surplus The Indianapolis Symphony ended the 2003-04 season with a balanced budget after two consecutive years of red ink. The orchestra eked out a $5,466 surplus on a budget of $24 million, following a year in which the ensemble's musicians agreed to contract concessions and the annual fund increased by $400,000. Indianapolis Star 11/07/04

Just So Long As They Don't Play That Awful "We Deliver" Jingle A band called Postal Service (so named because the members lived in different cities and mailed each other snippets of music as part of their songwriting process) recently received a cease-and-desist letter from, you guessed it, the U.S. Postal Service. It could have been just one more story of overaggressive copyright enforcement in a situation in which no one was losing money or getting hurt, but instead, the band and the mail carriers worked out a deal. As a result, the band gets to keep its name and its stock of albums, and the U.S. Postal Service has a brand new way to promote itself. The New York Times 11/06/04

More Backlash Against Homophobic Reggae Stars The furor over anti-gay lyrics in reggae music is continuing to mount in the UK, where the Urban Music Awards have dropped two nominated artists from contention after vociferous protests from the gay community. The Observer (UK) 11/07/04

November 5, 2004

Cleveland Orchestra Close To New Contract? The Cleveland Orchestra and its management have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract to replace the five-year contract that expired at midnight Sunday, according to spokespersons for the musicians and the Musical Arts Association, which runs the ensemble. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/05/04

November 4, 2004

Wichita Symphony Cuts Season The Wichita Symphony will cut its season after four years of declining attendance. "The orchestra will offer eight concerts in its classical season rather than the traditional 10. It would be the first time in about 50 years that the symphony would offer fewer than 10 classical concerts a season. The decision was made in the face of declining season ticket sales, flat revenue from its endowment and an uncertain local economy." Wichita Eagle 11/04/04

A Cello Sells For Record Price "A rare 18th-Century cello, by Italian cello maker Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, has sold for a record price of £341,250 at Christie's in London. Made in the northern Italian city of Parma in 1760, it is one of only five Guadagnini cellos which have come to auction in the last 20 years." BBC 11/03/04

Yoko Ono Scores #1 Hit With New Recording "Yoko Ono has topped the US dance charts with a record backing gay marriage. The 71-year-old widow of John Lennon recorded Every Man Has A Man Who Loves Him to voice her support for the controversial issue. It is a new version of Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him, which she recorded nearly 25 years ago. Ono has also recorded a lesbian version of the song." The Age (Melbourne) 11/05/04

November 3, 2004

The Last-Ever Studio Opera Recording? Studio recording of opera is almost exactly a century old. A new recording of Tristan now underway is "almost certain to prove the last commercial audio recording of an opera to be made in a studio. With the market shrinking and media formats changing, the figures just can't be made to add up. In a broader cultural perspective, how much does this matter?" The Telegraph (UK) 11/04/04

Indies Challenge Sony/Bertelsman Merger Independent European recording companies are challenging the EU's decision to allow a merger of Sony and Bertelsman. "Impala, the body representing 2,500 indie labels, is appealing to prevent what is calls a 'market imbalance'. Permission for them to merge meant that 80% of the world's music is owned by just four records companies." BBC 11/03/04

Orchestral Music Soothes A Wounded Soldier "When James Salamanca joined the Portland Youth Philharmonic five years ago, he had no idea what music would mean to him today. A standout musician, he's 19 now, and a U.S. Marine fighting in Iraq. But music, he says, helps keep him going." The Oregonian 11/3/04

Building Better Buzz Through Touring "Tours like the San Francisco Symphony's current two-week stint through Italy, Greece and Spain require large investments of money, time and operational resources, all for the sake of keeping the orchestra in the consciousness of the larger musical world." The symphony's executive director, Brent Assink, says touring isn't just necessary. It's fundamental. San Francisco Chronicle 11/3/04

November 2, 2004

Starbucks, Music Giant? Starbucks is getting into the music business in a big way, producing and selling CD's and even making it possible for customers to make their own compilations. The coffee retailer figures to be a player in the recording industry, even cracking the top music charts. The New York Times 11/03/04

The Rostropovich Corps Mstislav Rostropovich has had a brilliant career. Now he says it's time to give something back. So he started a foundation to identify and support seven promising young musicians. Each month , he pays living and teaching money. He also helps them get concert engagements, buy instruments and pay for masterclasses. The Independent (UK) 11/01/04

Digging Up Mozart's Relatives Archaeologists have opened a grave in Salzburg thought to contain the remains of Mozart's father and other relatives. Experts plan to compare the remains' genetic material with a skull to determine if it belonged to the famed Austrian composer. Legend has it that a gravedigger who knew which body was Mozart's sneaked the skull out of the grave. Through different channels, the skull came to the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1902. Yahoo! (AP) 11/02/04

Chart: Ringers Top CDs Musical ringtones are outselling CDs, according to the new Billboard charts. "The inaugural top ringy-dingy choice goes to ... drumroll ... "My Boo" by Usher and Alicia Keys. It inspired 97,000 purchases last week. By contrast, the No. 1 legal song download of the week - U2's "Vertigo" - drew 25,000 buyers." New York Daily News 11/02/04

November 1, 2004

How Do You make New From Old? There are no new sounds in music - just musicians using familiar notes in new ways. But. "It is rare that governments and the industry at large are ahead of the curve when it comes to cultural trends, and recent legal rulings have made the creation of new music from appropriated sources problematic. It is a sensitive issue because while intellectual property needs to be protected, new intellectual properties can only be born in a nurturing environment and appropriation has become such an important element in a substantial body of new work." NewMusicBox 11/04

Cleveland Orchestra Continues Contract Talks The Cleveland Orchestra and its musicians agree to continue negotiating on a new contract after the old one expired Sunday. Musicians say this is a contract about maintaining the orchestra's elite status. "If you fall below a certain level, you are going to fall out of the top tier of orchestras. I am concerned that Cleveland will no longer be a destination orchestra, but an orchestra musicians want to get to and then go to another orchestra." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/01/04

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