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July 31, 2005

World's Largest Chamber Music Fest Expands To World Music The annual Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is the largest in the world. This year the festival has decided to expand its definition of chamber music to include world music. "While the festival is well-attended by music fans – about 60,000 yearly – organizers have decided to broaden the definition of chamber music to attract new audiences. This year, the two-week celebration will include music from India, Persia and Indonesia." CBC 07/31/05

Levine's Tanglewood - All About The Students James Levine said he wouldn't be making big changes in his first summer leading Tanglewood. But he did. "No music director since Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzky has spent more time with the students." Boston Globe 07/31/05

Baltimore - Whose Orchestra Is It? The Baltimore Symphony fiasco in hiring a music director is mostly about power. "In the end, this month's crisis over a new music director begs a tough, fundamental question: Whose orchestra is it, anyway? The board and administration apparently believe they own it, lock, stock and Beethoven. And they're not about to let any pesky musicians tell them otherwise." Baltimore Sun 07/31/05

Philly Orchestra And Philly Pops Talk About Combining Forces The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Pops are talking merger. "The orchestra and the Pops are very different kinds of organizations. The orchestra has a much larger budget, listenership and season schedule. Each has its own distinct board and audience. There is some small overlap in musicians. Still, many U.S. orchestras maintain both a serious-repertoire ensemble and a pops series or pops orchestra - most notably, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which also operates the Boston Pops." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/31/05

Cuppa Joe With Your CD? One of the hottest new markets for CD's? Your local coffee shop. "The Seattle-based coffee merchant Starbucks, which sold its first Blue Note Records jazz compilation in 1995, is flexing its marketing muscle by providing the very thing that the beleaguered music industry has been so desperate to find: a new outlet where music fans will eagerly spend their money on full-length, full-price CDs." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/31/05

Pittsburgh Symphony Deficit: Pops Up, Main Season Down The Pittsburgh Symphony ends its season with a $500,000 deficit. The orchestra's main season suffered from lower ticket sales. "This year, ticket sales for the classical subscription series generated $2.6 million, $400,000 short of projections. By contrast, revenue for the pops series, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch, exceeded the projected $2.65 million in sales by $30,000." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/31/05

Classical Music - CD's Still Rule Music downloading is still not the preferred way classical music fans get their music. CD's are more convenient and their sound quality is better. "The 1.3 million downloads of Beethoven at the BBC created a stir among classical music labels and artist managers, who immediately raised a stink about giving professional performances away for free. But this reaction assumes that all the people who downloaded the music would have gone out to buy Beethoven anyway. The downloads have made classical music more accessible to fans of other genres — a trend that emerges as one peruses the growing web of classical music fan blogs. The iPod may not be tolling the eventual death of the disc, it may be ensuring its continued livelihood." Toronto Star 07/31/05

Public Library Puts Music Online The recording company Naxos made its catalogue (90,000 recordings) available online for a fee (only for listening, not for downloading). So the Oshawa, Ontario public library bought a subscription, and now library patrons have free access to anything Naxos... Will it hurt the company's sales? Naxos thinks not. Toronto Star 07/31/05

The Met: Feeding An Opera Addiction The Metropolitan Opera has put its archives online, and you can now search the records of every production ever performed at the Met. "For countless opera buffs, the database, which includes entries on all performances since the Met's opening in 1883, has already become more than a repository of information," it's an addiction... The New York Times 07/31/05

July 29, 2005

Payola Rules The Airwaves? Yeah, Right! "Critics of today's pop music falsely equate the corporate admission that millions were spent trying to alter radio station playlists as a sign that the sounds now dominating radio are being forced on us. It's as if big, bad Sony BMG used its vast resources to keep "real" music (rock 'n' roll, adult pop, jazz, what have you) off the air. Trust me, Sony and other major labels aren't interested in keeping anything off the air. They are interested in selling records. They'd release an album of dog howls if they thought it would go platinum. To think otherwise is as misguided as believing that all those heavy metal albums years ago really had satanic messages woven into the music." Los Angeles Times 07/29/05

July 28, 2005

Korean Composer At The Top Ivan Hewett meets Unsuk Chin, who last year won the Grawemeyer Award, the musical world's richest prize for composers. Never before had a Korean composer made it so big in the West, and back home it was headline news. I suggest that after her long exile in Berlin, where she went in 1986 to study on a German government scholarship, she could now return to her roots and enjoy her celebrity status. The idea horrifies her." The Telegraph (UK) 07/28/05

Pop Star Signs Cell Phone Deal Pop singer Robbie Williams has "signed an exclusive deal with the global telecom giant T-Mobile that will allow customers to download songs, exclusive live tracks and concert footage to their mobile phones. The 18-month deal is the biggest tie-up yet between a big artist and a phone company and will be watched with interest by others convinced that mobile music delivery will become an important factor in boosting flagging record sales over the next few years." The Guardian (UK) 07/29/05

Pay To Play - Radio Payola Thrives Is payola rampant in the radio business? Apparently, and there are the incriminating emails to prove it. "This week Sony BMG, a leading record label, apologised and agreed to pay a fine of $10m for bribing radio stations. New York's hyperactive attorney-general, Eliot Spitzer, said that bribes are pervasive in the industry, and that he is continuing his investigation into the other big record labels—Universal, EMI and Warner Music—as well as the radio business." The Economist 07/28/05

Canadian Orchestras On The Rebound Three years ago, exoperts were predicting the death of Canadian symphony orchestras. That has changed dramatically. "After more than a half-century of resolutely resisting change in the name of purism, our symphonies, with nothing to lose, began experimenting, and have largely succeeded in bulking up their audiences and making a start at balancing their books. Insiders remain edgy, worried about the future. They voice concerns about the efficacy of subscriptions (younger people tend not to book in advance) and the increasing scarcity of patrons willing to donate money and time to orchestras. But overall, the mood has become markedly more bullish in the orchestral world." CBC 07/26/05

July 27, 2005

Lebrecht on Alsop: A True Musicians' Conductor Norman Lebrecht says that Marin Alsop handled the Baltimore dust-up with all the aplomb, dignity, and compassion one would expect from her. "This seemed to be just another of those occasions when musicians pick the worst possible moment to air unrelated internal grievances," but Alsop responded by quietly asking to meet with the musicians directly, and then asking what she could do to help them. "That's Marin Alsop, through and through. Of all current conductors, she is probably the best facilitator, the one who gets things done." La Scena Musicale 07/27/05

Elektra Too Pricey For Houston The Houston Symphony, which has been struggling with deficits for several years, has cancelled plans for a concert version of Richard Strauss's opera, Elektra, and replaced it with a program of operatic excerpts, which will be considerably cheaper to put on. The orchestra has also cancelled a planned new series of concerts designed to draw new audiences with theme concerts and onstage commentary. PlaybillArts 07/27/05

Is Less Classical Music Really A Problem? Rupert Christiansen has plowed through Blair Tindall's supposedly scandalous new book, and is most intrigued with the author's assessment of the state of the classical music industry. "A glut of young musicians were groomed to enter a profession that was both puffed up and weighed down with its own status and restrictive practices... [But] too much of the recent debate about classical music has focused on the decline in the quantity of performance or the size of audience, compared with the levels achieved in that brief post-war boom. Yet the quality of music-making should also be considered, and surely nobody who heard the Royal Opera's Die Walküre or John Eliot Gardiner's Nelson Mass at the Proms last week could come away worrying about a decline in standards." The Telegraph (UK) 07/27/05

July 26, 2005

Melbourne Goes Pop (Sort Of) The Melbourne Symphony is launching a new series of pops concerts to go along with its classical offerings, prompting consternation from some corners of the business in which such shows are thought to represent a dumbing down of the product. But to judge from what's being placed on the pops shows, these will be a far cry from the pops shows played by many American orchestras, in which 100 classically trained musicians become a droning backup band for an aging pop star. The Melbourne series will be more in the model of Arthur Fiedler's old Boston Pops concerts, featuring light classics and jazz-influenced works. The Age (Melbourne) 07/27/05

You Mean They're Human? "Their rarefied vocations notwithstanding, orchestra players are as normal as most other people. But somehow a stereotype grew up around classical musicians long ago, and it endures to this day." Namely, that they walk around all the time in tuxes or topcoats, that they listen to nothing but the classics, and travel by streetcar or some such antiquated mode of transport. In other words, they are fictional characters in some turn-of-the-20th-century novel. Anyone wanting a dose of what classical musicians are really like need only get to know the members of the New York Philharmonic... Denver Post 07/26/05

The Mozart Problem Next year will be the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, and yes, the orchestras of the world are well aware, and will shortly be inundating you with more Mozart than you can shake a baton at. But during most seasons, Mozart is rarely heard in the concert halls of major orchestras, and increasingly, his work is restricted to specialized festivals. Part of the problem, of course, is that historically informed performance is now the rule, and most symphony orchestras are loath to have half their musicians sit out for a week just so they can play some Mozart, but there's a larger issue hanging over the dearth of Wolfgang. "Artur Rubinstein's comment that Mozart is too simple for children and too difficult for adults is relevant here." New York Sun 07/26/05

Oue Makes Bayreuth History Germany's prestigious Bayreuth Festival has welcomed its first-ever Asian guest conductor, and the result appears to have been a popular success. Conductor Eiji Oue, music director of Japan's Osaka Philharmonic and late of the Minnesota Orchestra, took to the Bayreuth podium to open the festival, conducting Wagner's Tristan & Isolde. Oue, always a firebrand on the podium, reportedly drew cheers for his efforts. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (UPI) 07/26/05

OSM Still MIA The musicians' strike at l'Orchestra symphonique de Montreal has been relatively quiet, if you go by press accounts (or lack of them), but the sudden absence from the scene of Canada's most prestigious orchestra is starting to take a toll on the country's cultural life. This week, the famous Festival de Lanaudière was to serve as a grand stage for the OSM, with soloists Deborah Voight and Ben Heppner along for the ride. Instead, Voight and Heppner sang with a pick-up orchestra. "Last Wednesday, playing Terry Riley's In C, OSM players and their families and friends marched from Place des Arts with police escort along downtown Montreal streets to Phillips Square. They collected signatures along the way and got enthusiastic honks from passing motorists." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/26/05

July 25, 2005

So Aside From The Crippling Deformity... There are no more castrati, of course, and for very good reason. Over a century ago, the world got together and decided that the practice of castrating boys in their early teens so as to preserve their high voices into adulthood was barbaric, regardless of how nice a sound resulted from the assault. "A new exhibition, however, is hoping to overcome the public's squeamishness on the subject by telling the stories of the band of castrati singers who worked for the composer George Frideric Handel. It will show that for all the pain caused in the 17th and 18th centuries, when up to 4,000 boys a year were castrated in the service of art, the rewards could be immense. They earned fortunes far in excess of what Handel himself earned and more than other singers of the time. They were like the pop stars of today." The Independent (UK) 07/25/05

NY Phil: Violinist Dismissed For Bad Behavior The New York Philharmonic has responded publicly to a lawsuit brought by a violinist it dismissed at the end of his probationary term with the orchestra, calling his accusations of gender discrimination an "insult all the women members of every section of the New York Philharmonic." The Philharmonic also says that Anton Polezhayev was dismissed primarily for unspecified "behavioral" problems about which he had been spoken to several times. Polezhayev is seeking reinstatement to the orchestra, as well as back pay. The New York Times 07/26/05

Big Changes In Store At Grant Park? As downtown Chicago's summer jewel, the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, winds up its 2005 season, rumors are abounding that the festival is considering major changes on the podium. Principal guest conductor James Paul has been dismissed, sparking fears that further changes are on the way. "The official silence has only served to fuel rumors that the festival is gearing for further changes at the podium level that could move Grant Park in a more populist direction. And that would be a calamity at a time when music lovers in ever-increasing numbers are discovering downtown Chicago's beautiful, accessible and dynamic new lakefront haven for classical music. Why tamper with a civic treasure that has proved such a resounding success?" Chicago Tribune 07/25/05

Glasgow's New Old Concert Hall Ready For Its Closeup Glasgow is winding up a three year, £13 million renovation of one of its two main concert halls, and the results should be a great relief to concertgoers. "When the complex opens its new doors in January... Glasgow will, to all intents and purposes, have a brand new, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arts facility. The impact on the visitor will be instantaneous. What was previously a bland, functionless vestibule at the Candleriggs public entrance has been opened up to feed into a fashionable café. To the side, in a prominent and spacious shop-window position, and next to the new box office area, will be the plush new public face of the Scottish Music Centre, a potentially influential organisation currently hidden away in an anonymous Glasgow West End terrace." The Scotsman (UK) 07/25/05

Alsop Draws Support The Baltimore appointment may mark the first time Marin Alsop will have full control of a major American orchestra, but she's no stranger to the prestigious podiums of the world, and musicians from some of the world's best ensembles are going out of their way to support her in the wake of the Baltimore controversy. This past weekend, a violinist in the London Symphony stood at the end of a rehearsal to praise her and wish her well in her new job, prompting hearty applause from the entire LSO. Everywhere, the hope seems to be that Alsop's famous charisma will win over the Baltimore musicians who tried to stop her appointment as a protest over what they viewed as an aborted music director search process. Baltimore Sun 07/25/05

July 24, 2005

In Alsop Controversy, All Orchestras May Lose The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra broke a gender barrier when it appointed Marin Alsop to be its next music director. "But management made another bit of history, this one unfortunate, because it hired Alsop over the unusually public objections of its own musicians. By brushing aside the opinion of its artists on the most important artistic decision an orchestra can make, management runs the risk of setting her up for failure. The move has likely stunted the growth of Alsop's nascent rapport with the musicians, and has alerted listeners to a possibly troubled relationship - two things no orchestra ever wants to do, unless it is acting out of desperation." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/24/05

Chicago Can Learn From Baltimore's Missteps "The botched process by which Marin Alsop was hired earlier this week to be the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's next music director poses a cautionary tale for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which for more than a year has been conducting a search of its own to find a successor to Daniel Barenboim." Chicago Tribune 07/24/05

Domingo As Neruda In 'Postino' "Tenor Plácido Domingo will create the role of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda in a new opera, 'Il Postino,' by Mexican composer Daniel Catán, Los Angeles Opera company artistic director Edgar Baitzel said Friday." Inspired by the novel that became the Oscar-nominated 1995 movie "Il Postino," the opera will premiere in Los Angeles in 2009. Los Angeles Times 07/23/05

The Violin Section, Where The Glass Ceiling Has Shattered "A male violinist's discrimination suit against the New York Philharmonic underscores a little-noted phenomenon: women have come to dominate the violin sections of some of the nation's leading orchestras, or at least hold their own. And their numbers among violin players have also helped raise their prominence as concertmasters, the most important orchestra jobs after the conductors. But men still predominate in orchestras, and the testosterone level rises with the string instrument's size." The New York Times 07/23/05

July 21, 2005

La Scala To Replace Muti With A Platoon "Italy's venerable opera house, La Scala, will rotate through a roster of young conductors instead of replacing its former maestro, Riccardo Muti, who lead the company for 19 years. Stephane Lissner, La Scala's new artistic director, says he's in no hurry to replace Muti, who was ousted earlier this year along with top managers after an acrimonious strike by the theatre's workers... Lissner said he would like to have a lineup of five or six conductors taking over the reigns for the next three years and mentioned the likes of Riccardo Chailly, Daniel Barenboim and Lorin Maazel." CBC 07/21/05

But Would They Pay For It? Classical music advocates are ecstatic over the news that the BBC's free offer of downloadable Beethoven resulted in more downloads than any of the big pop stars currently topping the charts. But Andrew Dickson points out the flaw in that comparison: the Beethoven was free. Bono and The Beatles aren't. The BBC is comparing a giveaway with purchased pop tracks. So the real lesson may be that people like free stuff. CultureVulture (The Guardian) 07/21/05

Judge: No Tax Exemption for UK Orchestra England's Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has lost a court case it had hoped would allow it to qualify for an exemption from the UK's Value-Added Tax (VAT, similar to a U.S. sales tax). The court ruled that, because the orchestra has a paid executive on its board, it is not exempt, and the VAT should be applied to its annual income. The case is part of a continuing effort by British charities and nonprofits to gain exemption from the tax - a similar case brought by the London Zoo was successful in the European Court of Justice, which overruled several UK courts on the matter. The Bournemouth Symphony plans to appeal, and eventually to take its case to the European court, if necessary. The Telegraph (UK) 07/22/05

Levine In The Berkshires The James Levine Era has begun at Tanglewood, which has implications for more than just the Boston Symphony and its fans. Tanglewood is also home to one of the world's preeminent orchestral training programs for young musicians, a program traditionally overseen by the BSO music director. So far, the center's administrators and observers have raved about the maestro's effect on the program, but privately, many of the young musicians have been saying that Levine's baton technique can be vague and indecipherable. Still, there's no doubt that Levine is shaking up Tanglewood, and has taken to the role of head mentor. The New York Times 07/22/05

Orchestras Discriminating Against Men? That's A New One. A 29-year-old violinist is suing the New York Philharmonic for employment discrimination after being was dismissed from the ensemble in 2004. Anton Polezhayev claims that he received strong performance reviews but was denied tenure anyway because the orchestra prefers female violinists. The Philharmonic has no official comment on the lawsuit, but orchestra musicians have called Polezhayev's charges absurd, saying that "he didn't get tenure because he wasn't doing his job." The New York Times 07/22/05

McManus on Baltimore: It's The Process, Stupid. Drew McManus says that some critics, notably the Boston Globe's Richard Dyer, are not doing their research before sounding off on the Baltimore/Alsop controversy. "[Dyer] makes it seem as though the players are merely crying sour grapes at being outvoted in the search committee process... As the musician's statement following the board's vote on Tuesday said, they will work with any conductor who comes to Baltimore with equal skill and effort. They're professionals, and that’s what pros do. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they aren't allowed to have their own opinions and thoughts about the process their organization should use to determine their artistic leaders. To say otherwise is to reduce their contribution to the organization as a mere cog in a wheel, easily replaced and expendable." Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 07/21/05

China's Next Generation Of Classical Stars As China becomes an ever-more-important player on the world stage, the clash between its relatively closed and controlled Communist society and its desire to compete with Western countries on every front possible is leading to some incongruous situations. Case in point: the rise of China's stable of young classical musicians, bred almost from birth to be the next generation of superstars. On the one hand, the cultural push is giving rise to some phenomenal talents who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn the musical craft. On the other hand, some Europeans have been dismayed by the Chinese approach, claiming that children deprived of a normal childhood in favor of intense study in a single area will not grow into well-rounded musicians. International Herald Tribune 07/21/05

Marin Makes Peace Before signing her contract as the Baltimore Symphony's next music director, Marin Alsop spent some time with the orchestra's musicians in an attempt to put aside any hard feelings and articulate her artistic vision for the ensemble. The musicians, in return, assured Alsop that they would "always give [her] 110%." Meanwhile, various BSO board members have begun to publicly explain their decision to appoint a music director opposed by 90% of the orchestra's players, and Alsop herself has described the controversy, which seems to have been about principle as much as personality, as "a warning light about other issues the musicians have that need to be addressed." Baltimore Sun 07/21/05

  • Previously:  Baltimore Symphony Board Offers Music Director Job To Alsop "Despite pleas by its musicians that it consider other candidates, the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Tuesday formally offered the post of music director to Marin Alsop, the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, who will become the first woman to head a major American orchestra." The orchestra's musicians responded: "The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are disappointed in the premature conclusion of the music director search process. However, this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music-making. We will work together with Marin Alsop and every other conductor to present the inspiring performances our audience has come to expect." Baltimore Sun 07/19/05

  • No One Won This Dust-Up Richard Dyer says that there's plenty of blame to go around in the Baltimore mess. "At this point, no one should be patting themselves on the back except perhaps Alsop, the innocent bystander/victim in an ugly management-vs.-musician conflict. The management and board should never have let the news out before it had all the ducks lined up. And once the announcement was made, the players should not have made a public issue of their dissatisfaction. What possible purpose could this serve?" Boston Globe 07/21/05

July 20, 2005

The Most Popular Music Online? Beethoven Free downloads of BBC Beethoven symphonies have blown off the lid of the download charts, beating all popular music. "Final figures from the BBC show that the complete Beethoven symphonies on its website were downloaded 1.4m times, with individual works downloaded between 89,000 and 220,000 times. The works were each available for a week, in two tranches, in June. It would take a commercial CD recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies 'upwards of five years' to sell as many downloads as were shifted from the BBC website in two weeks." The Guardian (UK) 07/20/05

Alsop And Baltimore - Many Questions "Exactly what those objections are or why Baltimore's management was willing to hurt relations with the players to rush this appointment [of Marin Alsop] through are unclear. Is it, for the players, personal? Do they dislike her as a conductor? Are they unhappy with her predilection for American music? And what about management? Is it interested in Alsop's vision? Or is it out for the publicity of hiring a woman? The Baltimore Symphony is not in particularly good shape these days. It's deficit has been variously reported as $10 million and $12 million. And the orchestra has hardly demonstrated strong artistic vision of late." Los Angeles Times 07/20/05

Alsop And Baltimore - A Difficult Future? Marin Alsop hasn't yet accepted the music director job of the Baltimore Symphony, which was offered to her Tuesday over the objections of the orchestra's musicians. "The course of events in Baltimore leaves Alsop in an awkward spot. The job may be hers, but musical success hinges on that ineffable thing called chemistry. Liking, respecting, and trying hard for the conductor on the podium count for much in how well a performance goes. Such relationships are even harder to develop after the atmosphere has been poisoned with complaints such as the ones cataloged by Baltimore musicians and magnified in yesterday's Washington Post." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/20/05

July 19, 2005

Baltimore Symphony Board Offers Music Director Job To Alsop "Despite pleas by its musicians that it consider other candidates, the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Tuesday formally offered the post of music director to Marin Alsop, the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, who will become the first woman to head a major American orchestra." The orchestra's musicians responded: "The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are disappointed in the premature conclusion of the music director search process. However, this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music-making. We will work together with Marin Alsop and every other conductor to present the inspiring performances our audience has come to expect." Baltimore Sun 07/19/05

  • Marin On The Merits? Marin Alsop would seem to be an excellent choice to lead the Baltimore Symphony, but one shouldn't dismiss the objections of the orchestra's musicians. "The voices were too numerous and too strident to be dismissed as typical grumbling of jaded union musicians. What to make of it? Ms. Alsop's debut with the Baltimore Symphony in May 2002 was well received by critics and audiences. Though I have not heard her conduct the orchestra, her performances with it since her debut have seemingly been successful." The New York Times 07/20/05

A New Maestro For Calgary The Calgary Philharmonic has a new music diretor. Roberto Minczuk, the recently appointed music director of the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira in Rio de Janeiro, has signed a three-year contract with the orchestra. "Minczuk, who until last May was principal guest conductor of the Sao Paulo State Symphony, recently completed a nine-year tenure as co-artistic director with the same orchestra as well as a two-year term as associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic." Calgary Herald 07/16/05

Orchestra For Rent Some Australian orchestras are earning a nice side income hiring themselves out. "Want an ensemble for your next corporate do, musicians for a film soundtrack, a backing band for a pop diva? Your state orchestra will be happy to oblige - and no wonder. Despite union claims that it's been stripped of more than $2.2 million in government funding in real terms over the past five years, the Sydney Symphony has notched up a surplus every year since being corporatised in 1996. Driving this is the money that has been coming in from hiring out the orchestra for commercial events. Last year was the fourth consecutive year that income from this sector has grown." Sydney Morning Herald 07/19/05

Arlington Symphony Files Bankruptcy The Washington DC-area Arlington Symphony has shut down and filed for bankruptcy. The 60-year-old ensemble was one of the older orchestras in the Washington area. "The professional symphony had struggled financially for years. Its debt now is about $140,000, with an annual operating budget of $300,000 to $400,000." Washington Post 07/19/05

A Decision For The Baltimore Symphony Today? The mess surrounding the appointment of a new music director for the Baltimore Symphony comes to a head today as the orchestra's board meets to decide whether to hire Marin Alsop. "The hard-to-define chemistry between musicians and conductor that produces and sustains a long-term relationship is difficult to predict, let alone guarantee. Whether Alsop and the BSO could achieve such a connection is a question that the orchestra's board may consider this morning." Baltimore Sun 07/19/05

July 18, 2005

Critical Conversation: What's Wrong With Music Critics? It's a shrinking world for classical music critics and the artform they cover, writes Norman Lebrecht in AJ's weeklong music critics' blog: "I work with some outstanding music critics, brilliantly perceptive, dedicated to their craft. Just don’t ask most of them to think outside the box. Music critics, like the art they review, have turned timorously inwards, unable to fight their shrinking corner effectively because they have such little understanding of the pressures facing the editors who employ them." Critical Conversation (AJBlog) 07/18/05

Why So Few Women Conductors? "In an era when women commonly run everything from universities to Fortune 500 companies to entire countries, why has it taken so long for a single leading orchestra to take the step? The fact is, classical music has been extraordinarily hidebound when it comes to gender issues. American orchestras have been far ahead of many of their European counterparts on this front, with women making up a third or more of the membership of several leading ensembles and regularly dominating the string section. But things have been just as hard for female conductors in the United States as they are across the Atlantic." Washington Post 07/19/05

In Baltimore: Musicians Object To Music Director Choice Musicians of the Baltimore Symphony have strongly objected to the orchestra's search committee choice of Marin Alsop as the next music director. "The turmoil at the Baltimore Symphony is part of a long history of orchestra players' seeking a greater say in the choice of the man or woman who stands before them day after day, leading rehearsals, conducting concerts and strongly affecting their musical and even personal lives." The New York Times 07/19/05

de Waart Fires Hong Kong Phil Concertmaster Hong Kong Philharmonic music director Edo de Waart, in his first season in the post, has fired concertmaster Dennis Kim for "auditioning for a place in an American orchestra while purportedly on sick leave. Kim learned earlier this year that his contract would not be renewed for the 2006-07 season for reasons, according to a source, that include criticizing his colleagues and bargaining for extra performance fees." PlaybillArts 07/16/05

July 17, 2005

Gangsta Rap-As-Cockroach Gangsta rap is back and the violence has escalated along with record sales. "Gangsta rap is like a cockroach infestation: Shining a light on it can cause some scurrying, but curbing it is a Sisyphean task. Targeting the corporate powers-that-be boldly ignores the practical here-and-now of the situation: Like it or not, children do listen to 50 Cent's verbal gunplay and gossip about his real-life gunplay. While adults are busy battling companies, youths are soaking up the good, the bad and the ugly of hip-hop culture." Los Angeles Times 07/17/05

Classically Speaking, Why Are We So Stuck In The Past? "Overall, there are more quality composers working today than in any given year of the 18th or 19th centuries. Those eras overflowed with rote. Half the reason Beethoven remains so revered is because of how ho-hum many of his contemporaries were. But we don't see it that way. We still mostly like the oldies. Why then, did classical music, especially in this country, take such a different course from the other arts, with audiences generally disconnected from contemporary creations?" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/17/05

Looking For A Summer Solution Ticket sales for the Chicago Symphony's summer season at Ravinia have been down for the better part of a decade now, and while the numbers certainly don't indicate a crisis, they might point to a general malaise. "The apparent defection of a segment of Ravinia's core audience over the last 15 years strikes at the artistic heart of America's oldest music festival even as it tests the goodwill and durability that have marked the Chicago Symphony's long relationship with Ravinia. Business partners during the summer who lead largely independent lives during the rest of the year, Ravinia and the CSO now find themselves in circumstances that call for something they haven't much done before, cooperative problem-solving." Chicago Tribune 07/17/05

The Musicians You Never See Pop quiz: what member of a symphony orchestra typically knows the most about every piece of music on every program, and knows it before most of the orchestra is even aware of what they'll be playing? Answer: the librarian. "Each year the symphony music librarians prepare approximately 80 different programs for the orchestra to perform -- about 600 compositions totaling 35,000 parts for as many as 250 artists in a given performance. Those parts are rarely only a single page and often run to dozens of pages -- all of which must be checked... The sheer volume of work in the library can be daunting." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 07/17/05

Alsop To Baltimore Marin Alsop, the most prominent female conductor in the world, finally has a major American orchestra to call her own. According to sources, the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will vote next week to approve Alsop as its next music director, replacing Yuri Temirkanov. Alsop has long been rumored to be in line for a major American directorship, and is already one of Britain's better-known conductors. Washington Post 07/16/05

  • But Not Everyone's Happy... News of Marin Alsop's appointment is not sitting well with the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony, who took the unusual step of issuing a public statement decrying the board's decision to end its music director search. All seven musicians serving on the search committee favored continuing the search, and at least one prominent board member is publicly siding with them, but the orchestra's president says that the musicians will have the chance to share their views before the board votes to confirm Alsop. Nonetheless, the musicians have apparently been barred from speaking to board members in advance of the Tuesday confirmation meeting. Baltimore Sun 07/16/05

  • Process Story AJ Blogger Drew McManus says that the Baltimore search process appears to have been designed to exclude, or at least trivialize, the views of the orchestra's musicians and, regardless of the merits of Marin Alsop as a conductor, a botched process is a sign of an organization in trouble. Furthermore, hiring a music director so early in the process is highly unusual for a major orchestra, largely because it is difficult to correct a hiring mistake without considerable public fallout. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 07/16/05

July 15, 2005

Freud Named To Head Houston Grand Opera Anthony Freud, currently director of the Welsh National Opera, has been named general director of the Houston Grand Opera. BBC 07/15/05

  • Freud For Houston What can Houston Grand Opera expect from Anthony Freud, its new director? "Judging from his current work, Houston audiences will see a mix of traditional and new opera similar to that provided by longtime HGO head David Gockley." Hoston Chronicle 07/14/05

July 14, 2005

Getting Past The Pain How has the pop music world responded to the horrific terrorist attacks in London? Well, it hasn't, really, at least not beyond the predictable canceling and rescheduling of concerts. But isn't pop's refusal to be kept down by world events part of its purpose? "For all the high moral ground staked out at Live8, sometimes pop has to do exactly what it says on the tin and add a little fizz to our lives. In the wake of tragedy, Charlotte Church singing about being a Crazy Chick can seem at best an irrelevance, at worst a trivial distraction, but people don't just listen to music to salve their souls and ease their consciences. Pop is there to raise a smile, to give us something to dance to, to help people forget their troubles." The Telegraph (UK) 07/15/05

Proms '05: Still The Biggest, Still One Of The Best All carping and nitpicking aside, there really is nothing like the BBC Proms, the 111th edition of which begins this weekend in London. "There is something about the buzz of the atmosphere, the camaraderie of the Albert Hall, and the potent musical mix that ineluctably attracts seasoned, occasional and first-time concert-goers alike... While other European musical capitals largely shut up shop during the summer, London stages the world's busiest two-month classical festival, this year with 74 concerts, eight lunchtime chamber recitals, and the popular last night's Proms in the Park presented simultaneously in London, Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester and Swansea." The Telegraph (UK) 07/15/05

Summer In The City Talk to orchestra execs around the U.S. about their biggest headaches, and slumping summer sales will likely make the list, even for big-budget bands like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony. But in Minneapolis, where the Minnesota Orchestra has been mounting a major summer festival in the heart of the city for more than a quarter-century, ticket sales have actually risen in each of the last three years. Even so, the orchestra has been playing things awfully safe in recent summers, programming mainly crowd-pleasers and avoiding anything the marketing department might find unpleasant. Striking the right balance seems somehow to be more difficult in warm weather than cold... Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/15/05

A New Digital Music Instrument A new digital music interface replaces the computer keyboard. "The computer interface is an adjustable, hollow device affixed to four thin metal tubes divided by a bridge into long and short sections. By positioning the fingers on the long section, a player can control pitch; by positioning the other hand's fingers on the short section, the player can control such things as tempo and volume. Four laser pointers shining down the length of each rod relay the plucking motion to a tiny Web camera located on the bridge. When the player presses on the rods, the finger splits the beam of light, reflecting a splotch of light back to the camera." Discovery 07/14/05

A Pink Floyd Opera? Pink Floyd's Roger Waters has written an opera about the French Revolution. "It's not just a piece about the French Revolution, it's about revolution in a much broader sense, and it's about the capacity that human beings have for personal change. The piece is an exultation and an encouragement to those of us who believe the human race can discover its humanity and its capacity for empathy to the point where it may be possible for us at some point to guarantee the basic human rights of the individual (around the world)."
Newsday (AP) 07/14/05

July 13, 2005

Let The Computer Find Music You'll Like Most indie artists don't have budgets to market their music. But new software is helping to connect musicians with potential audiences. "Software pushes independent artists' songs through the Internet to the people with matching tastes, exposing their music to the people most likely to become fans. Each time the programs run, they download more songs for users to play and rate on a scale from one to five stars. The ratings help the software match each user to others who have parallel likes and dislikes. Once a match has been made, the software sends people songs that others with similar tastes have rated highly." Los Angeles Times 07/13/05

When The Music In Your Head Won't Shut Off There's a brain disorder that results in a patient having musical hallucinations - one "hears" music clearly inside the head when nothing is playing outside it.There is "recent work by neuroscientists indicating that our brains use special networks of neurons to perceive music. When sounds first enter the brain, they activate a region near the ears called the primary auditory cortex that starts processing sounds at their most basic level. The auditory cortex then passes on signals of its own to other regions, which can recognize more complex features of music, like rhythm, key changes and melody. Neuroscientists have been able to identify some of these regions with brain scans, and to compare the way people respond to musical and nonmusical sounds." The New York Times 07/13/05

Music: Looking For Meaning In All The Wrong Places Does music have any inherent meaning all on its own? "Can the compositional process of any music, from 12-bar blues to spectralism, be "publicly intelligible" without some kind of grounding in its conventions? If you've never heard a nursery rhyme in your life (difficult I know, for arguments sake imagine an extraterrestrial sentient being), wouldn't it seem baffling on first listen?" NewMusicBox 07/13/05

Mpls Music School Getting A New Home Two things have been as sure as death and taxes in the city of Minneapolis recently: riverfront development, and massive new buildings for local arts groups. Now, the city's largest community music school is leaping into the fray, announcing plans for a gleaming new headquarters in the heart of the developing river district on the northern edge of downtown. MacPhail School of Music would add 10,000 square feet of usable space under the plan, which will cost $12.5 million, and would, for the first time, have a modern building with air conditioning and a proper performance space. Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/13/05

Good News, Bad News In Seattle The Seattle Symphony and the Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Ballet will both finish their fiscal years in the black, or at least close to it, but Seattle Opera has dipped into the red for the first time in over a decade. The opera's deficit could be as much as $280,000 and comes just as the company is preparing to embark on a complete Wagner Ring cycle later in the summer, which will push its annual budget up by some $8 million. Meanwhile, no one's really breathing easily at the symphony, where the accumulated deficit has been reduced but is still impressive, and the musicians' contract is up for renegotiation. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 07/13/05

Wage Freeze, Unpaid Furlough For Houston Symphony After weeks of negotiations, the musicians and management of the Houston Symphony have tentatively agreed on a revision to their current contract. The revised deal includes a wage freeze, an unpaid three-week furlough, and an eventual 1% raise for the 2005-06 season. Negotiations went considerably better than the last time the orchestra was at the bargaining table, in 2003, when a bitter three-week strike left all sides unhappy and at serious odds. The revised contract is meant to lessen the organization's dependence on capital campaigns for ongoing operating funds. Houston Chronicle 07/13/05

July 12, 2005

Classically Trained? Classically Stupid! Why do pop musicians hide behind the phrase "Classically trained"? "Tossed into a bio or regurgitated in a feature article, that phrase—along with its cousins "classical background" and "classical studies"—can add depth to the frilliest of pop-culture images, leading some to think that a million-dollar contract is the only thing keeping their favorite artist from the recital hall. Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews' violinist Boyd Tinsley, Beyoncé, and even the avant-hop producer the Automator, all have some form of 'classical training.' Here's the problem: Few people outside of music students know what that really means." Slate 07/12/05

Music Sales Down, Downloads Triple "Internet users in the U.S. downloaded 158 million individual songs from services like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes during the first half of the year, compared with 55 million in the year-ago period, SoundScan said. U.S. album sales, including downloads, fell 2.5 percent to 301.2 million units in the first half from 309 million a year earlier. Those figures included downloaded tracks equivalent to about 17.6 million albums this year and 6 million last year. Sales of albums, excluding these new digital formats, fell 7 percent to 282.6 million units." Yahoo! (Reuters) 07/12/05

  • UK Downloads Top 10 Million The number of songs legally downloaded from the internet in the UK during 2005 has topped the 10 million mark. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said the figure was almost twice the level for the whole of 2004." And another odd stat: sales of vinyl signles are up 87 percent over last year. BBC 07/12/05

Classical Labels Assail BBC Over Beethoven Downloads A few weeks ago the BBC made recordings of all the Beethoven symphonies available free for downloading. Hundreds of thousands of people downloaded them. "But the initiative has infuriated the bosses of leading classical record companies who argue the offer undermines the value of music and that any further offers would be unfair competition." The Independent (UK) 07/10/05

New Jersey Symphony Climbs Out Of Hole The troubled Jersey Symphony Orchestra, which recorded a $900,000 defict last season announced yesterday it has finished its 2004-05 season "within $100,000 of break even" on a budget of about $14 million. The orchestra also announced two major grants. Newark Star-Ledger 07/12/05

The Hidden Performer Inside All Of Us? "The desire to perform is, I think, universally present, but the horror of failure or ridicule is almost as strong. Many people have had a eureka moment with music; a spark, a fuse, an explosion which might be talent revealed or, at least, the start of an enduring interest, love, even obsession. But perhaps the talent for hearing and enjoying music is actually separate from the ability to produce it." The Observer (UK) 07/10/05

Liverpool Philharmonic Signs Russian Conductor "The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic has appointed 29-year-old Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko to lead the orchestra into the city's capital of culture year in 2008.He has signed an initial three-year contract as principal conductor and will conduct up to 25 concerts. He will be the youngest principal conductor of any leading British orchestra, although he cannot beat the record of Sir Simon Rattle, who took on the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at 25." The Guardian (UK) 07/12/05

July 11, 2005

Classical Spectacular Worldwide Promoter Raymond Gubbay has made a fortune with his "Classical Spectacular" productions. Now his empire is spreaqding to Australia. "The formula is simple. Take the world's most popular classical pieces - from Nessun Dorma to the Swan Lake Finale, Blue Danube Waltz and the Can Can theme. Engage a 90-piece symphony orchestra, 100-piece choir, military band and soloists to perform them. Package it with synchronised lasers, lights and fireworks. Put them on stage in an arena packed with 10,000 people, and your bank manager will be popping champagne and whistling the 1812 Overture." The Age (Melbourne) 07/11/05

July 10, 2005

Maazel's 1984 - Vanity Or Integrity? Was Lorin Maazel's opera 1984 a failure because it was a vanity project? Or did paying for a production of it himself at Covent Garden give him the control and integrity of a project in a way he otherwise not have had? This is certainly true in other artforms... Philadelphia Inquirer 07/10/05

Ring Tone Symphonies? Cell phone ring tones are getting more sophisticated. "When combined with technology that allows them to sound like music instead of its tinny shadow, and programs that allow anyone to make, mix or otherwise devise his or her own ringtones, the seven songs on the Timbaland album - among the first meant to be played on a phone, not a radio or CD player - suggest that ring tones are not merely a new money-maker; they are a new art form." The new York Times 07/10/05

When Is A Symphony Orchestra Not The Answer? Can the demise of a symphony orchestra actually be good for the affected city's classical music scene? It seems counterintuitive, but Lawrence Johnson points out that, since the untimely end of the Florida Philharmonic, smaller chamber ensembles have begun to flourish in geographically disparate South Florida. "It's not what former Philharmonic musicians want to hear, nor what those who prefer to experience the rich glory and volume of a large symphony orchestra desire. But the fact is that these smaller, less expensive orchestras and chamber ensembles may be more effectively serving the needs of local audiences than the Florida Philharmonic." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/10/05

July 9, 2005

Competing For A Career Being a young conductor is no great shakes, what with everyone from critics to musicians to the public just waiting to pass judgment on your every move. So how do you manage to create great art, keep your orchestra happy, please the experts, and promote yourself all at the same time? Well, you could start by winning the Leeds Conductors Competition... The Guardian (UK) 07/08/05

Austin S.O. Ticket Sales Go Through The Roof Orchestras across America are struggling to fill their concert halls, but in the indie-rock capital of Austin, Texas, residents are apparently devoted to music of all kinds, filling the local symphony's concerts to such an impressive capacity that some concerts even attracted ticket scalpers. In fact, the Austin Symphony registered a 43% ticket sales increase in 2004-05 over the previous season, a dramatic rise the ensemble attributes to programming decisions and strong community support. Austin Business Journal (TX) 07/08/05

  • Pop Sales Take A Dive Orchestras aren't the only ones with ticket woes: attendance at popular music performances in North America dropped 12% in the first half of 2005, despite lower average ticket prices. Revenue generated by the concerts - mainly touring rock, pop, and hip-hop shows - fell more than 17%. Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 07/09/05

Swed: Tindall's Tales Miss The Point Blair Tindall's now-infamous stories of sexual favors traded for career advancement in New York's freelance scene are less troubling than her characterization of the music business as a whole, writes Mark Swed. "Classical music doesn't mean much to the average American's life, and she condemns the major orchestras, opera companies and performing arts centers for acting as if it does. They can't sustain their high budgets, and they get by, in part, by taking advantage of the little guy, the musician... There are serious inequities in the system and a lot of jerks who manipulate musicians and the public for their own profit. But there are musicians who engage in the world in a meaningful way — and not just the Rattles, Tilson Thomases and Salonens — who get out and make music that matters, who change lives." Los Angeles Times 07/09/05

Branching Out In La-La Land There aren't a lot of career options for classically trained musicians - for most, either you win an orchestra job or two, or you don't, in which case you spend your life freelancing and teaching to make ends meet. But in Los Angeles, a paradigm shift is underway, in the form of "a small but growing and spirited subculture of young, classically trained female L.A. musicians who have skirted the symphony audition path to play 'alternative' musical genres and enjoy eclectic entertainment-industry work now that the Hollywood studios are no longer boys' clubs... The impressive range of styles they play provides them with a level of excitement and performance satisfaction that more traditional musicians cannot claim — and they wouldn't have it any other way." Los Angeles Times 07/10/05

Arizona Opera Stays In The Black Arizona Opera has balanced its budget for the second straight year, despite a difficult season that required serious cutbacks to keep the company in the black. The group, which performs in both Phoenix and Tucson, had a $5.5 million budget in 2004-05, but was forced to improvise for venues when Phoenix's Symphony Hall closed for renovations. Tucson Citizen (AZ) 07/09/05

July 7, 2005

Charlotte Church Gone Wrong Everyone loves the teenage singer. But her latest album of rock songs just plain doesn't work. "She is obviously prodigiously gifted, but the rigours of classical training have left her unsure how to tackle a rock song. Eventually, she settles for a jarring mid-Atlantic accent. She keeps threatening to walk out of something she refers to as the "dowh". The reason she is going to walk out the dowh is because she has been hurt befowh. She thus can't take any mowh, a sentiment with which the listener may quickly concur: the whole thing is becoming a bit of a bowh." The Guardian (UK) 07/07/05

Who Gets Victoria Opera Money? Australia's Victoria government has pledged $7.6 million to opera over the next four years. But who's to get it? The independent Melbourne Opera believes it has a right to the money, but rumors have it going o Opera Australia's educational and touring efforts... The Age (Melbourne) 07/08/05

A Promotion In Zurich "Franz Welser-Möst, the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, will become general music director of Zurich Opera in September, a spokesperson for the orchestra confirmed. The appointment is a promotion for Welser-Möst, who served as music director of the opera company from 1995 through 2002 and has been principal conductor since. He has agreed to an initial term of five years, through 2011. He will retain his position in Cleveland, where his current contract runs through 2012." PlaybillArts 07/07/05

Honolulu Looks For Internal Stability The Honolulu Symphony is poised to announce a major overhaul of its management structure today, in an effort to turn around years of fiscal instability. Former Pittsburgh Symphony executive Gideon Toeplitz will be taking over as interim president, and a new board chair will be appointed as well. The changes were precipitated by a period of uncertainty a the orchestra, which began when a consultant criticized the performance of symphony president Stephen Bloom, who promptly resigned. Pacific Business News 07/07/05

Utah Symphony & Opera Back On Track The Utah Symphony & Opera, which has faced mounting criticism in recent months from within its musician ranks and from others in the music industry for a perceived failure of management, has announced that it is on track to implement a financial recovery plan. "The organization had achieved 90 percent of its fundraising goals as of June 6 and ticket sales as of May 31 exceeded goals by $128,000, according to the report, which emerged from a task force set up by the US&O board to ensure recovery from operating deficits that followed the 2002 merger of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera." The success of the plan is critical - the US&O had vowed to consider layoffs if revenue projections were not met. Salt Lake Tribune 07/07/05

July 6, 2005

What Have You Got Against The Neoromantics? "Neoromanticism has almost always been regarded with suspicion by critics, even though it has been embraced by at least as many composers as has neoclassicism. (The second edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians devotes twice as much space to neoclassicism as to neoromanticism.) Is this because neoromantic music is inferior in quality? Or is it merely the last gasp of the same prejudice in favor of innovation for its own sake that once led avant-garde composers and their critical sympathizers to dismiss all tonal music as “useless”?" Commentary 07/05

Ringing Effort - A New Handbell Record A Canadian man sets a record for continuous handbell ringing. "While bell-ringing is usually performed by choirs of 11 people, Devries played solo for close to 28 hours, drawing from the roughly 1,300 songs he had prepared. He began at 8 a.m. local time Tuesday and stopped at approximately 11:45 a.m. Wednesday." CBC 07/06/05

No Red Ink In Dallas The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has balanced its $23 million budget for the second year in a row, bringing in $8.48 million for its annual fund drive and boosting its endowment to $100 million. Dallas Morning News 07/06/05

Top Exec At BBC Scottish Calling It Quits It's an exciting time for the Glasgow-based BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which has just extended the contract of its popular music director, Ilan Volkov, and will shortly move into its new permanent home in the heart of the city's entertainment district. "By any yardstick, then, there is everything to play for in the orchestra whose technical ability and reputation has utterly transformed in the past decade and a half." So why is the orchestra's longtime general director choosing this moment to walk away? The Herald (Glasgow) 07/06/05

July 5, 2005

Name That Tune (They'll Do It For You) Ever stuck trying to name a song you heard? Now the computer will do it for you. "You call a toll-free number on your cell phone and play the music you're trying to identify for 15 seconds. The program then contacts you via text message, whether it can make the ID or not. Sorry, but humming a tune won't work. But the service can distinguish between different performers' versions of the same tune to match audio "fingerprints" from its database of more than 2.5 million popular recordings. The database doesn't include classical music or jazz." Chicago Sun-Times 07/05/05

A Little-O Opera Revival In Montana A long-forgotten American opera based on Blackfeet Indian legend has an unlikely revival in a struggling agricultural town in northern Montana. "We have to overcome this stereotype that people have developed over what we're calling this show. It's an opera, but I don't ever say the O-word. I refer to it as the legend of Scarface told through acting and singing and lighting." The New York Times 07/02/05

In Miami - Not Your Parents' Opera Florida Grand Opera has had its best couple of seasons ever at the box office. A great deal of the credit has to go to the company's new marketing campaign. "So much of the advertising over the years had become . . . focused on the people who are going to be in the audience anyway. So we really launched a campaign . . . of having real-life opera singers who are young and sexy and look like people you'd like to approach at a party." Miami Herald 07/03/05

The Man Who Bought An Orchestra When the founder of the Queensland Pops Orchestra in Australia died last year, the orchestra was put up for sale. Barrie Gott bought it. "What Mr Gott gets for his money includes a substantial library of scores, about 650 titles, access to the core of professional musicians who come together for each Pops concert, and the mailing list of avid listeners known as Friends of the Pops." The Courier-Mail (Australia) 07/04/05

The 90-Minute Magic Flute Mozart's "Magic Flute" cut down and performed in English at the Met? "Is the cut-down, 90-minute version a first step at commercializing the Met? Some opera purists may think so. But the plan has merit. That even the brightest children have limited attention spans is a given. A family version of "The Magic Flute" at the Met would have to be done right, though. Will the run be presented at family times (matinees and early evenings), and, more important, at family prices? In principle, this is a good idea." The New York Times 07/04/05

July 3, 2005

At The Opera - The English Debate A debate rages at the English National Opera about whether using supertitles is necessary for operas sung in English. Anthony Tommasini appreciates the arguments on both side: "In my passions and my ideals, I side with the purists about the threat titles represent to opera in English. Having this crutch is bound to undermine the heritage slowly but steadily: audiences will look to the screens rather than pay attention to the singers; singers, knowing that audiences are relying on the projected texts, will cut corners on diction so that they can linger on a luscious sustained tone. Yet the pragmatist in me understands the frustrations of sitting through an opera in English when you cannot make out the words. Nothing induces passivity, even hostility, to opera more than that." The New York Times 07/03/05

Of America's Gay And Straight Composers... Where does the classic "American" sound come from? Aaron Copland "was one of a group of composers who, starting in the 1930s, cultivated a new nationalist – or at least populist modernist – style. And most of them were gay, including Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, David Diamond, Lou Harrison, Paul Bowles, Marc Blitzstein and Ned Rorem. By contrast, most of the pricklier modernists, including Charles Ives, Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions, were straight." Dallas Morning News 07/03/05

Tanglewood Begins Levine Era James Levine starts his first summer leading the Tanglewood Festival. "Everyone expects Tanglewood to be transformed in the Levine era, but no one knows yet what direction the changes will take. Levine has been at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home, festival, and school only twice before, as an audience member in 1956, when he was 13, and as a guest conductor in 1972. He's been careful to say that he needs to experience the way Tanglewood does things before thinking about making changes. Change is one of the things Tanglewood is supposed to be about." Boston Globe 07/03/05

What Happened To Sexy Music? "Switch on the radio, grab a glance at MTV. Because something odd is happening, and it's been going on for a while now. Here, it appears that there are few women or men anywhere to be heard. There are the breathy voices of ingenues; the mewling of babies; the shouts of a teenage tantrum; the whines of adolescent boys. BoyzIIMen? Please." spiked-online 07/01/05

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