Saturday, February 13, 2016

Antonin Scalia

He was an extremely smart (and deeply misguided) associate justice; he was a good friend of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; he was an opera fan.

He also predicted, correctly, that marriage equality would be the law of the land, but he was clearly enraged by the thought.

My hope was always that he'd retire to write legal tomes, or go off to a monastery. I am not the slightest bit sorry to see him and his brand of extremism off the Supreme Court.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fluttering By

More Butterfly variety than expected at the Met, according to a cast change announcement:
Ana María Martínez will sing her first Met performances of Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on February 19 and 22, replacing Hei-Kyung Hong, who is ill. Hong is scheduled to sing the performances on February 25, March 2 and 5, as previously announced.
Hong herself, you might recall, replaced the originally-announced Patricia Racette, who has retired the role.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Miscellany

Christine Goerke, who recently made her role debut as the Siegfried Brunnhilde in the Canadian Opera Company's production of that opera, gave a hilarious interview to Robert Harris of The Globe and Mail...The Berkeley (Early Music) Festival has posted its 2016 schedule, although I've received no press release or other publicity about it. Unfortunately, it's opposite both the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and Ojai....Cal Bach has an attractive program of Carissimi, Charpentier, and Schütz. coming up the last weekend of February. They perform in SF, Palo Alto, and Berkeley....Opera Parallele and SFJAZZ present Terence Blanchard's Champion at SFJAZZ, from February 19 to 28....Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is leaving New Century Chamber Orchestra after the 2016-17 season...

Ojai Music Festival: MDs through 2021

Good news on the Music Director front from the Ojai Festival:

  • Peter Sellars, 2016, with a program of mostly women composers
  • Vijay Iyer, 2017
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen, 2018
  • Barbara Hannigan, 2019
  • Patricia Kopatchinskaya, 2020
  • Mitsuko Uchida, 2021; she was also MD in 1998 with conductor David Zinman
The link is to the press release - it hasn't landed in my inbox yet, but email this morning asked me if I'd heard the news, so I checked their web site, and wow. The exact dates of the festivals are there as well, if you plan your travels years ahead. 

As regular readers know, I've been rolling my eyes at their programming annually, owing to a track record where music composed by women was sorely neglected by a festival of new and unusual music. (I see that my 2015 post about the situation mentioned Hannigan and conductor of the hour MGT as potential music directors!)

So thank you, Ojai, for these excellent appointments. And keep MGT in mind for future seasons.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Gap Year

Facts to consider:
So the question arises: what happens in 2017-18?

Well, the NYPO can look to the north, to the seasons between James Levine's resignation from the BSO and the commencement of Andris Nelsons' tenure there: the BSO had two full seasons of guest conductors.

Or the NYPO can look to the south, where Charles Dutoit's long relationship with the orchestra included several years when he was music director but was, I believe, considered to be a placeholder between Christoph Eschenbach and a long-term appointee, in this case, Yannick Nezhet-Seguin.

Or the NYPO could look to former music directors, except there aren't many of them around:
  • Leonard Bernstein (d. 1990)
  • Pierre Boulez (d. 2016)
  • Zubin Mehta (turns 80 this year)
  • Kurt Masur (d. 2015)
  • Lorin Maazel (d. 2014)
A year of Mehta, just what they need! Maybe Dutoit is available to save the day?

Of course, future former music director Alan Gilbert might have some time free in 2017-18; he has not announced a new appointment, and, well, at opera companies it's common for an outgoing intendant to take significant responsibility for the years following his or her departure. And the announcement of van Zweden's appointment did note that he will conduct several weeks in 17-18, as music director designate. And maybe a conductor who holds no music directorship could take the helm for a year: Semyon Bychkov.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Call Her MGT.

MGT, photo Images: Nancy Horowitz / Vern Evans
from CBSO web site

That'll get you around trying to pronounce Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, at least for the moment. Even with the handy video that Alex Ross has posted, I'm finding her name....formidable.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla to CBSO!

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
LAPO photograph

Via Twitter, the immensely talented Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been named the next music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Andris Nelsons. (You know where HE is now.) She (MUSIC TO MY EARS, that pronoun) takes the position in September, 2016. She's currently assistant conductor of the LAPO and will become associate conductor there later this year.

The rumors I heard last year about Edward Gardner were wrong; I'd heard more recently in comments here that she was under consideration for the job.

To answer a question that has crossed my own mind: MEER-gah grah-zhee-NEE-teh tee-LA.

Updated list of open spots:
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO in 2018)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony
  • Orchestra Nationale de France
  • Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)

And closed:
  • City of Birmingham SO; Mirga Grazintye-Tyla appointed, 2/4/2016
  • New York Philharmonic; Jaap Van Zweden appointed, 1/27/16, succeeding Alan Gilbert
  • National Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda appointed, 1/4/2016, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach.
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus: Andris Nelsons appointed, 9/9/2015
  • LSO: Simon Rattle appointed, 3/2/2015
  • Orchestra de Paris: Daniel Harding, 6/11/2015
  • Berlin Philharmonic: Kirill Petrenko appointed, 6/22/2015
  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard succeeds Donald Runnicles in September, 2016


Just sent email to the SFO subscription department:
Dear Ms. [representative], 
Thank you again. I have decided not to renew my subscription in any way, shape, or form. That is the best way I know to tell SF Opera how unhappy I am with the upcoming season, which has uninteresting repertory choices and (mostly) disappointing casting. 
I will buy single seats or go standing room to those operas I want to see.
The money don't spend at SFO is going to Philharmonia Baroque and West Edge Opera. I will re-up at SFO when there's a season of interest.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Keep Calm and Count the Delegates

Cruz: 8 delegates
Trump: 7 delegates
Rubio: 7 delegates

That's a dead heat. Also, 72% of Republicans didn't caucus for Cruz, with similarly high numbers for Trump and Rubio. Cruz didn't "deal Trump a humbling loss" at all.

It's not over yet. Wait to see what happens in the next six weeks. (Ditto for Clinton & Sanders.)

Monday, February 01, 2016

Met Governance, Again (and Again and Again)

Via Parterre  Box, a story in the Times by the estimable Michael Cooper raises the curtain on what's been going on at the Met recently. La Cieca calls it bizarre, and indeed some of the phrasing is very, very careful. But you don't need to read between the lines all that carefully to figure out the real story: James Levine was going to retire, and apparently Cooper was doing research on that, when a visit by Gelb, Levine, and Cooper to Levine's neurologist yielded a medication adjustment that will enable Levine to keep his gig for a while longer.

And that became the story, rather than an announcement of Levine's departure (or semi-retirement) at season end or when the 2016-17 season is announced.

Here's my honking big problem with it all:
And it surprised Mr. Gelb, who said in an interview that he had been in talk with Mr. Levine about announcing the conductor’s retirement after this season and making him the Met’s music director emeritus. But Mr. Gelb said he felt obligated, both morally and artistically, to see if changing Mr. Levine’s dosage would improve his upper body movement and help him get back to normal.
“He has supported this company, he has given everything to this company, and I feel the Met’s responsibility is to support him as long as we can,” Mr. Gelb, who briefed the Met’s board members on the situation on Monday, said in an interview. “If in fact it’s possible that by regulating his medication he will be able to conduct like the James Levine of before, that would be a miraculous turn of events that everyone here would embrace and cheer for.”
It's going on five years since Levine resigned from the BSO, and during those five years, he had two years of not conducting at all and an extremely limited schedule since 2013. Here's what I said in 2012 about the situation at the Met:
It's the Board's responsibility, first and foremost, to take care of the institution, but it looks as though their primary concern right now is taking care of James Levine. I understand their desire to have him as active as possible in an organization he has helped shape for so long. But their evident reluctance to contemplate life without Levine is a serious concern. It is not good for the Met to be so dependent on one individual.
It looks exactly the same right now. Peter, you're doing it wrong. You need to protect the Metropolitan Opera and provide for its future, but you're protecting Levine instead.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tattling: Usher Special Edition

So, what do you think the responsibilities of music-venue ushers might be? I would say the following:
  • Hand out programs.
  • Help patrons find their seats.
  • Help with special seating situations (a conflict over whose seat it is - I was involved with one of these years ago - or a seat that just doesn't work for some reason).
  • Deal with anti-social audience behavior.
A few years ago, I was at a concert where a woman and a small child - perhaps 8 or 9 years old - were seated a row or two behind me. The child was fidgety and chatty during the first half of the program. I spoke with an usher and the child was silent for the second half.

In the last week, I've been to two programs where somehow the ushers didn't manage to fulfill their responsibilities to the audience in dealing with anti-social behavior from other audience members.

At SFS last week, Marek Janowski conducted a couple of Beethoven symphonies. My partner and I didn't sit together; she was in an accessible seat on a side aisle near the rear of the hall, I was closer to the stage.

During the second half of the program, a couple near her chatted to each other throughout the performance. An usher was seated near my partner, who gestured to the usher about the noise, making what I would have thought was a universally-understood gesture (cue flapping thumb and fingers - I'm sure you know what I mean). After the concert, my partner spoke with the usher, who said, first of all, "but they were in the box." (Implication: people in boxes are too important to be asked to keep quiet during a performance.) The usher also thought, somehow, that it was the movements of the couple that were disturbing my partner.

Now, SFS goes to some lengths to encourage audiences to stay quiet during performances. They've got charming pre-recorded announcements by various members of the orchestra (for instance, Robert Ward doesn't sound nearly as gruff as he looks; he has a sweet light tenor speaking voice). I have never heard an exception, such as "except for you folks in the boxes; you can talk all you want." And of course, most of us have paid good money to sit in the hall, and deserve exactly the same consideration from our fellow audience members. 

If SFS wanted to allow random talking during the performances, they could build out a few glass-enclosed boxes and sell the seats for a premium price -- but they haven't, because of the general expectation that audience members will behave respectfully toward each other and the musicians.

Today, something similar happened at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's magnificent performance of Messiaen's Des canyons aux etoiles....One or more audience members chattered through the concert and an usher seated nearby did nothing.

What. The Fuck.

Ushers, it is really up to  you to keep the anti-social members of the audience from interfering with patrons' enjoyment of a concert. Please do your jobs.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NY Phil Appoints Jaap van Zweden

Jaap van Zweden
NY Philharmonic Photo

Jaap van Zweden, currently music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Hong Kong Philharmonic, will be the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, succeeding Alan Gilbert. (Link is to the press release.)

Van Zweden starts his term in 2018-19 and will be music director designate in 2017-18. During that season, he will be leading several weeks of programs at the NYPO.

Van Zweden is currently recording Wagner's Ring in live concerts for Naxos with the HKP; Das Rheingold has already been released and Die Walkuere was just recorded within the last couple of weeks. It is of even more interest to me now. The singers include Matthias Goerne (Wotan), Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Heidi Melton (Sieglinde), and Michelle deYoung (Fricka).

The conductor was in the news a couple of years ago owing to reports of clashes with the musicians in Dallas. When speculation started about who would succeed Gilbert, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim more or less said, do not hire someone who has musician problems. 

Van Zweden studied at Juilliard and was appointed concertmaster of the Concertgebouw at the astonishingly young age of 19, becoming a conductor in his late 30s. He's now 55.

Related coverage:

Updated list of open spots (I removed the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra because Jansons re-upped for another five years; thank you, Immanuel!):
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • City of Birmingham SO (Rumors of Edward Gardner; suggestion made that Mirga Grazintye-Tyla is also a strong possibility)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony
  • Orchestra Nationale de France
  • Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)

And closed:
  • New York Philharmonic; Jaap Van Zweden appointed, 1/27/16, succeeding Alan Gilbert
  • National Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda appointed, 1/4/2016, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach.
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus: Andris Nelsons appointed, 9/9/2015
  • LSO: Simon Rattle appointed, 3/2/2015
  • Orchestra de Paris: Daniel Harding, 6/11/2015
  • Berlin Philharmonic: Kirill Petrenko appointed, 6/22/2015
  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard succeeds Donald Runnicles in September, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Whoever Could Have Predicted?

Jonas Kaufmann out of the Met's upcoming Pagliacci and Manon Lescaut, owing to illness.

This will have a domino effect, with Roberto Alagna replacing Kaufmann in Manon Lescaut....and Marco Berti replacing Alagna in Alagna's scheduled Pagliacci performances. It's best explained by the Met's press release:
Star tenor Roberto Alagna—currently at the Met giving an acclaimed performance of Canio in Pagliacci—will sing his first-ever performances of des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, replacing Kaufmann. To allow time for him learn the staging before theFebruary 12 new production premiere, Alagna must withdraw from his remaining performances as Canio as he undertakes this new challenge. The French tenor, who has sung more than 100 Met performances since 1996, learned the role of des Grieux for a 2006 series of performances that were canceled, meaning that this season’s Met performances are the first time he will ever sing the part onstage.
Marco Berti, currently starring at the Met as Calàf in Puccini’s Turandot, will replace Alagna as Canio in the remaining performances of Pagliacci. These performances will be Berti’s Met role debut as Canio.
(Let's just say that at this point, I will faint if Kaufmann ever sings opera on the West Coast.)

The Impossible Happens

LA Opera has a better 2016-17 season than San Francisco Opera.

Main stage:

  • Macbeth, Verdi; Placido Domingo (sigh), Ekaterina Semenchuk/Conlon
  • Akhnaten, Glass; Anthony Roth Costanza in the title role. Matthew Aucoin conducts a PHelim McDermott production
  • Abduction from the Seraglio, Mozart; Aleksandra Kurzak and others/Conlon.
  • Salome, R. Strauss; Conlon/Patricia Racette.
  • Tales of Hoffman, Offenbach. Diana Damrau as the four female leads, Nicolas Teste (her husband) as the four bad guys. He's a good singer, fortunately; unfortunately Placido Domingo conducts and Marta Domingo directs.
  • Tosca, Puccini. S. Rad, Russell Thomas. Conlon conducts.

Also, a semi-staged production of Wonderful Town and off-main productions of The Source, a new score for Nosferatu by Aucoin, and Kamala Sankaram's Thumbprint.

Not-quite-full details after the cut. See the company web site for full details.

Monday, January 25, 2016

As If.

Maybe I just don't know what goes on in the upper reaches of Davies - after all, I usually sit in the orchestra section - but the following photo, which accompanied a request to complete a survey about the program I just attended, doesn't look anything like what I saw around me Saturday night at Marek Janowski's program:

You got your young white male hipster, your young white female hipster (I presume), and a young probably-African American male. I'd be a lot more likely to see this folks at SoundBox - at least, that's what I think. You tell me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Robert Tuggle

Robert Tuggle
Metropolitan Opera Photo
Linked from the Met home page

I just got the sad news that Robert Tuggle, Director of Archives at the Metropolitan Opera since 1982, died yesterday. The Met has a news flash up about this; there are some remembrances of Bob at opera-l and, at Opera Nostalgia, Charles Mintzer has written a memorial as well.

I knew Bob slightly; he was very kind to me when I was actively researching the life and career of Dame Eva Turner, and over the years he'd made some contributions to the accumulated stock of information about her. He traced her career and found 75 performances of Turandot, not the 200 she claimed, for example.

I encountered him first as the author of The Golden Age of Opera, and eventually he signed a copy I gave to a friend of mine. He told me that the bit in the book about the alleged suicide of Claudia Muzio very likely wasn't right; that he had eventually discovered that his source, the Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayao, had not even been in Rome when Muzio died.

He was a lovely man and did an immense amount for opera and the Met, where he worked for nearly his adult life: his decades as archivist were preceded by many years doing education for the Metropolitan Opera Guid. He had been working for a very long time on a biography of Kirsten Flagstad, and like many others I hope it will eventually be published.

RIP, Bob Tuggle. You'll be greatly missed. And deepest condolences to Bob's partner, Paul Jeromack, and to all of Bob's friends and family.

London Friday Photo

One Poultry, London
May, 2014