Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
- David Leonhardt makes some good points in the Times. "Both parties are protecting the insurers."
- The Times also has an excellent description of how health care is provided in Japan. "Relatively speaking, primary care is more profitable than highly specialized care, so Japanese doctors face different incentives than U.S. doctors. As a result, the Japanese are three times more likely than Americans to go to the doctor, but they receive many fewer surgical operations."
- And here's the Times's description of how health care is provided in Canada, our fine neighbor to the north. "Imagine 10 provincial nonprofit health insurance plans without deductibles, co-insurance or co-payments for medically prescribed treatment. Canada pays for more hospital days and doctor visits per capita than the United States but spends about 40 percent less."
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
- Alex Ross, who loved her performances, has posted an impressive and beautifully-sung clip from her 1977 Salome recording.
- A. C. Douglas says farewell, tipping a hat toward her stage presence.
- Tim Mangan has comments up at the OC Register arts blog, including an embedded video of the soprano in an uncharacteristic role. I don't what year this was, but her appearance is characteristic: you can see her preparing for every phrase. That's also visible on the Met Ring videos.
- Anthony Tommasini wrote her Times obit. "Purist" is a word I really don't like to see critics using, with its implication that there's something wrong with commenting unfavorably on a singer's weaknesses or suitability for a role or repertory. He's done it before, in connection with Netrebko in bel canto.
- An unsigned Telegraph UK obit.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
- Wendell Potter, former Cigna mouthpiece, talks about why he had to get out of the health insurance business and why we need health care reform.
- Paul Krugman on the public option: why we need it and what the current issues might signal about Obama
- The Opinionator discusses the John Mackey furor
- Another Krugman blog posting includes a useful diagram.
- At electoral-vote.com, the August 17 posting discusses how health care is provided in Holland and elsewhere. (I'll try to put up a permalink when he backfiles the Aug. 17 post.)
- My co-worker Josiah Carlson rants about what happened to him the other day. I laughed and laughed at "you are idiots." Read it and see to whom he directed that.
After graduating from Cambridge in 1954, Mr. Drew worked as a freelance music critic and as a publicist for Decca Records, for which he wrote liner notes and brochures. His first historical reclamation project was Olivier Messaien, an enthusiasm dating to his Cambridge days, for whom he made a case in several important articles.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
- Michaels-Moore sang strongly but played a wimpy husband (Midgette)
- Anthony Michaels-Moore made Robert, Leslie’s husband, into an emotional volcano that seemed out of character for this quiet, self-effacing rubber planter. (Kozinn)
It's almost exactly how the famous 1940 film of the same name opens, if you swap Bette Davis for Racette. Not exactly, because in the film you see the veranda of the Crosbie bungalow, situated on a rubber plantation near Singapore, and you see Leslie shooting Geoff Hammond.
I watched that film a few days before the premiere of the opera, and was mostly unhappy with it. Yes, great atmosphere and photography, and a good performance from Davis, but this was heavily offset by the chilly quality of her character, for whom I could feel no sympathy, and the unexamined racism of the script, exemplified by its treatment of Hammond's mixed-race wife.
I'm extremely happy to report that I thought The Letter (the opera) a terrific piece. I have to say up front that Terry is a friend and I've been following the creation of this opera from well before the official announcements. He's done a rather thorough job of setting expectations for the opera, in many blog postings describing what he and Moravec set out to accomplish with The Letter.
I'm somewhat amused to report that there was some misdirection involved in how expectations were set. For one thing, the creators will tell you that they were aiming for a very compact, movie-length opera, because "attention spans are getting shorter."
I don't buy that - multibook sagas and very long books sell well, Ring cycles sell out everywhere, and movie fans regularly attend long films - but even if I did buy the premise, The Letter is a single stretch of about one hour and forty minutes (100 minutes). That is a long for a one-act opera and it's a long stretch of music to through-compose. Offhand, I can think of only three one-act operas that exceed, let's say, one CD: Elektra, Salome, and Das Rheingold. I don't think it's necessarily easier to sit through 100 consecutive minutes of music than to sit through the four short acts of La Boheme, which, as everybody knows, tends to sell out.
And The Letter is a mighty well-constructed 100 minutes of music. Yes, it's compact, in that the music is direct, tightly-written, and has plenty of momentum. There are some short interludes to cover scene changes; otherwise, it's almost continuous singing. I liked the music a great deal, more than I like the composer's Pulitzer Prize winning Tempest Fantasy, in fact. It's absorbing; it carries the drama brilliantly, drawing the audience into the action; it fleshes out the characters and makes them real humans; the arias are beautiful and singable.
I loved the often-gorgeous orchestration, and thought that the accompaniment of dialog exceptionally good, where some composers of new operas fall into ostinato-itis and just run a riff in the orchestra. I sometimes felt the word-setting for dialog wasn't ideal and didn't fall entirely naturally: sometimes the tone rose at the end of a sentence for no apparent reason, or a rest didn't punctuate the phrase correctly, or a name was at the end of a sentence and would have made more sense at the beginning. These are minor complaints.
Now, the composer and librettist have been telling listeners, over and over, in and out of print, that it's opera for non-opera-lovers! for film-lovers! it's not experimental opera! it's not for eggheads!, but I suggest that you ignore them.
For one thing, during the pre-premiere symposium, I heard the phrase "tone row" used, and the composer meant by that exactly what an egghead like me understand him to mean. He even sang the row, which, if I'm remembering this correctly, is associated with Leslie Crosbie. For another, in an era when there's no longer a common musical language, every composer is writing experimental music, music that suits his or her personality and style.
With a bit of hesitation - and a bit of a joke - Moravec also said during the symposium that there are leitmotivs associated with each character, and with the letter itself. (The joke? Terry hates Wagner.) It's easy enough to hear the motifs; the chromatic theme associated with Leslie, the bluff, hale-fellow-well-met diatonic theme associated with her husband, the insinuating tune you hear when the lawyer's assistant is on stage. All are subtle and blend in well with the overall texture of the music, with the possible except of Robert Crosbie's motif, which was too good-natured and stuck out of the overall texture of the opera perhaps more than was ideal.
- Joshua Kosman is in Seattle, the lucky dog. Or cat, given what he says at the end of one of his postings. Read his comments on Das Rheingold and on Die Walkuere. Presumably two operas are forthcoming after the singers get a bit of a rest.
- Amanda Ameer nails the 2009 Mostly Mozart Festival on the subject of its white-guy-composers-and-performers-only schedule. Honestly, this is one of the reasons classical music is having a problem building new audiences.
- Daniel Wolf has a cool perspective on teaching orchestration. I'd take that class.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Thousands of pages of internal e-mail and once-secret Congressional testimony showed Tuesday that Karl Rove and other senior aides in the Bush White House played an earlier and more active role than was previously known in the 2006 firings of a number of United States attorneys.Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.
But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Toasting a Natural Combination: Beer and BaroquePBO is proud to announce the first concert of our "Beer and Baroque" Series, featuring the Horns of PBO. Discover the joy (and quirks) of the natural horn with an evening of Baroque music and locally brewed beer. Join us at the Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery and Restaurantin Berkeley on September 14. Tickets include the concert and drinks and are available beginning next Friday, August 14 by contacting Office Manager Kenton Kuwada, (415) 252-1288. $20 advance/$25 door.
Organized by board members Michael Colbruno and Brian Gould, this event is sponsored by Pyramid and Clear Channel Outdoors.
What I like about this: music, informal setting, low prices, beer. I wonder if you get to talk to the players afterward. I mean, any horn player will want a drink after the concert.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Me: Where would I find short stories by W. Somerset Maugham?Her: Can you spell that? I'll check in the computer.Me, blinking a bit: M-A-U-G-H-A-M.Her: And her first name?Me, just barely keeping my head off the counter: Him. Somerset. S-O-M-E-R-S-E-T.
He had no particular aptitude for trade, and that by which he lived (he had entered upon it thirty years ago rather by accident than choice) was thoroughly distasteful to him. As a dealer in pianofortes, he came into contact with a class of people who inspired him with a savage contempt, and of late years his business had suffered considerably from the competition of tradesmen who knew nothing of such conflicts between sentiment and interest. A majority of his customers obtained their pianos on the "hire-purchase system," and oftener than not, they were persons of very small or very precarious income, who, rabid in the pursuit of gentility signed agreements they had little chance of fulfilling; when in pecuniary straits, they either raised money upon the instruments, or allowed them to fall into the hands of distraining creditors. Inquiry into the cirumstances of a would-be customer sometimes had ludicrous results; a newly-married couple, for instance, would be found tenanting two top-floor rooms, the furnishing whereof seemd to them imcomplete without the piano of which their friends and relatives boasted. Not a few professional swindlers came to the office; confederate rogues, vouching for each other's respectability, got possession of pianos merely to pawn or sell them, having paid no more than the first month's charge. It was Mr. Lord's experience that year by year the recklessness of the vulgar became more glaring, and deliberate fraud more artful.
George Gissing, In the Year of Jubilee
Monday, August 03, 2009
From left, Will Crutchfield, Vivica Genaux and Angela Meade in "Semiramide" at the Venetian Theater at Caramoor.