Mystery score

Mystery score

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Now We are Five

It's been a great five years.

The Coming Republican Schism

I can see it now: the far-right-wing's insistence on running far-right-wing candidates will either further marginalize the Republican Party or lead to a split. You can see this dynamic at work in NY-23, the congressional district that had been represented by moderate Republican John McHugh, whom President Obama has named to the post of Secretary of the Army.

The Republican Party leadership nominated state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava as the Republican candidate to replace McHugh; meanwhile, the state Conservative Party nominated Douglas Hoffman, who is far to right of the Republican candidate.

Hoffman's been getting support from out-of-state Republicans like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, who both have aspirations to higher office. Scozzafava, you see, is an old-fashioned, northeast Republican: socially liberal (pro-abortion rights, pro-gay marriage), fiscally conservative, pro-business. That's just not acceptable to the "Republican base;" i.e. the farthest-right wing. Today, Scozzafava withdrew from the race, because she's losing support, not raising enough money, and she and Hoffman are in a dead draw.

Of all people. Newt Gingrich is troubled by this dynamic. Here's how he's quoted in today's Times:
“This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s re-election.”
I can see how that prospect might bother a few Republicans. Will they push themselves even further from the center, or split entirely? Read the whole story in today's Times.

The Damrau Effect

Maybe it's Diana Damrau's fault.

Five years ago, in June, 2004, I attended a performance of Arabella at Covent Garden. I had seen the opera once before, with Janice Watson, Franz Grundhaber, and Tracy Dahl as the annoying Fiakermili. Donald Runnicles probably conducted; I cannot for the life of me remember who sang Zdenka or Matteo. I intensely disliked it despite some lovely music.

So why did I buy a ticket to the London performance? Get this cast and conductor: Mattila, Bonney, Hampson, Very, Damrau/Dohnanyi. They were near perfect, and I became a fan. I still remember the beautiful clarity and balance of the orchestra, the thrust of Mattila's voice, echoed on a smaller scale by Bonney's, Hampson's humanity, the rightness of the production and direction.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a bel-canto skeptic. Sure, I'd be happy to take in a well-cast Norma or Lucia once in a while, and I'd run to get tickets to William Tell. But I've walked out on La Favorite and Elisir and avoid Rossini comedies like the plague.

That means that I missed the hotshot tenor Juan Diego Florez's first two appearances in San Francisco, which were in Barber of Seville and Cenerentola. So when the much-touted and well-traveled Laurent Pelly production of La Fille du Regiment came around, with Florez in the tenor lead and Damrau as Marie, I gulped and dragged myself to the balcony standing room area of the War Memorial Opera House, concerned about both the music and the 80-minute first act.

I'm going to have to eat my words about Donizetti: I liked the production a great deal and loved the music. You've probably heard "Pour mon ame,"* the famous tenor cavatina with the nine (9) high Cs, and while it's certainly the opera's biggest show-stopper, it's just one of the many beautiful, imaginative, and delightful arias and ensembles.

See, the focus of the publicity materials on the tenor's vocal gymnastics obscures a few things. The soprano lead is not only three times the length of the tenor role, it has a much wider emotional range, from the very extroverted and athletic to the wistful. And those ensembles! There are several excellent choral pieces and some great trios; the music is more harmonically adventurous than what I remember of the other Donizetti operas I've seen.

The singing was mostly terrific. I loved both Damrau and Florez. She has the range and flexibility for the role, and a lovely voice, bigger than I remembered from Arabella, though not as luscious as Ruth Ann Swenson's. She's an excellent singer and was as good in the slow music as the fast. Florez sounds much warmer and more human in the hall than on record, where he sounds brilliant to the point of hardness. The 9 high Cs? Yep, they were great, but for me the most impressive thing about the aria is that he is so charming and sings with such a good line. Not to mention, the Cs were easy and it sounded as though he had headroom and could have gone to a D or even higher.

The production, set in or around WWI, is a little on the manic side, especially for Marie, who has to haul around laundry and tubs of potatoes, jump all over the stage, sing while being carried off stage, etc., etc. I can't imagine Joan Sutherland putting herself through these particular paces, though Sills and possibly Swenson could have. Some of the schtick, esp. for the Duchess of Krackenthorp, is broad and a little dumb, but the role and the opera are like that. It's not exactly subtle, and of course the plot is about as thin and silly as opera plots get.** The rushing around didn't feel overdone. My colleague Jerry said he thought it was staged like a Broadway show. I think he's right, and I think it worked quite well. There IS dialog, of course.

Meredeith Arwady, heard here in Il Trittico as the Mother Superior and Zita, was back, as the Marquise of Berkenfeld. She sounds like a young Podles, though I find the width of her vibrato worrying. She's funny and has lots of presence. I remember her as an awkward and seemingly terrified Merola fellow who looked out of place on stage, so her current authoritative performances give me great pleasure. I can't explain the schtick very well, but at one point she sings about half a verse of "Mon coer s'ouvre a ta voix" and it was really good! Sheila Nadler, as the Duchess, must be in her mid-60s, and it sounds as though she can still sing, in the three lines of music she had.

Bruno Pratico, as Sulpice, is okay (in tune, funny) but sounds worn and vocally unattractive.

This production also benefits from really superb conducting by Andriy Yurkevych. He has a great feel for the ebb and flow of Italian music, and did NOT conducting everything at a firm moderato, which is one of my standard complaints about bel canto performances. He conducted as though he took the music seriously - good for him! Which reminds me that the conductor of Swenson's Lucia - which I think of as Swenson's Lucia with Vargas's Edgardo - was Richard Bonnyng, who was at best a competent bore.

So, do I blame Damrau, or not? Two operas I had every reason to think I'd hate, two great performances that made me a fan.

*If you've been under a rock for the last couple of years, here are Luciano Pavarotti in 1972 and Juan Diego Florez in the Pelly production, filmed at Covent Garden and available commercially. Florez sounds even better live, with a warmer sound that's bigger than you might think from the voice's lightness. And what I heard was better than Pav in '72. Really.

** A regiment of French soldiers inherits an infant and raises her collectively as their daughter. Some years later, she's in love with a young Swiss hayseed. The soldiers will only allow her to marry a member of the regiment, so he joins up, just as she discovers she is the neice - actually the daughter - of a Marquise. The Marquise thinks a young hayseed/soldier isn't exactly good enough for her either. This is a comic opera, so they wind up engaged instead of dead.

Happenings at the Opera

So, any reports on last night's Salome? I've heard Nadja Michael was out and that the last-minute substitute, flown in from Arizona, was very good. You could say I'm surprised there wasn't a cover in town, but what do I know?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making the Ultimate Sacrificium: A Virtual Archeological Dig

Well, if you're Cecilia Bartoli, you don't need any anatomical alterations to sing the 18th c. castrato repertory! And here's the question of the day, which just happens to be Clue 9:

Sacrificium focuses on the composer and teacher Nicola Porpora. In which Italian city was he based?

Go to the Bartoli puzzle page and post your answer in the Answer Nine field.

Read the previous clue at Nico's Twitter feed. Read the next clue (which is really the first clue) chez La Cieca, who has returned from exile.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

For Sale

I'm not going to make it to the San Francisco Opera costume sale this weekend, alas, but Opera Tattler went and has the story. I was fascinated to read that one of Precious Auntie's costumes from The Bonesetter's Daughter is up for grabs. That certainly says something about the chances of a Bonesetter revival, now, doesn't it.

Rebranding America

The rock musician and do-gooder Bono had an op-ed piece in the NY Times recently, called "Rebranding America," and today's Times has reader responses in the Letters to the Editor. One reader says the following, in part:
What distinguishes the American Idea from the superstitions, stifling traditions and the various forms of collectivism that have historically cursed humanity is its confidence in individual freedom. Without that freedom, opportunity is a mirage and “responsibility to your fellow man” is simply a slogan used to justify harnessing the populace to serve those in power.
Another says, in part:
Yes, we have the freedoms of choice and speech, but we are an individualistic and self-sufficient people. We believe that people should take care of themselves and carry their own water.

I’m not responsible for my fellow man. The fellow man should take care of himself, and so on.
I'm sure these fellow citizens, who so value individualism and dislike collectivism, will turn down Social Security and Medicare at age 65, aren't you? After all, people should take care of themselves.

Den Kopf des Jokanaan

Contrary to my usual current practice - standing room - I bought a ticket to see Salome last night at San Francisco Opera, owing to a slightly sore ankle and the knowledge that I am standing through the sold-out Daughter of the Regiment today.

I thought the staging was fine and the sets and lighting okay; not problematic but not outstanding. Nothing struck me as very decadent about the court, so it was hard to tell just what bothered Jokanaan so much except, well, that business with Herodes, her first husband, and her second husband. Perhaps it was the general lack of on-stage dementia, except, of course, Salome herself.

I did not like Garrett Sorenson's Narraboth; he sobbed like Gigli and that's just wrong in Strauss, even if you're the Italian Singer in Rosenkavalier. I did like Elizabeth DeShong's Page. Irina Mishura sounded slightly blowsy from where I was sitting and I wish she'd been more physically crazed. She seemed too polite, even when urging Salome on late in the opera. Ildiko Komlosi in last year's Met broadcast was plenty nuts, or maybe it was that there were plenty of close-ups of her with a drink in her hand and a soused look on her face.

I've never much cared for Greer Grimsley: all that wool in his voice! He's like a latter-day Leonard Warren. Oh, maybe not that bad.

Nadja Michael was very effective physically, and definitely looks and moves like a dancer. But she seems to have been hired for her physical rather than vocal abilities, and she had serious vocal drawbacks. Sometimes I couldn't hear her; sometimes she couldn't hit the notes; her phrasing didn't have much insight or variety. I liked the staging of the dance very much.

Kim Begley was the best of the singers and as far as I'm concerned more or less stole the show, or would have if he'd been dancing instead of watching the dance. Weirdly, he is a dead ring for Paolo Gavanelli, but they're definitely not the same person.

The big problem of the night, really, was Luisotti. I don't care, much, that he drowned everyone out once in a while. He was so languid I felt like there was never much musical momentum or tension, no sense of the structure of the piece or of how the music hurtles toward destruction. He needs another year or two with the score - and maybe all the German music should still be conducted by The Donald.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Possibly-Familiar Superrnumeraries in DC's Ariadne

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia, that is, will once again be supers in Washington National Opera's production of Ariadne auf Naxos, or so I hear. Wish I could join them!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adler Fellows, Past and Present, at LAPO

The solo quartet for the November 5 to 8 Verdi Requiem performances at the Los Angeles Philharmonic includes Leah Crocetto, David Lomeli, and John Relyea. Go, team!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One CD I Won't Be Buying

Alex Ross saved me $17 by posting the first cut from Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis's new recording of Winterreise. Padmore's voice hasn't got much body and becomes tremulous under pressure, which seems to mean anything above about mezzo-piano. "Gute Nacht" is subdued, and I really, really don't want to hear what happens when Padmore sings "Die Wetterfahne" or "Rückblick" or any of the songs that require some power.

P. S. Maybe it makes a difference if you're not listening on headphones, but...

J. Karla Lemon

J. Karla Lemon, who conducted at Stanford and with many new music ensembles nationwide, died on October 15 at age 55. She had a catastrophic stroke during surgery intended to correct a congenital heart defect. The full SFCV obituary is here.

Deepest condolences to her partner, soprano Christine Brandes, and other family members.

Monday, October 19, 2009

If I Were in NYC...

...I'd check out the Lincoln Center 50 exhibit at the Performing Arts Library. Details are here. The exhibit runs through January 16, 2010, and features 400 items, including photographs, posters, costumes, correspondence, miscellaneous ephemera, and video.

Note to the people who put together that nice on-line slideshow: there are no legends for the photos. I wish I could identify everyone in all of the photos, but I can't.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chill with ICE

Two ICE-related programs this week, complete with after-parties. Wish I could attend!
  • Saturday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. Xenakis program at the Miller Theater, 116th & Broadway, NYC; after party at S I P, 998 Amsterdam at 110th.
  • Sunday, Oct. 17, flutist (& ICE executive director) Claire Chase plays Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleeker St., NYC. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; music at 7:30 p.m. After party at Madame X, 94 W. Houston.

Tattling

A single concert doesn't normally inspire four postings from me, but here goes, with thanks to Patrick for reminding me of the one aspect of the last night's concert that I haven't yet gone ballistic overwritten about, with a nod to OT, who always notices.

The audience. What to say about last night's audience?

First of all, there were many kids in the crowd. I consider this a good thing, and by and large they behaved as well as the adults in the audience. I know there were some exceptions, because the woman behind us whispered to the two children with her at least twice while the orchestra was playing.

During the Gabriela Lena Frank piece, we heard what sounded like random claps - truly random, definitely not rhythmic - coming from someplace to our left, in the center of the hall. My first thought was that they were part of the music, but after the fourth or fifth occurrence, I leaned forward a bit to get some triangulation, and nope, the sound was not coming from the stage. The claps happened randomly for the next minute or so. Very strange.

I save my real frustration for those people who couldn't pay enough attention to the blinking house lights and the time to get back to their seats before the Bartok started. Yes, the house or stage manager should have noticed this, but adults should also be mindful enough not to worsen the concert experience for everyone else.

Programming Question

So what would you program with the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra?
Mike came up with the following: Dohnanyi's sly and wonderful Variations on a Nursery Rhyme plus Kodaly's Dances for Galanta or Liszt's Mephisto Waltz. I suggested swapping out the Liszt or Kodaly for a couple of Brahms Hungarian Dances. The Concerto might also work well with Petroushka or another Stravinsky orchestral work. Or some Debussy, though I am stumped as to exactly what. Or...how about the Janacek Sinfonietta?

I wonder, though, if the best companion to Bartok isn't more Bartok. If you were a little insane, you could start with the Concerto and put all three of the piano concertos on the second half; they fit neatly on one CD, so why not? Go ahead and hire more than one pianist, since even the Third is not exactly easy. Or conclude with A Kékszakállú Herceg Vára, better known in these parts as Duke Bluebeard's Castle. The openings of Bluebeard and the Concerto even sound alike.

House Problems 2

Still not Gregory House, M.D. This time, I'm talking about Zellerbach.
The next time I complain about Davies, please remind of this week's Berkeley Symphony concert, in which the dead acoustics of Zellerbach made Davies sound like Disney. I am not kidding: from our seats (row O on the side), the dynamic range of the orchestra was reduced to mp to mf; pianos disappeared completely; forte and above sounded like mf. Only a couple of the brass explosions in Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra made much impact.

The visceral impact of a performance is a big part of what pulls me into the music and makes it resonate for me, intellectually and emotionally. This is why I love the sonic-overload masterpieces, huge works like Mahler's Eighth, Stravinsky's ballets, Salonen's Wing on Wing, Messiaen's Turangalila. It's why I'm thrilled by the sound of an operatic voice filling a hall. Not that works on a smaller sonic scale don't overwhelm me too; a great string quartet performance can cut me to the quick.

But if I'm hearing a big orchestra performing, I want the rush and pull; I want to be conquered. And that was almost completely missing last night.

You can bet that I scratched my head throughout the performance over this. The last time I heard the Berkeley Symphony, William Eddins conducted, and from my reviewer's seat - closer to the front and closer to the center - the orchestra sounded absolutely fantastic. I cannot tell why they sounded so ordinary this time: the dial-twiddling behind the sound enhancement system? my location in the hall? conductor Joana Carneiro's sonic style?

The difference was so marked, and the music had so little impact that my mind wandered throughout the program. This is unusual for me, so my comments about the performances themselves will be brief. John Adams's The Chairman Dances, from the opera Nixon in China, sounded too mechanical and, as the superb pianist sitting in front of me said, would have benefited from "more of a narrative arc."

The program notes for Gabriela Lena Frank's Peregrinos annoyed the heck out of me; I don't, in fact, care very much about the particular incidents that inspired the individual movements, and in 20 years they'll be forgotten and irrelevant. The music struck me as surprisingly derivative. The first and last movements open with a violin solo that might as well have been a direct quotation from The Lark Ascending. The orchestral murmurings accompanying the solo were nothing like what's in RVW's tone poem, and involved quite a lot of string strumming, but once that RVW sounded was planted in my ear, it stayed there. The start of one of the subsequent movements made me want to stand up and sing "Ich hab'ein gluehend Messer" from Songs of a Wayfarer. Was a direct allusion intended? Who knows? I'd like to hear Peregrinos again, under conditions in which it's easier to evaluate the piece.

One thing I can say about both the Adams and the Frank works: neither is quite able to stand up for itself when on a program with the Bartok - even when the Bartok gets a less than fully successful performance. Suffice it to say that the Concerto sounded overly studied and cautiously performed, and, well, Bartok is not the native language of this orchestra. This is not so surprising considering that the Berkeley Symphony isn't a full-time orchestra. But this is one of the greatest and most popular 20th century orchestral pieces, with a long recorded history that makes comparisons to great performances all too easy. This one didn't get there for me; I hope the Berkeley Symphony gets another crack at it some day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

House Problems

No, not Dr. Gregory House, the eponymous crank at the center of a popular TV show. The house management and ticketing systems of Zellerbach and Berkeley Symphony.

I went to the first program of Berkeley Symphony tonight, at the suggestion of my friend Mike, who thought it would be fun to check out Joana Carneiro, the new kid on the blockmusic director. We emerged from Naan 'n Curry 15 minutes before the concert, got to Zellerbach, and found a 40-person-long line for will call. Mike had in hand a printout with ticket numbers and bar codes on it, because he'd bought the tickets on line and the receipt was print-it-yourself. Being a couple of nerds, and knowing the scanner systems now in use at SFS and SFO, we thought maybe you could walk up to the front door, get the paper scanned, and be admitted.

No such luck. So we stood on line and the folks at will call handed him an envelope containing tickets. They did not scan the or do anything at all with the bar code printout. So, they're half-way to a good on-line ticketing service, in that they can generate a bar code for home printout, but it can't be read and used for admission at the concert venue, even though that would speed up admissions considerably.

Thunk.

As for the inside the house issues....almost everyone got seated on time, at the beginning of the program, though a few stragglers were admitted after the opening number, John Adams's The Chairman Dances. The real fiasco was after the intermission. The house lights came down while dozens of people were still being seated, and poor Joana Carneiro was sent out to the podium while most of those were still standing. WTF? No one is keeping an eye on whether the audience is still being seated? There is no reason the conductor should have to stand there for ninety seconds waiting for the audience to settle in and quiet down; it was an amazingly unprofessional and incompetent way to treat the audience, the orchestra, and the conductor.

Noiseless

I started this blog nearly five years ago, not long after discovering that Alex Ross of The New Yorker had a blog. I think I broke into a cold sweat the first time I read The Rest is Noise; if Alex Ross was blogging, I knew that blogs were going to be an important part of classical music journalism going forward. It's true that Alex said he'd started the blog to help him procrastinate, but the blog quickly took on a life of its own.

Now he's moving his current blogging activities to the web site of TNY, and I find myself surprising shocked and sad about this. Honestly, it feels a bit like the death of a friend.

Businesses that move their location have been known to lose customers; web site redesigns typically lose readers. (I quit reading Salon after their last redesign, for example.) I'm not sure it's a good idea to blog from your employer's web site rather than from your own stand-alone, highly-regarded blog; sure, Alex might work at TNY forever, but given the state of print journalism....would TNY be able to survive as a web-only publication? What if the web site disappears?

And I find TNY's web site crowded, messy, and not very pleasant to read. (Well, at least you can enlarge the font size easily by clicking a larger A on most pages.) I'd suggest using RSS and your favorite feed reader.

I'm leaving The Rest is Noise on my blogroll; Alex says it may be updated with book news and samples from time to time. His new blog, Unquiet Thoughts, joins the blogroll today.

Mr. President? Mr. PRESIDENT!

Another way to promote world peace: let people visit the U.S. unless there's a clear and compelling reason not to. From a press release:

American Symphony Orchestra Replaces Tenor for Season-Opening Concert on Wednesday, October 14 Because of Visa Snafu

Richard Crawley Will Now Sing Title Role in Opera-in-Concert Performance of D’Indy’s Fervaal at Avery Fisher Hall

Dwayne Jones, a noted Australian singer who resides in London, was unable to resolve a visa and passport snafu and consequently could not get clearance to travel to the United States in time for rehearsals with the American Symphony Orchestra. As a result, the tenor Richard Crawley has been brought in by the ASO to sing the title role in the orchestra’s season-opening opera-in-concert performance of D’Indy’s Fervaal at Lincoln Center. The performance will take place at Avery Fisher Hall on Wednesday, October 14 at 8 PM.

Jones becomes one of an increasing number of artists and performers who have been denied entry to the United States for reasons that are unclear.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yet Another Update....

....to Don't Be Stupid. One of my publicist bullet points was this:
DO put the most critical information (dates, times, works, performers, venue) someplace easy to locate. Right at the top is good; if you send out many press releases, put this information in the same place every time, whether at the top or bottom. Just make it easy to find.
To elaborate on this, put that information in the cover email. Don't make people download a PDF just to find out the date and location (i.e. the CITY) of the concert you're publicizing. And include the day of the week as well as the date.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fee-Fixing in Opera

The London blog Intermezzo reports on an article in Le Figaro discussing opera singer fees:
Fees are fixed by arrangement between the major opera houses like London, Paris and New York. The Met's Peter Gelb was quoted as saying that the directors are on the phone to each other all the time. Elisabeth Pezzino, director of programming at the Paris Opera, says that twice a year they all share a table listing what they've paid to each artist.
Does the FTC take an interest in these issues? Even major league baseball had to eventually give in on player salaries.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The President's Reaction

David Axelrod, one of President Obama's closest advisers, let slip his boss's reaction to Friday morning's news: "What are you talking about? Is this a joke?"

Anonymous 4

If you attend Anonymous 4's upcoming Stanford program, yes, I did write that long article about the group and its working methods. The program promises to be very special. And the group has a couple of upcoming Chant Camps:

Playlist

AKA what I've been listening to.
  • Sweelinck, Organ Works, Naxos; James David Christie. Beautiful works, beautiful playing.
  • Mahler, Second Symphony, Sony; Bernstein & soloists. Glorious, irresistible, gorgeous.
  • Symanowski, Symphonies 2 & 3 ("Song of the Night"), Naxos; Wit. Ask me when it's over, since I just put it on.
  • Meyerbeer in Paris, Marston; many, many singers. Early recordings of Meyerbeer, made between around 1898 and 1920. Yes, I'd like to hear one of his operas in full, but these excerpts don't give me much hope.

Friday, October 09, 2009

More from the Nobel Committee

The Nobel Peace Prize committee (which is Norwegian, not Swedish) has been asked a few questions today. Here's how the chairman summed up their decision:
“The question we have to ask,” Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee’s new chairman, said after the prize was announced on Friday, “is, ‘Who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world?’ And who has done more than Barack Obama?”
Based on past history, yep, they make the decision that way sometimes. At others, the award is obviously for a body of work, for example, the award to Jimmy Carter. Further down in the article, there's this, which doesn't change my mind about the award but is worth contemplating:
While some leaders and commentators around the world lauded the selection, others said Mr. Obama had not yet earned it. Should his presidency descend into a military quagmire, as Lyndon B. Johnson’s did during the Vietnam War, the 2009 award could prove an embarrassment.

Several prominent Nobel observers in Oslo said the Nobel committee had put the integrity of the award at stake. But Mr. Jagland seemed to savor the risk. He said no one could deny that “the international climate” had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason.


Glorious Messes

Some pieces you love for their brilliant construction, some you love in spite of the fact that they needed an editor, or something. Mahler falls into the latter category for me. In the right hands, the incredible beauty and intensity of a Mahler symphony conquer all - and I just heard a gorgeous performance of the 2nd, on Bartok Radio.

How about you? Favorite messes?

AVE: Kirchenabendmusik

Just a reminder: AVE's wonderful Vespers concert is this weekend.

Friday, October 9 at 8 p.m.:
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, phone – (510)848-5107

Saturday, October 10 at 8 p.m.:
Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland, 94612, phone – (510)271-1935

Sunday, October 11 at 4 p.m.:
The Walt Disney Family Museum Exhibition Space, 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio of
San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94129, Phone - (415) 345 6800

$20 – General Admission; $10 – Students and Seniors

You can purchase tickets at the door or at AVE's web site.

The Nobel Committee's Statement

You can read the entire statement here, but this appears to be the money graf, prepended with the closing sentence of the previous paragraph:
The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Very pro-Obama and also a clear sigh of relief or slap at the previous administration or both, take your pick.

WTF?

I thought the Times headline must be a joke, or that The Onion had somehow hijacked their home page, but others news sources say the same thing:

What?

This is such a big mistake. The U.S. is still involved in two devastating, expensive, unnecessary wars. Obama has been in office less than a year; while he may accomplish much, his accomplishments do not yet justify this award. I think I would support giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a sitting U.S. President only if he'd actually gotten a signed agreement of some kind out of the Israeli/Palestinian/Arab mess. I mean, St. Jimmy Carter had to do humanitarian work for more than 20 years to earn this prize.

And this makes the Peace Prize look completely political. It kills the committee's credibility and gives more ammunition to wingnuts frothing about the vast left-wing conspiracy. What a damn shame.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

U. C. Press Book Sale

The University of California Press is having a big sale. The music page is here and includes big discounts on, among other things, David Cairns's magisterial Berlioz bio. If you're local, you can also go to their sidewalk sale on Thursday, October 15, from 9 to 5, at the shop on University Ave. Bancroft in Berkeley, across from Zellerbach, which will have hardcover books for $10, paperbacks for $5.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Speculation Welcome

Dallas Opera is one of the co-commissioners of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's opera Moby-Dick. Here's the cast list:
Ben Heppner* (Captain Ahab); Morgan Smith* (Starbuck); Stephen Costello (Greenhorn); Jonathan Lemalu* (Queequeg); Allan Glassman (Flask); Robert Orth* (Stubb); Talise Trevigne* (Pip); and Jonathan Beyer* (Captain Gardiner).

An asterisk means the singer is making his or her (Talise Trevigne, soprano, presumably playing a young boy) Dallas Opera debut.

Now, I've read Melville's great novel twice (in adulthood, voluntarily, with deep pleasure). There's a character who launches the novel with the most famous first line in literary history: "Call me Ishmael."

Take another look at the cast list. Post your thoughts here.