Friday, December 15, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

#MeToo Comes to UC Davis Music Department

The famed Berlioz and Wagner scholar D. Kern Holoman gave up his professorships on Monday after a former student, who is now an administrator at UC Davis, alerted officials there that he was going to write about Holoman on his blog (link is to sfgate.com story). Danny Gray told officials about being assaulted and later raped by Holoman.

Holoman's response is Levine-like ("Our memories of that time differ markedly," that is, yes, there was sex! but it was entirely consensual) but includes something apologetic (not sure how sincere it is).

Gray had gone to the administration contemporaneously with the events, so there is evidence from then, and went to them on another occasion as well. As the SFgate.com story notes, UC has a miserable record of handling abuse in the workplace; see, particularly, how nice they were to former law school dean Sujit Choudhry, who sexually harassed a subordinate.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Opera America Awards

Opera America has made $225,000 in awards to assist in the production of a number of operas. Here are the works, composers, and companies involved. Congratulations to all of the recipients! I hope to hear your works.

Today It Rains by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed

Today It Rains is set on the transformative train ride that Georgia O’Keeffe took from New York to Santa Fe in 1929, during which she began to redefine herself as an artist and confront certain aspects of her marriage to Alfred Stieglitz. Based on an original concept by Mark Campbell, with a projection design by Kimberly Reed, the production will be conducted by Nicole Paiement and directed by Brian Staufenbiel.

For this same work, Opera Parallèle previously received two grants: a 2016 Repertoire Development Grant and a 2017 Commissioning Grant, part of the Opera Grants for Female Composers Program. 

Magda/Max by composer Garrett Fisher and librettist Amy Schrader

Magda/Max is inspired by the dramatic life and death of Magda Goebbels, unofficial first lady of the Third Reich. The story unfolds through the experiences of Max, a gay Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp who is beaten close to death for “deviant” behavior. In a fever-dream, he imagines himself as Madga Goebbels, lamenting a society that refuses to accept the new world order. As the war comes to a close, Max's fate becomes intertwined with the Nazi leaders trapped in Hitler’s bunker, and freedom is only attainable through the ultimate sacrifice.

Schoenberg in Hollywood by composer Tod Machover and librettist Simon Robson
Based on a scenario by Braham Murray

Schoenberg in Hollywood centers on influential composer Arnold Schoenberg and his late-career effort to assimilate into the culture of 1930s Los Angeles. The opera will explore the humor, heroism and pathos of Schoenberg’s struggle, as it imagines his complex life in Hollywood and uncovers its relevance for future generations. It will premiere at Boston Lyric Opera in fall 2018.

Blue by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson

Blue dives into the emotional epicenter of an African-American couple who lose their teenage son when he is killed by a police officer. Blue will premiere during the 2019 festival season and will be one of the subjects of “Breaking Glass,” a podcast and series of national forums hyperlinking opera and topical issues.
For this same work, The Glimmerglass Festival previously received a 2016 Commissioning Grant, part of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

The Phoenix by composer Tarik O'Regan and librettist John Caird

The Phoenix examines the life of Mozart’s friend and librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte. After the composer's death, Da Ponte flees Europe for America. Pursued by tax collectors and wronged women, Da Ponte reinvents himself countless times as a priest, a poet, a father, a political exile, a grocer and a teacher. The Phoenix will premiere in March 2019 as part of HGO’s multidisciplinary initiative “Seeking the Human Spirit.”

Five by composer Anthony Davis and librettist Richard Wesley

Long Beach Opera will facilitate the revision and new premiere of the opera Five. The opera follows five African-American and Latino teenage boys who were wrongly convicted for the 1989 rape and beating of a white jogger in Central Park. The “Central Park Five” spent between 6 and 13 years in prison until they were exonerated by DNA evidence, following the confession of the true assailant.

Eurydice by composer Matthew Aucoin and librettist Sarah Ruhl

Eurydice, based on the play by Sarah Ruhl, tells the Orpheus story from the perspective of Eurydice, using contemporary language to present the young lovers as quirky and conflicted. Eurydice meets her father in the Underworld, her memory erased, and they must re-establish their bond. When Orpheus arrives to bring her back to the land of the living, will she return with him? Eurydice was commissioned in 2015 by the Met Opera/Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by composer Paola Prestini and librettist Mark Campbell

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a family-friendly opera based on the young adult novel of the same name by Kate DiCamillo. It follows the adventures of an aloof toy rabbit named Edward whose comfortable life abruptly ends when he is thrown into the sea. His adventures take him far and wide until he finally opens his heart and finds his way back home.

For this same work, Minnesota Opera previously received a 2017 Commissioning Grant, part of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

The Flood by composer Korine Fujiwara and librettist Stephen Wadsworth

A collaboration between Opera Columbus and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra,The Flood tells a story of human connection through loss and shared tragedy across multiple generations of one family, centered on the devastation caused by the Great Flood of 1913 in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The Flood will receive its world premiere in Columbus in February 2019.

For this same work, Opera Columbus previously received a 2016 Commissioning Grant, part of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Kasi Lemmons

Fire Shut Up in My Bones is based on the moving memoir by journalist Charles Blow, chronicling his coming of age in small-town Gibsland, Louisiana, formerly the site of a plantation. Blow learns to break the cycles of violence that ignite this community, which is tied together by deep bonds and the spirit of resilience.

San Francisco Tape Music Festival, 2018

How's this for a lineup? Press release:

Friday January 5, 2018 (9pm
Saturday January 6, 2018 (8pm
Saturday January 6, 2018 (11pm
Sunday January 7, 2018 (8pm

San Francisco

$20 general
$10 balcony/underemployed
$60 fest pass (general admission all 4 concerts)

or at the door (cash only) the day of show after 7pm

America's only festival devoted to the performance of audio works projected in three-dimensional space, The San Francisco Tape Music Festival features four distinct concerts of classic audio art and new fixed media compositions by 26 local and international composers. Hear members of the SF Tape Music Collective, along with guest composers, shape the sound live over a pristine surround system (24 high-end loudspeakers) with the audience seated in complete darkness. It's a unique opportunity to experience music forming - literally - around you. 

The 2018 Festival's first two concerts showcase the entire range of the “fixed media” artform; the Saturday late-night show presents longer, psychedelic, and ambient tape pieces; and the Sunday concert features an entire concert of “audio postcards” and “sound walk” compositions. Throughout the festival, composers from the empreintes DIGITALes label will be highlighted. 

Remembering the pioneering work of one of the fathers of musique concrètePierre Henry (1927-2017), the festival presents a performance of his seminal work, Variations For a Door And a Sigh (1963). Other tape music classics include Karlheinz Stockhausen's quadraphonic Gesang der Jünglinge (1956) and James Tenney's proto-plunderphonic composition, Collage No.1 (Blue Suede) (1961). 

Recent works by international artists Hildegard WesterkampJonty HarrisonFrancis DhomontNatasha Barrett, and others will be performed alongside bay area composers Thom BlumCliff CaruthersNathan CorderMatt IngallsFernando Lopez-LezscanoMaggi PayneAdam SohnSophia Shen / Gabby WenTim Walters, and Chamberlain Zhang

works by:

visit http://sfsound.org/tape for program order for each individual concert 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blind Foolishness

What Bay Area performing arts organization does not have a place in its ticket purchase flow to make a donation?

I'm not necessarily going to tell you, but let me just say that this is one of the dumbest moves an organization can make. You have the attention of a subscriber or single-ticket buyer, a person who perhaps appreciates what you do, and you are not making it as easy as possible for that person to give you money. Moreover, it's the most wonderful time of the year, when people are figuring out their charitable deductions, and are most likely to give you a few bucks.

And yet, if you want to donate, you have to initiate a second process, and if you didn't save your payment info five minutes previously when you bought tickets, you have to enter it all again.

I suggested to this organization earlier this year that perhaps this was a mistake, but things are the same now. (I bought my tickets on the late side.) Le sigh. I donated; will others?

100% Cast Change Announcement

The fourth shoe drops and we now have 100% turnover since the Met season announcement in March:
Sir Bryn Terfel has had to withdraw from the Met’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca as he takes enforced rest due to vocal fatigue. Željko Lučić will sing the role of Scarpia on December 31, 2017, and January 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 23, and 27 (matinee), 2018.
“I am extremely disappointed to have to cancel these performances,” said Sir Bryn. “I was particularly happy to be returning to the Metropolitan Opera with this exciting new staging, and it is a terrible shame not to be a part of it.”
As a consequence of the change, Lučić, who was scheduled to sing the role of Alfio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, will be replaced by George Gagnidze for performances on January 8, 13 (matinee), 17, 20 (matinee), and 25, 2018. Lučić will still sing Alfio for the final two performances on January 29 and February 1, 2018.
Željko Lučić made his Met debut in 2006 as Barnaba in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and has sung 12 roles with the company, including the title role in Nabucco, Amonasro in Aida, Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, and Iago in a new production of Otello which opened the 2015–16 season. His performances as Iago, the title role of Rigoletto, and the title role of Macbeth, opposite Anna Netrebko, have all been seen throughout the world as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. He previously sang the role of Scarpia at the Met in 2015.
Sir David McVicar’s new staging of Tosca, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, opens on December 31, starring Sonya Yoncheva as Tosca and Vittorio Grigolo as Cavaradossi. The January 27 matinee will be transmitted live as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 73 countries around the world.
Later performances beginning April 21 will star Anna Netrebko in the title role opposite Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi and Michael Volle and Lučić sharing the role of Scarpia. The April and May performances will be conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
To refresh your memory:

Kristine Opolais -> Sonya Yoncheva (June 16)
Jonas Kaufman -> Vittorio Grigolo (March 8)
Bryn Terfel -> Željko Lučić (December 12)
Andris Nelsons -> James Levine (July 10) -> Emmanuel Villaume/Bertrand de Billy (December 5)

Friday, December 08, 2017

More on James Levine

So the Met has canceled all of James Levine's performances this season, while it investigates; Ravinia has "cut ties" with him; the BSO has issued a statement about its due diligence before they hired him as music director (but now it turns out - surprise! - they'd heard the rumors but "saw no cause for concern"); Levine himself has issues a statement.

Let's take a look at some of this. Here's the BSO statement, which they put on Twitter (click to enlarge):

"We followed our standard procedures and decided to hire him. Nobody complained!" Well, sure. He wasn't going to approach adult women, girls, or adult men, and he wasn't going to assault minors at Symphony Hall. And apparently the vetting process, at least as described here, didn't include asking a few grad students or opera fans about Levine. We would have clued them in.

Seriously, it is not credible that the Met and BSO didn't know about the rumors. I heard them around 1980-82 when I was a musicology grad student at Stony Brook, from housemates who hung around Lincoln Center. Terry Teachout heard the rumors in the 1970s when he was living in Kansas City, a good 1200 miles from Lincoln Center, according to his WSJ article. And a fellow on Twitter mentions hearing the rumors in 1995, when he lived in Los Angeles and was 15 years old.

But wait - the BSO had heard the rumors! Not only that, but this extremely moving and intense piece by Ben Miller makes it perfectly clear that the rumors reached far enough that members of the BSO itself warned their children against being alone with Levine because they knew he was a pederast.

It's just amazing what institutions can manage to ignore or forget when an important person is involved.

As to Levine's statement, shudder. (Link is to Michael Cooper's NY Times article.) It is the very essence of a non-denial denial, the statement of a person who doesn't see how wrong his actions were. This is what Cooper's article quotes:
“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” he said in a written statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
“I have devoted my energies to the development, growth, and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world — particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination,” he said in the statement. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”
The second paragraph is mostly filler: I have lived a life of artistic good, including my work with musicians! I couldn't have done anything wrong! That stuff about his hope that "people will come to understand the truth" is nauseating and goes with "the [accusations] are unfounded" in the first paragraph. This all boils down to: "Sure, there was sex, but it wasn't the way my victims say! I didn't harass them and moreover the truth is that they were into it."

Well, no, they weren't. Read their accounts of how it felt to them at the time and what the long-term psychological effects of the abuse were.

Here's what you need to keep in mind: the four men's accounts are very similar. It's also apparent that there was some kind of cult around young James Levine; he had a coterie of followers. And the four men's accounts close resemble accounts by people who've been sexually victimized by authority figures such as priests and music teachers. (See reporting on the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham's scandals, for example, and everything about sexual abuse by priests.)

I doubt that Levine will work again. The police report and publicity have made him completely radioactive. But, you know, this should have happened long ago. He has conducted plenty of performances with young choristers; he has taught here and there; he's had plenty of opportunities.

What I expect to happen: Peter Gelb will be fired for having sat on the Lake Forest police report for a year with no attempt at independent verification or investigation because "Jim denied it all." (OF COURSE HE DID. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?) Perhaps the Met board will lose a few members. More recent police reports or victim accounts will surface. Maybe there were payoffs. Perhaps we'll find out whether Diva X really did get an opening night in exchange for getting him out of jail. And possibly one of the reports will be about actions that still fall under the statute of limitations, and there will be a trial.