Elektra

Elektra

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

July Self-Defense Class: We've Still Got Openings

Details:

I'll be teaching an intensive self-defense class for adult women in July.

Dates:   Two Saturdays, July 8 and July 15, 2017

Time:    1 p.m. to 3 p,m. both days

Who:     Adult women, age 16 and up, cis or trans. No athletic or martial arts experience required. 
               Techniques are adaptable for a wide range of physical abilities.

Cost:      $90. Class open to all, regardless of ability to pay. If you need to pay less, just let me know.

               at Mind Body Dojo 
               7512 Fairmount Ave.
               El Cerrito, CA 94530

You'll learn basic blocks, kicks, and strikes; effective defenses against common attacks; self-protection strategy. It's a fun, energetic, power-building class.

Class taught by me, Lisa Hirsch, second-degree black belt in Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu. I've been practicing since 1982 and have about 25 years of teaching experience.

To enroll, leave a comment here or contact me at sensei@opendoorjujitsu.com, via the dojo contact form, or at 510-842-6243. 

For lots more information about Open Door Jujitsu, see our web site!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Some Thoughts on Writing, Especially Big Projects

A discussion on Twitter got me thinking that I'd like to write up some observations about writing. They are based largely on three things:

  • Twenty years as a professional writer, usually with tight deadlines. I've been a technical writer since 1996, and mostly I have had to deal with deadlines. (I will say that I'm happier and get more done when I have externally-imposed due dates.) I've been writing paid music reviews since 2004, and deadlines are the reason I got my SF Opera Les Troyens review done in a reasonable time frame (before the second performance), but you still haven't seen my blog posts about the Chicago Troyens...which was last November.
  • Editing projects of varying lengths for professional publication. These include a novel and a doctoral dissertation, plus some shorter articles.
  • Thirtyish years of practicing and more than 20 years of teaching martial arts. Yeah, I've learned things that apply to writing projects.
Martial arts practice is different from writing. It's a physical practice that is significantly influenced by your internal state, learning style, physical abilities, and cognitive strengths. In my style, there are also no deadlines: in general, nobody is giving you a due date to test for a particular rank. You can take as long as you'd like.

In a situation like this, it can become a teacher's task to motivate a student who is practicing regularly but seems directionless and therefore isn't making progress. Setting deadlines may in fact provide some structure for that student and help her to move ahead. I would generally not make this a deadline for a rank test, but I would not hesitate to say "I would like you to demonstrate 5 (or 10) arts of your choice in three weeks. Please bring a list of what you'll demonstrate to the next class." And then I'll make sure the student gets time to practice those and gets feedback from me, too.

In terms of long writing projects, getting hung up in your material in some way can hold you back. For some writers, making up a detailed outline and even a detailed schedule may help you move forward. You can get all sorts of elaborate tools for these tasks, or you can just use a spreadsheet or word processor. Using something less complicated is a good idea, because otherwise you can get sidetracked by learning an elaborate tool.

Just committing to writing 250 (or 500 or 1000) words per day might be enough to help you make progress. After you make something a habit - such as writing 250 words a day - for many people, it'll get easier to do. There's a lot of psychological research published at this point about how to change or establish habits, with different approaches to doing this. One of these approaches might work for people who feel stuck and would like to change their working habits.

Then there's perfectionism: OMG THIS JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH MUST REVISE. AND REVISE AND REVISE. My first jujitsu sensei always said "Strive for perfection, accept what you get." In martial arts, this is easy to understand, because you will do that imperfect technique thousands of times during your years of practice. Some will be great, some won't be, but over time, your basic standard will go up. I can execute dozens of techniques on a consistently good basis, but that's after a lot of hard work and a couple of dan rank exams.

When you're writing, you get something that you don't have in the martial arts: the revision and editing process. Until you turn in the final manuscript, you have lots of control. Yeah, the words on the page might seem to suck, but you will have lots of opportunities to revise your book or dissertation. 

And, you know? Sometimes they'll suck, but sometimes, maybe most of the time,  they won't. You might not be the best judge of what you're writing! It's a good idea to have friendly eyes, people you really trust, take a look at your project while it's in process. They are more objective than you are. If they're good writers or editors, they may spot organizational issues that, when dealt with, make everything flow better. 

It's important, very important, to keep in mind that your manuscript is in flux. Let go as best you can if you find yourself stuck, or obsessed with a particular section, or chapter or day's writing. Work on something else: it is entirely possible to write a large document out of order, as long as your revision process allows you to ensure end-to-end coherence. 

Here I'll throw in something the composer Sheila Silver said to me when I interviewed her some years ago: she composes by sitting down every day and composing. Sometimes what she writes is good and moves ahead the work in progress. Sometimes it's not and she winds up tossing it, or saving it for another time. It's a process that isn't all that different from the process of writing: get something down on paper, evaluate as dispassionately as you can, get something down on paper....

I say "as dispassionately as you can" because, hey, this can be an emotional process for a writer. I write technical documentation, and one salient fact of life for tech writers is that your work becomes obsolete with some speed, depending on the kinds of products you work on. A manual on how to use the database query language SQL won't date that much, because SQL is forever, within various variants. However, every word I wrote between 1998 and 2006, when I was with Documentum, is probably completely obsolete by now. It was useful when I wrote it; they paid me; I genuinely don't care that it's obsolete.

Your dissertation or novel will stay interesting, useful, and current for lots longer that that, and you are probably more emotionally involved with your dissertation or novel than I am with any of my documents. (I am, in fact, somewhat on the cynical side about what I write, and if you saw how tech companies operate, you might be too! Cynicism:it's a good survival skill. And I like the company I work for.) So it's harder to feel dispassionate about. 

What you can do is keep this in mind: writing is a craft. Yes, there's plenty of art in it, but ultimately, it's a craft. It's true that there are people whose writing process never becomes easy. But the more you can do to regard it as a craft, as something you get better at, the more likely it is that it will get easier for you over time.

I'm going to throw in maybe one or two final thoughts before I publish this: try not to get too socially isolated while you're got a big writing project going on. I know how absorbing the work can be, and I know how easy it is to get stuck inside your own head. See people at whatever level works for your place on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. Talk about things other than the writing project. Give yourself a break. 

And, really lastly, get yourself physically out of your writing space. You can't just stare at the screen all day. Get out into nature or the city streets around you. If you're ambulatory, you might find walking on your breaks to be helpful; movement somehow shakes things loose and can give you new ideas or cast useful light on what you are doing. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Washington National Opera: Departure of Phillipe Auguin

I realize I forgot to write a post about this: Phillipe Auguin's contract is not being renewed, and he becomes music director emeritus, at Washington National Opera at the completion of the 2017-18 season. "Not renewed" seems pretty blunt: the company didn't want him back. If conductor and company hadn't been able to come to an agreement, the announcement would have said he had decided to leave.

Here's what Francesca Zambello said about his departure. It sounds as though there will be less opera, done on a smaller scale, at WNO than there has been:
“I think he served the company very well,” said Zambello, WNO’s artistic director, by phone on Monday. “Eight years is a good tenure to have.” She also said, “I think he is evolving toward a different aspect of his career, and we are evolving toward different needs from a music director.” The company is focusing, she said, more on American works and projects such as the American Opera Initiative, which involves 20-minute and hour-long new operas. The big Wagnerian repertoire, she said, “is not really in our financial ranges right now.” But Auguin “will stay part of our music family. He’s back this season, and in future seasons.” He will conduct Verdi’s “Don Carlo” — the final opera of his official tenure — at WNO in March.
Anne Midgette's subsequent article about Auguin's depature pulls no punches. Draw your own conclusions, or I'll draw them for you: he was under-used (music director not involved with artistic planning??) and perhaps he and Zambello were as oil and water.
Current list of known openings:
  • Seattle Symphony when Ludovic Morlot leaves
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • 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.)
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Brno Philharmonic: open since 2015
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Vienna RSO: 2018 departure for Cornelius Meister
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Czech Philharmonic, following death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Hamburg Symphony, following death of Sir Jeffrey Tate
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Bavarian State Opera: with Kirill Petrenko going to Berlin and KP's Munich contract through 2021, it's sort of implied that he'll give up Munich
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD
I am curious about all of these, but of course the San Francisco Opera opening is closest to home.

And closed:
  • NDR Elbphilharmonie: Alan Gilbert becomes MD (or chief conductor) in the 2019-20 season.
  • St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève to succeed David Robertson
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic; Jaap van Zweden's contract extended through summer of 2022
  • City of Birmingham SO; Mirga Grazintye-Tyla appointed 2/4/2016, succeeding Andris Nelsons
  • 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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Borda Return Media Round-Up

For reference. Am I missing anything? (Yes, so I have updated the post. And updated it again on June 23. First published in March, 2017.)

Orchestra Executive Merry-Go-Round

Yesterday, Drew McManus had an article at Adaptistration about current vacancies, and recently-filled vacancies, in the executive suites of various American orchestras.
  1. Brent Assink's departure from the San Francisco Symphony after many successful years of financial and (mostly) labor stability. 
  2. Rita Shapiro's departure from the NSO in Washington, DC. She has been replaced by Gary Ginstling, formerly an executive at SFS, a good hire.
  3. Matthew VanBesien left the NY Philharmonic, which then managed the fantastic coup of luring Deborah Borda back to NY from the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
  4. Of course, this leaves a huge gap at the LA Phil, but they've got two excellent internal candidates in Gail Samuel and Chad Smith, and the orchestra should just promote one of them.
  5. Most recently, Allison Vulgamore is out at the Philadelphia Orchestra at the end of this year. It's about time: she was terrible for the Atlanta Symphony (and so was her successor there) and she happily led the Philly into bankruptcy.
My current nightmare: LA or SF hires Allison Vulgamore. Please, no. You had really good things going with Assink and Borda. Keep the streak going.

Gilbert to Hamburg

Alan Gilbert, whose tenure as the music director of the NY Philharmonic just ended, has a new appointment: he will be the music director of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, starting in the fall of 2019. He was their principal guest conductor from 2004 to 2015 and evidently it's a love-fest all around.

Here's what he has to say about this:
As I wrap up my time at the New York Philharmonic, very little would have tempted me to take on the challenge of a new position so soon. But the perfect confluence of circumstances seems to have come together with the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. First of all, this is a group of musicians that I already know so well and love dearly. The musicians and I have shared a very special rapport and musical chemistry for many years. Furthermore, the environment surrounding the orchestra is uniquely exciting. The Elbphilharmonie is the perfect and already iconic physical space in which to play and present music, and the management team, headed by Achim Dobschall and Sonja Epping of the orchestra and Christoph Lieben-Seutter at the Elbphilharmonie, is the most inspired, ambitious, and forward-looking in the world of music. How rare it is to find a situation in which it is not only possible to imagine pushing the paradigm of orchestras in the 21st century forward, but one in which all constituent groups are demanding that this progress happen. I’m thrilled to have found such a place.
How rare, indeed. Congratulations to Maestro Gilbert, and thank you for giving me one more reason to visit Hamburg one of these days.

Here's Michael Cooper's NY Times article about Gilbert's new gig. Leaving a fixer-upper for a  brand-new house, yep.

Updated list of known openings:
  • Seattle Symphony when Ludovic Morlot leaves
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • 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.)
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Brno Philharmonic: open since 2015
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Vienna RSO: 2018 departure for Cornelius Meister
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Czech Philharmonic, following death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Hamburg Symphony, following death of Sir Jeffrey Tate
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • * Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Bavarian State Opera: with Kirill Petrenko going to Berlin and KP's Munich contract through 2021, it's sort of implied that he'll give up Munich
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD

And closed:

  • St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève to succeed David Robertson
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic; Jaap van Zweden's contract extended through summer of 2022
  • City of Birmingham SO; Mirga Grazintye-Tyla appointed 2/4/2016, succeeding Andris Nelsons
  • 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
  • NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Hamburg; Alan Gilbert appointed starting in 2019.

Oakland Friday Photo


Avocado toasts
May, 2017
Caused a sensation on Twitter. Good thing I already have a house. Of course, they are homemade avocado toasts and didn't cost $19.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vacanies

A reader was kind enough to provide me with MANY additions to my list of open music director jobs. Here are the current openings:

Updated list of known openings:
  • Seattle Symphony when Ludovic Morlot leaves
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • 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.)
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Brno Philharmonic: open since 2015
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Vienna RSO: 2018 departure for Cornelius Meister
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Czech Philharmonic, following death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Hamburg Symphony, following death of Sir Jeffrey Tate
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Bavarian State Opera: with Kirill Petrenko going to Berlin and KP's Munich contract through 2021, it's sort of implied that he'll give up Munich
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD
I am curious about all of these, but of course the San Francisco Opera opening is closest to home.

Friday, June 16, 2017

San Francisco Opera and Nicola Luisotti on KQED-TV

Upcoming TV broadcasts of SFO productions:

Attila – Giuseppe Verdi
Thursday, August 3 at 9 pm
KQED 9
In popular culture, Attila the Hun was a ruthless barbarian, but to Verdi, he was a far more complex and compelling figure: a brave, ambitious warrior tormented by fierce internal doubts. This San Francisco Opera/Teatro alla Scala co-production features a distinguished cast, including legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role and Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey as the Roman general Ezio. The cast also features Lucrecia Garcia (Odabella), Diego Torre (Foresto), Samuel Ramey (Leone) and Nathaniel Peake(Uldino). Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The performance was recorded in June 2012.


Mefistofele – Arrigo Boito
Thursday, August 24 at 9 pm
KQED 9
This monumental work of “choral grandeur and melodic richness” (The New York Times), a reimagining of Goethe’s Faust, is one of the most impressive productions ever seen at the War Memorial Opera House. The title role of Mefistofele is sung by Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov in his staged role debut. The cast also features Ramón Vargas (Faust),Patricia Racette (Margherita/Elena), Chuanyue Wang (Wagner/Nereo), Erin Johnson(Marta), Renee Rapier (Pantalis), Luke Lazzaro (Adam) and Brook Broughton (Eve).Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in the bold San Francisco Opera production by director Robert CarsenThe performance was recorded in September 2013.

As It Was Foretold

From the Met:
Sonya Yoncheva will make her role debut in the Met’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca next season replacing Kristine Opolais, who has withdrawn for personal reasons. The Met looks forward to welcoming Ms. Opolais back in future seasons. The company is grateful to the Vienna State Opera for releasing Ms. Yoncheva from a previous commitment.
Ailyn Pérez, who most recently sang Mimì in the Met’s production of Puccini’s La Bohème, will replace Yoncheva as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in performances from December 29 through January 13.
 The new staging of Tosca opens on December 31 and will be directed by Sir David McVicar and conducted by Andris Nelsons. The premiere performances will also star Vittorio Grigolo as Cavaradossi and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. On January 12, Jennifer Rowley will sing the title role ofTosca. 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 71 countries around the world.
The performances of Le Nozze di Figaro with Ailyn Pérez open on December 29, with Nadine Sierra as Susanna, Isabel Leonard as Cherubino, Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count, and Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro. The conductor is Harry Bicket.
Foretold by Parterre Box not long after the Met season announcement.