Sunday, December 31, 2006

What a year it was.

For me personally, that is. Stressful, but good.

So many changes:
Amidst all of this, I am grateful for so many things: my wonderful partner Donna, our home (except for the expensive month of bathroom renovations....); for Janet, Matt, and Alice, for Debbie, Eric, Max, and Tiana; for everybody else at Server Team Tea Time; for many friends on the Well who helped keep me sane; for my many blog buddies.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Technical assistance, anyone?

I was starting to get comment spam, so I disabled Haloscan comments, which turned out to completely disable commenting. I restored Blogger commenting with help from a friend who took a look at the code for a blog where commenting was still enabled.

The question now is whether I can somehow import existing Haloscan comments into Blogger, or whether I need to re-enable Haloscan commenting (oy). Any ideas?

Thanks in advance....

Update: Haloscan comments cannot be imported into Blogger, nor can any other externally-stored comments.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tomassini on The First Emperor

A few paragraphs into his review of Tan Dun's The First Emperor, Anthony Tomassini of the Times says this:
My guess is that a large number of the ticket-holders are opera neophytes attracted by the novelty of this project and hoping for a grand theatrical experience.
I missed that on my first pass through the review; a friend called it to my attention. I think it's one of the stupider things I've read recently, especially coming from the chief music critic of the Times.

To start with, why on earth is he guessing? He has enough pull to phone the Times and ask who is buying the tickets to The First Emperor. (For that matter, I could call the Met press office and they'd tell me.) That kind of information would be both interesting and useful to anyone interested in the future of opera and classical music in general.

Second, I think it's a dumb guess. Maybe he's spending too much time with the famously conservative Met audience, but in my experience, it's the people who've been around for a while and are sick of endless iterations of Boheme, Aida, and Don Giovanni who want something, anything, new. I really don't think St. Francois and Doctor Atomic were sold out primarily to neophytes.

Third, if a significant percentage of sales are to opera newbies - or to people who love or care about new music in general - that's great! An expanding audience is a good thing!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

About Marston

I don't recall whether I have ever discussed Marston Records here. It's Ward Marston's own record label.

Ward is a legendary guy in the world of old recordings - he is a genius at transferring old recordings (pre-1950, generally) to CD. Actually, Ward's first transfers may have been from 78 to LP, but whatever. He does a lot of work for Naxos and VAI; he was responsible for many of the best sets on the now-defunct Romophone label. He is also a genius at FINDING rare recordings and persuading the owners to allow him to release them.

The third area where he's a genius is in figuring out a sustainable model for his own record label. The recording industry is a mess; unlike most people, I blame DVDs, not piracy, but who knows.

Marston Records works on a subscription basis. At the end of every year, Ward announces what he plans to produce in the coming year; if enough people sign up to buy a particular set, it goes through. If a particular set is sold out, arrangements have been made for on-demand production by a third-party company, so you can always get a set you missed. There are also Preferred Customers, meaning Marston Records has your credit card number and sends you EVERYTHING. If you don't want everything, you can be a Piano or Vocal Preferred Customer.

I've been a Preferred Customer for a few years. I'm not equally interested in every release, but I'll take them all, because it's so important to support Ward's work. And there are way, way more hits than misses, in my book: Litvinne, Supervia, Bolet, Vezzani, Gadski, Levy, and on and on and on.

If you're interested in historic recordings, especially acoustic-era vocal recordings, check out Marston Records. And please read the previous posting on this blog.

Mysterious Marston

What on earth could this, found in the end-of-year email from Marston Records, be?

Our Mystery Release

For the past ten years, Marston has produced a few releases that will be remembered for their historical importance: The Edison Trials: Voice Audition Cylinders 1912-1913; In Their Own Voices: The U.S. Presidential Elections of 1908 and 1912; and The Edison Legacy, which, is to be released early in 2007.

Our May release may be the most important “find” in the history of recording. It is also an anomaly for Marston. First, we are asking you to order this on faith. For a number of reasons, we can’t give a full description, not the least reason being it is of sufficient importance that a full-fledge press campaign is warranted, and we don’t want to spoil the impact of an announcement in our newsletter. Second, it is a multi-disciplinary CD that includes voice, piano, violin, and chamber music. (Because of the multi-disciplinary nature of the compilation, only our All Preferred Customers are scheduled to receive this issue automatically so PLEASE sign up to receive your copy, including our Vocal and Piano Preferred Customers.) Finally, these recordings were made by an individual and not a record company! We guess this may be our best seller ever and we are announcing this as part of our 2007 Season because we want to make sure that you have first crack at one of the relatively few copies that will be pressed.
Either it's material recorded off the air, or they're private recordings made by someone rich or famous enough to persuade important musicians to perform or record privately. No bets here; there were lots of important musicians featured on broadcasts during the 20s and 30s, and some of them could certainly count as great finds. The Chicago Opera broadcast during the late 1920s, for example....but I bet that would not be the "greatest" find.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Jonathan Wellsung and Maury D'Annato both walked out of The First Emperor after one act.

"Maybe it got better," I thought to myself last night.

Apparently not: Manuela Holterhoff got out the knives for her review. I especially like this:
Domingo delivered his wan lines with a furrowed brow, burnished tone and increasingly concerned glances at the prompt box. I don't know how he learned as much of the role as he did between evening shows conducting Puccini's ``La Boheme.''

And JSU at An Unamplified Voice was unimpressed as well.

(I admit that I have to quibble with this because, after all, Wagner got away with it:
A lawyer who represents himself, it is said, has a fool for a client. The same ought to be said for the composer who writes his own libretto.
Maybe JSU doesn't like Wagner. If not, I point to Mark Adamo and his superb libretto and music for Lysistrata.)

Update: Tony Tomassini doesn't like it either. And neither did Alex.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Score one for Holland.

I'm known not to be much of a fan of Bernard Holland, but this review is a winner all around. Tip of the hat, also, to the author of that headline, without which I probably would have ignored the review.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

LHL on Bridge

Bridge Records is re-releasing a recording of LHL singing John Harbison's Due Libri dei Mottetti di Montale. $14.99 in the U.S. and Canada, and there's more Harbison on the disk.

(They've also got releases of electronic compositions by Paul Lansky and violin music of Biber in December.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Two Great Shows

Art shows, in this case.

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz survived the Holocaust in Poland, as a teenager, through her own courage and determination, and brought her younger sister to safety as well. She met her husband in the late 1940s in Belgium, married him, and came to the U.S., where she worked as a seamstress and dressmaker. In old age, she told her story in a beautiful and heartbreaking series of fabric pictures. You can see this remarkable show at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

Meanwhile, in the deep south in a hamlet called Gee's Bend, African-American quilters developed their own distinctive style. A magnificent collection of these quilts has been on tour for some time and will be on exhibit at the De Young Museum until December 31. If you think the quilts look good on line, just wait until you see them in person.