Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sorry, Terry

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is apparently about to acquire Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, one of the great newspapers whether you agree with the political stance of its editorial page or not. (You can guess where I stand on that.) I note that the news reportage is superb and often (ahem) surprisingly liberal in its slant.

Murdoch's influence and effects on newspapers he has purchased previously is well documented. We can expect major changes, and not for the better, at the WSJ.

It's funny - some politicians and economists like to claim that deregulation is good for competition. In some areas they're right - note the plethora of phone services that have become available since the breakup of the Bell monopoly. But in media, deregulation has meant the concentration of newspapers and radio stations in the hands of fewer and fewer owners, resulting in less competition and far less diversity of format and opinion in those media. I say, go back to regulations that forbid individuals or corporations to own so many outlets in so many markets. That system was better for democracy and competition.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bayreuth Siegfried

The Bayreuth horn player rocks. Stephen Gould is a surprise and a pleasant one! Lovely tone, and he doesn't sound as if he's either shouting or about to fall apart. (Well, okay, he is shouting more than he ought to.) Think Alberto Remedios, my favorite Siegfried after Melchior.

Update, 10:42 a.m.: I missed Act I, and the Wanderer's music might be my favorite music in the whole Ring. Is there a rebroadcast?

Update, 12:57 p.m.: Dammit, I missed "Heil, dir, Sonne" while out getting lunch. Rebroadcast? Please?

OTOH, Watson sounds wobbly even singing softly, and did not trill where required. Sigh. Frida Leider, where are you when we need you?

Friday, July 27, 2007

San Francisco Renaissance Voices Concerts - This Weekend!

I'm singing - just for the summer - with San Francisco Renaissance Voices. The program is built around Elizabethan madrigals, and includes music by Byrd, Weelkes, Morley, Tompkins, and so on. There will be lute and vocal solos and Shakespearean readings (by KDFC announcer Dianne Nicolini) as well as ensemble works.

We're presenting the same program twice, once in San Francisco and once in Alameda:

July 28, 2007 – 7:30 PM
Seventh Avenue Performances
1329 Seventh Avenue, San Francisco - 415.664.2543
Buy tickets for this performance on-line at Brown Paper Tickets

July 29, 2007 – 7:30 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Alameda
2001 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda - 510.522.1477
Tickets for this performance available at the door

Both venues are great to either sing or listen in.

Tickets are around $15. If you're coming to the SF performance, I suggest BART and/or MUNI. Parking is tight in that neighborhood. (By the way "Seventh Avenue Performances" = Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church.)

Bayreuth Ring 2007

If you're reading this, you've missed Das Rheingold, the broadcast of which just concluded, but it's not too late to catch the rest, which will be broadcast on July 28 and 30 and Aug 1. OperaCast has the relevant links here. Christian Thielemann conducts. The singers seem pretty good so far.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

United States of Arugula

For the next two weeks, I'm conducting an on-line interview with David Kamp, author of United States of Arugula. The subtitles for the hardcover and paperback versions of the book say it all.

The publisher gave the subtitle How We Became a Gourmet Nation to the hardcover. This has given way to the funnier and more accurate The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution in the recently-published paperback.

David covers the last 60 years or so of American food history, starting with the sometimes-strange, sometimes-wonderful careers of Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne (and some of their predecessors), and hurtling down the decades to the generation of Alice Waters and further to the TV chefs of today. The book is a ton of fun, and David is an extremely entertaining guy.

The interview is being hosted on The Well, an early on-line community of which I'm been a member for (choke) nearly 17 years. You can read the interview, and, by sending email (to me or to the address mentioned in the introductory posting), have your questions answered in the interview.

Follow the interview here.

Read David's Web site here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Want to Hear Alan Gilbert for Free?

American Public Media's SymphonyCast has a show with Alan Gilbert conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. The text mentions the Mozart clarinet concerto (nauseatingly described as "a clarinet player's greatest treasure") and Dvorak's Sixth Symphony, but what about that photo of Stravinsky? Is there another piece on the program?

I haven't listened to the program yet, but it's a chance for you to hear Gilbert and draw some preliminary conclusions about his skills and leadership.

Invitation to African-American Singers

From today's SFCV Music News column:

The San Francisco Opera Chorus is holding auditions for African-American tenors, baritones, and basses to perform in the world premiere production of Philip Glass' Appomattox. The auditions - by invitation only, requests to be made by calling (415) 565-3205 or e-mailing ahughes@sfopera.com - will be held on Friday, July 27, beginning at 5 p.m., at the Opera House.

Singers chosen at the auditions will represent one of the Civil War regiments of African-American Union soldiers (reminiscent of the regiment depicted in the film Glory), as well as other roles in the production.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

New Look

San Francisco Classical Voice has a new look!

The new design is lots more functional than the old: with a single click, you can bring up articles by a particular author, for example. You can view articles on a particular subject without searching. There are plenty more worthwhile features, such as the expanded Music Links & Resources page and the easier-to-use performance calendar. Everything looks a lot better, too!


The other major event during my absence was the appointment of Alan Gilbert as the next music director of the New York Philharmonic.

I almost wrote that there is rejoicing in the blogosphere over the appointment, but Alex's comments are more measured than rejoicing and Steve's are pleased and newsy.

I've heard Gilbert at San Francisco Symphony twice in the last few years. I reviewed one of those performances and blogged about the other.

I'll repost a general comment I made about Gilbert this past March:
The last time TSR and I saw Gilbert, the programming was similar: Adams's Naive and Sentimental Music plus Midori in a lax performance of the Beethoven violin concerto. It's a waste of Gilbert's talents. As I said, he is perfectly competent but not revelatory in Classical-era music, and a fine accompanist, but it's in contemporary and 20th century music that he shines.
I would cheer if the Philharmonic's programming were suddenly 90% contemporary and 20th century music, but it's not going to happen. Gilbert will still be conducting a high percentage of the core repertory of 18th and 19th century music. Admittedly, I have not heard him in very much of that repertory, but is "perfectly competent but not revelatory" good enough for someone succeeding Toscanini, Mengelberg, Bernstein?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jerry Hadley 3

Some of the comments on my initial blog posting about Jerry Hadley raise questions that I'd like to briefly discuss. These comments either stated outright or implied that discussing Hadley's singing and vocal technique were not appropriate under the circumstances.

I disagree with that.

Opera singers are public figures; their work is reviewed and discussed in the media all the time. Musicians are humans, and sometimes the reviews are going to be bad reviews. I think all performing musicians know this and, if they're going to survive in the music business, they have to find ways to deal with the reviews and the publicity, whether good or bad. The same very likely goes for their families.

I don't think that reviewers ought to be nasty or cruel about what they say. I've written some bad reviews, and even in those circumstances I try to find and comment on aspects of a performance that I liked or that I thought could have been built on to produce a better performance. I try to keep in mind that I'm writing about humans.

When a famous musician dies or retires, it's entirely appropriate to review and evaluate the totality of that musician's career. The evaluation can certainly include details of the musician's training and must cover the trajectory of the singer's career. The obituaries I've seen all allude to his vocal and personal problems. I think the comments various people made here about Jerry Hadley's teachers and vocal technique were appropriate, despite the very sad circumstances of his passing.

As far as my own evaluation goes, it's limited. I don't have any of his recordings, and I heard him in person only a few times. The first was in Tales of Hoffman in the 1996-97 season, and I thought him very good in what was one of the better productions of that year in the Civic Auditorium. He sang well and was delightful to watch. Next was Manon, with Ruth Ann Swenson in the title role. The whole cast came down with colds and, poor things, had to suffer with the deadly conducting of Julius Rudel. 'Nuff said, given all that.

Last was Louise, in 1999-2000 season. One commenter questioned my remark about "a bad moment or two" on Hadley's part. That bad moment, alas, amounted to the entire opening scene, a dialog between Julien and Louise. Throughout the opera, no amount of good musicianship and diction could disguise the fact that the part was written for a dramatic tenor along the lines of Thill. He was badly overparted and thus miscast. I put part of the blame for this on Lotfi Mansouri, who also happily cast Carol Vaness in roles too heavy for her, such as Tosca and Norma, which contributed to her vocal decline.

I can't do a full analysis of Hadley's career, given the above. Still, from reading what other writers have had to say about him, it certainly seems possible that he made some mistakes in choosing parts, and that those mistakes eventually took their toll on his voice and career.

Jerry Hadley 2

Jerry Hadley died in my absence, taken off life support following a grievous self-inflicted wound. Daniel Wakin's second article about Hadley reported that his career appeared to be on the upswing and that the tenor had plans to move into some new musical areas.

I'm sorry about the troubles he'd apparently been having over the last few years, which seem to have included fewer bookings, some vocal problems, money issues, and depression. I wish he'd gotten whatever help he needed to overcome the depression and deal with everything else. It's very sad for everyone who knew and loved him, and sad for those of us who didn't, as well.


I was away for ten days on the Olympic Peninsula - the first vacation of more than a couple of days that I've had since, uh, 2005? 2004? Too long, anyway. We had a great time; the food was terrible (we are spoiled!) but the sights were great. I'd never seen bald eagles in the wild before, for example. Amazing birds, especially when eight juveniles and four adults are squabbling with each other on a beach.

A few things happened while I was away, and I have a few comments.

P.S. (Added Saturday morning) I was invited to the San Francisco Symphony's Blogger Night too, but since I was 900 miles away....

And speaking of Joshua Kosman, he can consider this encouragement to get back to blogging!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Jerry Hadley

A horrifying story has gone up on the Times Web site, indicating that tenor Jerry Hadley has apparently attempted suicide and is not expected to recover.

Hadley has reportedly had drinking problems for a few years, and musical colleagues are quoted as saying he'd been depressed.

He's never been a favorite of mine - I still remember a particularly bad moment or two in Louise, though I also remember a pretty good Hoffmann in the year the San Francisco Opera was performing in the Civic Auditorium - but I'm sad to read this. I'd also like to kick the Times writer who came up with the unintentionally funny headline, considering the jokes about what you find inside a tenor's head.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Golijov on Nextbook

Nextbook is a Jewish culture Web site, with lots of interersting-looking articles on books, film, theater, travel, and religion.

Osvaldo Golijov can be seen and heard there, talking with Ilan Stavans. Jessica Rivera and pianist Molly Morkoski perform. There's a sound clip here, too.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Savall Cabal on St. Paul Sunday

A friend points me to a Saint Paul Sunday broadcast featuring discussions with Jordi Savall, Montserrat Figueras, their children Arianna and Ferran, and Hesperion XXI percussionist Pedro Estevan. There's music, too, and I think it was played live in the studio.


On Saturday, I dropped by Laurel Books to pay for the last Harry Potter and pre-order The Rest is Noise. Today, Alex posted the table of contents. Mmmmmmmm.