Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Speaking Engagement

Since this news is landing in various mailboxes even as I write, I might as well confess:

I'll be speaking at the Northern California Wagner Society in early July. The topic is "Lauritz Melchior: Threat or Menace? Sui Generis or Best of a Good Bunch?" and the idea is to give some context to the famous heldentenor and his career. I'll be playing recordings by the Great Dane himself and a host of other tenors, some likely familiar to you, others possibly not.


Saturday, July 7, 2012
1 p.m.
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (the obvious place for a Wagner Society meeting)
3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA
Non-members $10 donation

The JCC is on the MUNI 1 California St. line. There's parking in the JCC's garage for $3/hour, max $15.

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

I don't attend dance performances very often, and when they do, it's because of the music, as often as not: my last was Petrouchka at SF Ballet. Just over the horizon is the S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival, and if you're into dance, you'll find lots of interest on their schedule, which is below the cut.

Berkeley Festival Fringe Program

First off, the Berkeley (Early Music) Festival has a spiffy new web site - big thanks from here, because the old site was mighty creaky and mighty slow. Second, more importantly, you'll want to take a look at the Fringe Festival schedule. These are programs put on around the main festival, many or most of them by local groups, in and around Berkeley. These programs, many an hour or so long, are fantastic, getting into many nooks and crannies that the shorter main-stage festival just can't.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Season Announcement Season: San Francisco Symphony

Yes, yes, I know that I am far behind in reporting on 2012-13 season announcements. Sorry! But the other week when I was home sick, I went through the prospectuses from some of the major presenters. In the process, I marked up a paper calendar with everything I'd like to see - excepting those choruses and new music ensembles that I watch - and oh, man, decisions, decisions.

That said, here's what's up with the San Francisco Symphony season.

Of course, it's not as great as 2011-12, the centennial season, which has been exceptional in the range of music offered. The most obvious lack is in the visiting orchestras. Instead of the American Orchestra series, we get the Russian National Orchestra - with Patrick Summers conducting! - and the Warsaw Phil. The second most obvious lack is in the new music area...but that's par for the course. On the down side, there's a focus on Beethoven...on the up side, at least it's early, rare, and unusual works, mostly. There's plenty to look forward to; I found a good 16 or 17 programs I'd go see, plus I have question marks on a bunch more.

Because of circumstances I can't recall, Semyon Bychkov conducts the first two subscription concerts; I'm passing on the first, but the Shostakovich 7th (Leningrad) is a do-not-miss in my book. A couple of weeks later, MTT has a program of Mahler 5, accompanied by a new work by Samuel Carl (Son-of-John-Coolidge) Adams. (Okay, yes, it has crossed my mind that of all the composers SFS could commission a new work from....it's tough being the composing child of a famous composer, because, yes, people will wonder about it if you land commissions from SFS, Carnegie Hall, and the New World Symphony. No, I have not heard a note of his compositions, so I have no basis for saying whether he is better or worse than any other under-30 composer getting commissions from major symphony orchestras.)

Vassily Petrenko returns with a program I'm hot and cold about: a work by Arvo Part and Bartok's Third Piano Concerto, paired with....Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. Um. Leave after the first half?

Vladimir Jurowski debuts with a program of the Rach Second Piano Concerto and an arrangement of Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible. Another debutant, Jaap van Zweden, has a Wagner/Mozart/Brahms program, which gets a maybe from me. MTT returns with hot and cold running Chinese pianists: Yuja Wang and Lang Lang swap in and out of a program that also has the Rachmaninov Second Symphony and assistant concertmaster Mark Volkert's Pandora, a world premier that I'm especially looking forward to. Then Yefim Bronfman is back with yet another new work, Jorg Widmann's piano concert, which is paired with Symphonie fantastique.

MTT then leads a gorgeous-looking French program that I'll just have to skip unless there's a last-minute substitute in the vocal department. Couldn't we have Sasha Cooke or Susan Graham for those songs instead of you-know-who? Charles Dutoit guests with two programs, of which the second, Poulenc and Berlioz, is the one I'll definitely see. Yan Pascal Tortelier, whom I loved the last time he was here, returns with a Debussy / Strauss / Mendelssohn program - maybe, maybe not, but how often will I get to hear the Strauss Oboe Concerto?

MTT conducts selections from Mozart's unfinished Zaide and Bruckner 7, then leads a Berio / Beethoven PC 4 (Yuja Wang) / Brahms 1 program, followed by Mahler 9. Herbert Blomstadt is here in April and both programs look good, though they're heavy on the Beethoven. Wagner/Lidholm/Beethoven and Beethoven/Nielsen. I suppose I can skip the Beethoven violin concerto if I want. Christoph Eschenbach leads a program of Schoenberg, Brahms, and Dvorak; it's a must-see because Matthias Goerne's presence on the first half.

Then we get the MTT weird-Beethoven concerts. First, a program of the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, a Sonatina for Mandolin and Fortepiano (!), the Cantata on the Death of Joseph II, and the Second Symphony (a great and underrated work); second....well, weird stuff, my beloved Fourth Symphony, and a repeat of John Adams's Absolute Jest. I hated it the first time around and am curious to see what I'll think the second.

Lastly, MTT takes another crack at the Missa Solemnis. Good luck! It was a near train-wreck the first time around, in June 2011. It's a great lineup of soloists (Laura Claycomb, Sasha Cooke, Michael Fabiano, and Shenyang), and I seem to recall reading something about visual accompaniment, which gives me the fear. I'll be on hand anyway, giving the visuals the gimlet eye and burying my head in the score.

Marek Janowski returns with a program that I would ordinarily pass on, except that I've never heard the conductor live and I'd like to (Schumann and Brahms). David Robertson has a tasty program and great soloist; Carter's Variations for Orchestra, Ravel Concert for the Left Hand with mighty Marc-Andre Hamelin, Rhapsody in Blue, and La Valse. Juraj Valcuha brings Kodaly (Dances of Galanta), the Dvorak cello concerto (which, alas, I don't like much), and Bartok's Suite from The Wooden Prince, while Kiril Karabits conducts a don't-miss program of Honegger's Pacific 231, the Britten Double Concerto (Barantschik and Vinocour), and Silbelius First (didn't I just hear that? Yes, I did).

Roberto Abbado shoehorns one new work, by Ivan Fedele, among Schumann and Schubert, then MTT has two programs celebrating the hundredth birthday of Le Sacre du Printemps: Rite plus Agon and the Violin Concerto (Shaham) and Rite plus Renard, some songs, and Les Noces. Woo hoo!

The season closes with West Side Story.

Minor Update: Compose Your Own subscriptions go on sale June 19. I'm hoping this year will be less painful than last.

Blogroll Updates

Over the last day or two, I clicked through every link to see which blogs are up and which have quietly died. I found around 20 blogs that appear to have gone inactive. I'm loosely defining that as "no new postings in at least six months," but some have had no activity in two or three years. Some of you...okay, one of you avoided being moved to inactive by dint of a couple of timely postings this year.

I'll be moving these to the Inactive Blogs section of the blogroll. You never know when an inactive blog will suddenly wake up again (Hi, Proper Discord!), but I do know how busy we all are.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Miscellany

If you're still thinking about Peter Gelb and the Met - and who isn't? - take a look at this informative posting by William Madison....Next Sunday, June 3, at 4 p.m., Pacific Collegium will perform Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir and a world premier by Ivan Moody, in Oakland at St. Paul's on Grand. I plan to attend, having missed performances of the same work by International Orange Chorale a few years ago. (Thank you for the email, Micky!)....Scooping Cal Performances, Other Minds has announced their Nancarrow Celebration, which will be on November 3 and 4 at Cal Performances, Berkeley Art Museum, and Pacific Film Archive. Nothing on their home page yet, but I have the email right here....In London, rarescale has three free concerts coming up at St. Leonard's Shoreditch Church, on 1 June, 6 July, and 20 July. Civilized times that Patrick would approve of: doors open at 7 p.m., the concerts, lasting about 1 hour, are at 7:30....Mild mockery: Credit Suisse, which is a major sponsor of the NYPO and Alan Gilbert, has launched an iOS app about Gilbert, his inspirations, and his influences. Someone forgot to tell them that Android is the dominant smartphone operating system....Met Opera on Demand (the new name for the Met Player - guys, a shorter name is better, really) is free for the summer. The available programs include recent HD broadcasts, the Schenk Ring from 1990, and Troyens from 1984, so if you need to catch up....The results are in from Zerbinetta's classical music blogger survey!


I have continuously updated the list of responses to the Met/ON fiasco at my first posting; it's quite long now.

UPDATE: May 27. Still adding to the list!

What I Missed

I've been sick for nearly three weeks now, during which I missed around two weeks of work and several performances:
  • Crescent City in LA
  • NYPO/Gilbert in SF
  • SFS program with the Schnittke Violin Concert No. 4
  • Everything else I might have gone to from May 7 to 21
Big sigh. I was back at work last week and made it to SFS Friday night, but am still under the weather. Oh, well! Many great programs coming up in June.

Friday, May 25, 2012

International Orange

Happy birthday, GGB!

Gelb's Future at the Met

I've seen the odd suggestion here and there on the Internet that the Met Board should fire Peter Gelb, on the grounds that the Met Futures, WQXR, and ON episodes demonstrate that his judgment is fundamentally lacking and therefore he is not fit to run the Met.

Indeed, he has some judgment problems: I have to believe that, had he consulted them, his entire PR department would have tried to restrain him. Bad publicity is bad publicity, after all. If he didn't consult the PR department, he showed poor judgment; if he talked with them and didn't follow their recommendations, he showed poor judgment.

But what's the Met Board to do? People who can manage $350 million-a-year arts organizations aren't exactly thick on the ground. They can't toss Gelb and bring in a replacement next week or even next year. It is probable that everyone who has the skills also has a job and a multi-year contract that can't be broken with less than a year's notice.

And just how much of a leadership vacuum do you want at the Met? James Levine is nowhere to be seen and we have no idea whether Gelb is leading a quiet search or waiting to see whether Levine will stay or go.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Berkeley (Early Music) Festival

I'm reminded that the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition is coming in a couple of weeks. I got the press release with the schedule in early April, which is sadly late for concerts during an already-crowded month. This year seems to be pretty heavy on the 18th c. but also features a couple of programs by the great Jordi Savall. I had originally planned to be at Ojai that week, but Nixon in China, a paid review, called to me; I also have a ticket to see the Philly, and on June 3 I expect to hearing the Frank Martin Mass for Double Choir. Busy week!

Full schedule is after the jump.

The Search

The NYPO has had well-publicized problems with finding a new principal clarinetist. Now they've announced the pending retirement of concertmaster Glenn Dicterow at the end of the 2013-14 season. He'll be moving back to Southern California, whence he comes, and will be starting to teach at the Thornton School of Music (USC) in the fall of 2013.

He's been NYPO concertmaster since 1980, having previously held the same chair at the LA Phil. These will be big, big shoes to fill.

Like Him or Not

His name is Robert Lepage.

Not LePage.

Not Le Page.

Not any other variation.


Inner Copy-Editor

Stefano Scodanibbio

I'm tremendously sorry to hear of the death of the Italian composer and double bass virtuoso Stefano Scodanibbio today, and chagrined because he died in January and I missed  the news entirely back then.  He was only 55 and died in Mexico of ALS. I reviewed a concert of his music four years ago; a fascinating program executed with great joy and great technique by all participants.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The "People's Diva"

Okay, so among the things that rub me the wrong way about Renee Fleming - besides her singing and stage manner, I mean - is the title "the people's diva." Where on earth did this come from? It conjures up images of a Lady Bountiful strewing food, no, wait, arias to people on the street, in supermarkets, in airports, wherever she happens to be. But among Fleming's recent and upcoming engagements are the following events to which you bet I cannot get a ticket:
  • On video (!), she welcomed NATO dignitaries to the organization's 25th summit
  • On June 4, she'll sing at Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.  The other classical musicians are Alfie Boe (who is British) and Lang Lang (who, like Fleming, is not). Um, there isn't a British soprano good enough for Her Majesty?
  • In July, she performs at an "exclusive" IOC event, in London at the ROH.
See also: Parterre Box

Tinker to Evers to Chance

In more prosaic news from the Met....the other week, the company announced Karita Mattila's withdrawal from Un Ballo in Maschera, with Sondra Radvanovsky taking over the role of Amelia while dropping Elisabetta di Valois in an upcoming run of Don Carlo(s). Now the final shoe has dropped: Barbara Frittoli will take Elisabetta.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Remaining Question

If you read through the comments at the NY Times on either of the two articles about ONGate and over at Anne Midgette's blog posting, you'll see a couple of thoughts surfacing with some regularity:

  • There's an inherent conflict of interest when somebody at ON reviews the Met.
  • The Met is paying ON's bills and shouldn't have to deal with critics from within.
Anne herself makes the point that the second of the above is just wrong: the Metropolitan Opera Guild, which publishes ON, is a fundraiser for the Met. It contributes money to the Met, rather than taking money from the Met.

Even more interestingly, the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Metropolitan Opera Association are two separate legal entities. 
  • Metropolitan Opera Guild. CEO Richard J. Miller, Board Chairman Winthrop Rutherfurd, Jr. The Board has a number of well-known members, including retired singers such as Rise Stevens, Martina Arroyo, and Frederica von Stade. Total employees: 44 full- and part-time. Total revenue for the last year reported: around $12 million
  • Metropolitan Opera Association. General Manager Peter Gelb. Board Chair Ann Ziff (she is on the Guild Board of Directors). Total employees: around 860, according to the Met web site. Total revenue for the last year I can find: around $271 million, a large multiple of the Met Guild's revenue.
Given this, why does Peter Gelb get to boss Opera News around? 

Information in the bullets above from GuideStar, except where I note otherwise. The Met's 990 is long and interesting. Yes, anyone can register and use GuideStar's resources.

For a Giggle or Two...

Twitter users might follow @FakePeterGelb, an account that seems to have sprung up in the last 12 hours or so.

Well, That Didn't Take Long

As I said to a friend in email this morning, somewhere in the bowels of the Met, someone was holding his head, weeping quietly, and muttering "I told you so. I told you so." over and over.

Apparently that person finally got through to the powers that be, because, under the face-saving rubric of "the fans demand that ON publish reviews of the Met!", the Met has backed off. Um, maybe this press release should have come from F. Paul Driscoll rather than the Met itself?
May 22, 2012

Opera News Will Continue to Review Metropolitan Opera Productions
In view of the outpouring of reaction from opera fans about the recent decision to discontinue Met performance reviews in Opera News, the Met has decided to reverse this new editorial policy. From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News. Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans.

The Met and the Met Opera Guild, the publisher of Opera News, have been in discussions about the role of the Guild and how its programs and activities can best fulfill its mission of supporting the Metropolitan Opera. These discussions have included the role of reviews in Opera News, and whether they served that mission.  While the Met believed it did not make sense for a house organ that is published by the Guild and financed by the Met to continue to review Met productions, it has become clear that the reviews generate tremendous excitement and interest and will continue to have a place in Opera News.
I find it interesting that they call ON a "house organ" and say that it's financed by the Met. I thought that the Guild raised funds for the Met rather than the other way around. I also wish they'd had sufficient balls humility to admit the giant mistake they made.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shooting the Messenger

Why, it was only the other day that I said that all publicity is not good publicity, contrary to the old saw. And here comes Peter Gelb, proving me right again:
Opera News, 76 years old and one of the leading classical music magazines in the country, said on Monday that it would stop reviewing the Metropolitan Opera, a policy prompted by the Met’s dissatisfaction over negative critiques. 
[several paragraphs deleted] 
“As of the June 2012 issue, Opera News is not reviewing Metropolitan Opera productions,” F. Paul Driscoll, the magazine’s editor in chief, said in a terse telephone interview. He declined to elaborate but acknowledged that no other opera company had been banished from its pages.
Translation: Peter Gelb's displeasure over the negative Ring reviews and some some comments by Brian Kellow mean that Opera News's 100,000 subscribers won't get to read reviews of Met productions in ON. Instead, they'll have to rely on the NY Times, the WSJ, the New Yorker, the Daily News, and, of course, the blogosphere.

Dear Peter, when messengers from all over deliver the same message, perhaps it's time to ponder that message a bit.

See also (in the order in which I found them, more or less):

Eclipse Leaf Shadows

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Lose All Credibility

Of all the tech stories in the news this week, the one I find most interesting is how Scott Thompson lost his job as CEO of Yahoo!.
  1. He lied on his resume.
  2. When a journalist mentioned his degree in accounting & computer science, he didn't correct her.
  3. When the lie was discovered, he blamed the executive recruiting firm that he worked with in 2000. That firm promptly issued a denial and provided information to Yahoo! about his 2000 resume.
  4. He never admitted that, well, he lied.
  5. He told his board that he had "minor surgery," but not that it was minor surgery for thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is pretty curable, but WTF?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Child Sexual Abuse in Ulta-Orthodox Jewish Communities

The NY Times has had a series of astonishing articles about what happens to individuals in some NYC ultra-Orthodox communities who report child sexual abuse to the secular authorities:

They are...somewhat terrifying. The ultra-Orthodox come across as a cult. In tomorrow's paper, there's a letter from Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of American, and here's the appalling money graf:
Contrary to the implications of your recent articles and editorial about child abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community, the role of the rabbi in cases of suspected abuse is not to dissuade the individual from reporting to the secular authorities, but simply to ascertain that the suspicion meets a certain threshold of credibility.
Rabbi Zwiebel seems to have missed the point that in a secular society, the DA and police investigate and determine whether a suspicion meets an appropriate threshold of credibility. It is not the job of the rabbinate or the priesthood to do this.

Amazing Examples of PR Stupidity

As I've noted before, Bay Area musical organizations have been remarkably generous and thoughtful about extending press tickets to members of the musical blogosphere. I'm grateful for that; I know my fellow bloggers are grateful; I want to express my thanks to all the organizations and publicists who've invited me to their concerts and performances. You're the best.

Unfortunately, not all PR folks and organizations are quite as professional and enlightened in dealing with bloggers and others who write primarily for web publications. I learned yesterday that the publicists for a number of Bay Area theater companies managed to shoot themselves in the foot rather nicely this week. They sent email around to various critics - I do not know how many - telling them that to obtain comp tickets in the future, the critics would have to provide web analytics demonstrating their readership.

Among the critics who received this missive was Janos Gereben, former arts editor of the Oakland Post (for two decades), former music editor of the Mercury News, the Seattle Times, and regular contributor to numerous local publications for many years now, including the SF Examiner and SF Classical Voice.

Of all people to make threats to....it's obvious that the organizations represented by the email hadn't stopped to consider a few points.
  • WTF, you're asking Janos to provide web stats? You don't know and trust his work after 40 years on the local scene?
  • Believe it or not, not everyone published on the web has access to blogstats. If you have your own blog, yes, you have access, depending on the platform and depending on whether you have enabled an analytics program on your blog. However, if you think that I can get the analytics for SFCV or my own reviews on SFCV, please enjoy watching me fall on the floor laughing.
  • All publicity is not actually good publicity, and I'm happy to provide a little bad publicity for the publicists whose names appeared on the email: Charles Zukow and Kevin Kopjak, Terence Keane, Erin Garcia, \ Marilyn Langbehn, Sasha Hnatkovich, Erica Lewis-Finein, Carla Befera, on behalf of various theatrical organizations, all of whose names the readers of this blog would undoubtedly know.
  • Not all of your shows are sellouts. You can, in fact, afford to give away tickets to 10 or 20 reviewers. Theatrical runs are not one-shot or, usually, even eight-shot gigs. If you don't want to put everybody on opening night, spread 'em out over the first two or three shows.
  • You'd rather lose reviews than give tickets to the wrong people. BZZZZT. That is shooting yourself in the foot.
Here's the most galling paragraph from the email that was sent around:
 Please don’t fret about this! The report you send will not automatically qualify or disqualify you for attendance at any theater. Each of our companies retains the right to set its own policies with regard to press passes, and this report is only one of many factors we consider when dealing with reviewers. The traffic data it provides will simply allow us to make a fair and informed comparison of the many opportunities offered to us for online coverage – and to clearly explain those opportunities to leaders at our theaters who are understandably concerned about the number of complimentary tickets we distribute.
Translation: we are making this demand en masse, but really, this email is meaningless, because each individual organization will be making its own decisions. Honestly, guys: don't you read the people you emailed this to? Don't you know their work and whether they're good reviewers? That might actually be more important than raw statistics.

Overall, you'll get more bad than good out of this, including a refusal from Janos - and possibly others - to cover the organizations as long as these demands are maintained. 

In closing, if anyone's curious about my blogstats, you should know that they're pretty wimpy compared to, say, La Cieca's up-to-18,000 per day page views. Interpreting analytics reports is always tricky, so I'll just leave it at this: I have about 2200 unique visitors per month and something between 5500 and 7000 page views per month.

More DFD

Odd ends:
  • Alex Ross excerpts letters from Britten to DFD about the War Requiem, the work itself, and DFD's own words about the premier. His "beloved wife" was Irmgard Poppen, who died tragically following the birth  of their third son. (I am amused at "Peter Pears has agreed to sing the tenor part." I would expect nothing else.)
  • Leo Carey at The New Yorker discusses DFD's art, with illuminating examples.
  • Anthony Tommasini has a fine appreciation in the Times.
  • A guide in clips from the Guardian.
  • A tweet from SF Opera quotes Elisabeth Schwarzkopf saying DFD was a "god who had it all." Neither SFO nor the Met managed to hire him to sing in their houses.
  • Meanwhile, at NPR, here's George Jellinek playing some of DFD's recordings and discussing the singer and his career.


From Germany comes the news that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died at 86. The baritone was a seminal singer, one of the towering figures of the postwar vocal scene. If you knew his singing, you had opinions about it, love or hate or something in between, but whether he was to your taste or not, his greatness and influence cannot be denied.

My favorite of his recordings is an oddball: Peter, the father, in Hansel und Gretel. No excerpts on YouTube, so here's Schubert's "An die Musik."

Update: The NY Times obit is up; it's not terribly probing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cal Bach Summer Chorus Workshop

Cal Bach's annual summer workshop is coming up. Once again, it'll be Bach cantata choruses. The price is $50, which includes music and lunch. You can register on line or by mail. Here are the details:

Paul Flight continues his survey of the choruses from the cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Join members of the California Bach Society and Artistic Director Paul Flight in exploring the opening choruses from Cantata 110Unser Mund sei voll LachensCantata 39Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot; and Cantata 125Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin. Other choruses will include Ich harre des Herrn fromCantata 131, and Meine Augen stehen and Meine tage in den Leiden fromCantata 150. Dr. Flight will have the assistance of the CBS rehearsal accompanist, Gwen Adams.
Saturday, August 25, 2012, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in Palo Alto

Or Purchase Tickets by Mail:
Download and print out the Registration Form. Mail form and $50 check to
California Bach Society
PO Box 1526
Palo Alto, CA 94302-1526

Opera Manhattan 2012

Opera Manhattan has a great triple bill opening tonight:

  • La Voix Humaine
  • The Medium
  • Suor Angelica

You can attend for $25 per opera or $65 for all three. Opera Manhattan performs at the following theater, which they note has staircases and is not accessible:

Theater at St. Clements
423 W. 46th, NY, NY

I'm not sure what time the performances start, because that critical information is not in their email and their web server seems to be down. Bzzzt! You can try their home page later, or phone them at...oops, also not in the email! or try their Facebook page.

Okay, the Facebook page says 6:30 p.m. Useful to know! Also, performances are on May 17-21, 2012.

The Mother of All Cast Change Advisories

From the Met, about next season, with annotations in square brackets:

Gwyn Hughes-Jones will make his Met role debut as Manrico in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the September 29 matinee and will also sing the role on October 4, 8, 12, 17, 20, and 25. [He is replacing TBA and shares the role with Marco Berti. We had Berti here as Manrico a couple of years back and I thought him poor, but he was an excellent Calaf this past season, so who knows?] [P. S. The tenor's management company does not have a hyphen in his name.]

Carmen Giannattasio will replace Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora in Il Trovatore on October 12, 17, 20, and 25. These performances are in addition to the previously announced dates when Giannattasio will sing the role.

Sondra Radvanovsky will replace Karita Mattila as Amelia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera on November 8, 12, 15, 19, 24, 27, 30, December 4 and 8 matinee. The role of Amelia for the performance of December 14 is TBA. The November 8 premiere of David Alden’s new production will be Radvanovsky’s Met role debut as Amelia. [Love Mattila but not in Italian opera. This is a win.] [Lee Abrahamian of the Met is quoted in the Times telling Dan Wakin that "Karita was engaged for Ballo five years ago, and she recently decided the role was not right for her."]

Marcelo Álvarez will sing Gustavo III in Un Ballo in Maschera on November 27, replacing Roberto De Biasio. Álvarez will now sing all performances of the role in the 2012-13 season.

Dolora Zajick will replace Olga Borodina as Amneris in Verdi’s Aida on December 19, 22, and 28. As previously announced, Borodina will sing the role on November 23, 26, 29 and December 3, 7, 12, and 15 matinee.

Erwin Schrott will make his Met role debut as Doctor Dulcamara in Bartlett Sher’s new production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore on January 30. He will also sing the role on February 2, 6, and 9 matinee.

TBA will replace Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabeth de Valois in all performances of Verdi’s Don Carlo in the 2012-13 season. [Hmmm! Racette?]

Italian baritone Marco Vratogna will make his Met debut as Iago in Verdi’s Otello on March 27. He replaces Thomas Hampson, who will still sing the performances on March 11, 15, 20, 23, and 30.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Correction Appended

You'll want to see the update added to the cast change advisory posting; I was wrong!

Disappearing Cast Change Advisories

Update: I was wrong! The Met is still sending the advisories, but evidently some out-of-town journalists didn't feel a need to be updated on every change. (What is wrong with them??) The cast change advisories have been going to a smaller, more local, distribution list. I've asked them to add me back on.


I noticed during the recent Ring cycles that I hadn't gotten any email from the Metropolitan Opera about cast change advisories. If you followed along, you know that there were plenty of them: Stefan Margita and Jonas Kaufmann made it to only one each of their three scheduled performances, Eric Owens missed one Goetterdaemmerung, and Deborah Voigt missed a Siegfried.

I'd call that news, but the Met, "based on journalist feedback," has decided to send only HD broadcast cast change advisories. They'll update the web site for cast changes - meaning you have to look at every damn performance, and know what the original cast was, to determine what changed, if anything.

I think this is bad. Send the email, or have a single location on the web site for these announcements, and add an RSS feed. Don't bury the information.

I have no idea which journalists have given them feedback, except that they didn't ask me, and if I'd been offering spontaneous feedback, I'd've said "bring on the email!" Are cast change advisories really a problem for other journalists? Do opera and music journalists not know how to filter their email if several Met cast change advisories each month are overwhelming their inboxes?

Or is it just too embarrassing to have music bloggers calling attention to the changes? It's not as though we'll have James Levine withdrawing constantly in the next year or anything.

Ensemble SPAM

No, really! That's their name:

Shira Kammen
Peter Maund
Allison Zelles Lloyd
Marsha Genensky

They'll be playing at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park on Saturday, May 26, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Symphonic Benefit for the Women's Cancer Resource Center

The Community Women's Orchestra will perform a program to benefit the Women's Cancer Resource Center next Sunday. Two fine organizations, and what is this Conductor-for-a-Day business? I should apply (or bid on it, if it's that kind of thing).

Remember, this is probably the only chance you will get this year to hear a work by Peggy Glanville-Hicks, the excellent Australian composer, in the Bay Area:

Community Women’s Orchestra
Dr. Kathleen McGuire, conductor | Jessica Bejarano, assistant conductor

Sunday, May 20, 2012 – 5 PM
Lake Merritt United Methodist Church
1330 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland

All tickets - by donation - will benefit the Women's Cancer Resource Center of Oakland, California
Tickets at the door or in advance: http://www.communitywomensorchestra.org
  • Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912 – 1990): Sinfonia da Pacifica (1953) – 2012 edition (premiere)
  • Max Bruch (1838 – 1920): Romanze Op. 85 for Viola and Orchestra (1912) featuring CWO alumna Whitney Smith, viola solo
  • Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883): Rienzi Overture (1842)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827): Symphony No. 7, 2nd movement (1812) featuring "Conductor-for-a-Day" Bill Rudiak 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grisey in Vermont

I've been getting press releases from Yellow Barn, a "center for chamber music performance and study" in Putney, Vermont. The latest describes a program consisting only of Gérard Grisey's Le noir de l'etoile, for six percussionists placed around the audience. I'd go if I could; if you're in the northeast, maybe you can:

Friday, May 25

The Greenwood School soccer field | 8:16 (at sunset)
Putney, VT
Pre-concert discussion at 7pm in the gymnasium
Post-concert reception with the artists
Free Admission
More InformationVisit our blog for a list of related listening and reading materials
Gérard Grisey (1946-1998) Le Noir de l'Etoile (1989-90)
for six percussionists placed around an audience

James Beauton
Greg Beyer
Amy Garapic
Doug Perkins
Jeff Stern
Mari Yoshinaga

with astronomer Tom Geballe
Audience please note:
Please arrive before 8pm for parking.
The audience will be sitting on the lawn. Bring your own blanket or folding chairs.
Chairs will be available for those who need assistance. Please call Yellow Barn at (802) 387-6637 x106 to reserve.
The piece will finish after sunset. The campus lights will be on, but flashlights are recommended.
The rain location is the Greenwood School gymnasium.


If it's rare to hear works by women at San Francisco Symphony - excepting the odd Gubaidulina a few years back and a Higdon since - it's about equally rare to see and hear a woman conducting SFS. This year, we've had rising stars Jane Glover, whom I did not see, and Susanna Mälkki, whom I did.

I hope she is back soon, though she does not appear to be on next season schedule. This year's program got only two nights, rather than the usual three (or sometimes four). She has a conducting style as angular and sharp as a razor; I could hardly keep my eyes off her and I bet the musicians could not either. The whole concert crackled with energy and focus.

She opened with Modulations, from the French spectralist composer Gérard Grisey's 90-minute cycle Les espace acoustiques. As I said to Joshua Kosman later, I'm sure I was the only person in the room who'd heard Les espace acoustique more often (on record) than the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto that followed - since I'd never heard any of the Prokofiev piano concertos before. (Yes, I do have some odd gaps in my musical knowledge.)  Modulations is about 15 minutes long, an essay in shifting orchestral textures mostly expressed in extremely short phrases that grow in volume and then fade away: hairpins, as it were. It's not so easy to hear the structure, but it certainly sounds coherent, and often extremely beautiful. I wish they'd played the whole thing...maybe another time, perhaps when MTT starts programming recent mavericks rather than the ones who've been dead for decades. Or maybe he'll just bring back Mälkki, conductor of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, who has more of an affinity for this kind of music than he does.

Next up, Horacio Gutiérrez in a fluent and entirely charming performance of the Prokofiev Third PC. Okay, that was fun - and audience ate it up. Whose recordings of the Prokofiev piano concertos should I buy?

Last, the Sibelius First, which got a taut and high-tension performance, to the point where I wondered how far she could possibly go with it before the orchestra exploded or fell apart. She kept finding new places to go and, remarkably, never ran into problems with the discursive form of the piece, nor did the orchestra ever come to grief. Strength to strength! I hope she'll be back soon.

Definite Impossibilities

There I was, rehearsing to sing the Siegfried Brünnhilde.

The stage and set were mostly white, with different levels; I saw many areas of green, or greenery, which may have been windows behind which there were photographs of the natural world. (I believe the production was influenced by too much time spent perusing kitchen photos on houzz.com.) My tenor was George Gray (now teaching at Temple in Philly), and I remember thinking "Why do I not have Jay Hunter Morris to sing with?" Maybe I did, and Gray was the cover? I think I was a cover, because the rehearsal was not expected.

Our director was a famous soprano, now retired, though I don't recall who. I remember wanting some coaching on the character; somehow we wandered off into a discussion of Carmen and how that title character was similar to Brünnhilde. Or maybe to Isolde?? In any case: no she is not!

And then Barack Obama appeared on stage to wish me luck and give me a little peck on the forehead!

(I will not be singing Brünnhilde any time soon. Not only do I not have an operatic voice, I am an alto.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Can't Go On Forever...

but one can hope it will continue for a while:

Season’s Second Program To Feature WORLD PREMIERE of  ELLIOTT CARTER’s Two Controversies and a Conversation,U.S. PREMIERE of MICHAEL JARRELL’s NACHLESE Vb: Liederzyklus,
And PIERRE BOULEZ’s ... explosante-fixe …  
Friday, June 8, 2012, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Saturday, June 9, 2012, at Peter Norton Symphony Space  
DAVID ROBERTSON To Conduct Both Concerts
WNYC’s JOHN SCHAEFER To Host June 8 Performance 

(emphasis mine. No, I have no idea why MD Alan Gilbert isn't conducting this program.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, illustrator and designer, died yesterday at 83. He designed opera productions and his seminal book Where the Wild Things Are became an opera by Oliver Knussen.

Roman Totenberg

The great violinist and teacher died yesterday morning at age 101. His NY Times obit is here; at NPR, his daughter Nina has a fond and touching remembrance. He never retired, and as students heard that his kidneys were failing, they flew in to say goodbye. He had them play for him and even taught some lessons on his deathbed.

Monday, May 07, 2012

If You Missed SF Opera's Trittico....

....you have another chance to see it, in HD at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema in San Francisco:

1881 Post Street at Fillmore 
Tuesday,May 15 (7pm)  
Saturday, May 19 (10:30am) (This is opposite the Met rebroadcast of Goetterdaemmerung)

(I liked it so much I saw it three times in the theater. Yes, it was that good, with standout performances from Paolo Gavanelli, Patricia Racette (as all three heroines), David Lomeli, and the unbelievable Ewa Podles. Go see it! Wonderful staging, great casts.)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

In Darkness

It's not often that God Himself appears on stage in San Francisco, but that is pretty much what we got a couple of weeks ago at Matthias Goerne's recital. Yes, Lief Ove Andsnes was also on stage, but I doubt many people were there for the pianist, as good as he is, and as happy a collaborator as he was on this occasion. No, it was the singer who got us in the door and utterly dominated the program.

What a program: songs by Mahler and Shostakovich, mostly grim, many about death. I'll put the full list at the end of this posting, though not in the order in which they were sung. The Mahler songs were from Kindertotenlieder, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and the Rückert-Lieder, the Shostakovich from his Suite on Verses of Michaelangelo, Op. 145. I expect the Mahler songs are more familiar than the Shostakovich, especially because several appear in Mahler's orchestral song cycles or symphonies.

I have considered Goerne a great singer since his appearance as the baritone soloist a few years ago in Brahms's German Requiem at SF Symphony; where other singers tend to swing for the fences in "Herr, lehre doch mich," Goerne instead took an introspective approach, pulling the audience in to him rather than projecting outward. And that is the approach he took in this recital: I have never heard more intimate and inward singing from anyone, and rarely have I heard a singer maintain such perfection of line and tone throughout. I know that he breathed, but every song registered as an unbroken whole. He sang at a multitude of levels of piano and mezzo-piano, all with exceptionally beautiful tone, breaking to forte only occasionally and with devastating effect.

A breathtakingly beautiful and musical recital, in other words. I wish he'd hoisted a few of the songs to a higher key, because he has a spectacular high register and because many of the songs lay extremely low. But that's a tiny quibble about a near-perfect recital.

MAHLER: Ich atment' einen linden Duft; Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen; Es sungen drei Engel; Das irdische Leben; Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen; Wenn dein Mütterlein; Urlicht; Ich bin de Welt abhanden gekommen; Revelge; and Der Tamboursg'sellSHOSTAKOVICH: Morning, Op. 145, No. 2; Separation, Op. 145, No. 4; Night, Op. 145, No. 9;Eternity, Op. 145, No. 11; Dante, Op. 145, No. 6; and Death, Op. 145, No. 10 Encore: Beethoven, An die Hoffnung

Friday, May 04, 2012

Zachary Woolfe on the Met HD Broadcasts

Zachary Woolfe has a couple of long pieces in the Times about the Met HD broadcasts and their effects. I highly recommend reading them:

They're really good and mostly I think he is right on. But I'm dubious when he implies that the HD broadcasts might be responsible or partly responsible for wan or lukewarm applause in house at the Met. Isn't it far more likely that lukewarm performances are responsible for that? 

Help Me, Please

Another concert pile-up is on the way.
  • New Century Chamber Orchestra, including Zwillich premier, May 10-13
  • SFS, Barbary Coast and Beyond, a crazy and highly entertaining-looking potpourri concert, May 10-12, with MTT and an assortment of soloists including Laura Claycomb
  • Kronos Quartet, May 11-12, program called Women's Voices
  • NYPO at Davies, May 13-14 (I have a ticket to the May 13 program, for the Lindberg)
Theoretically, I could attend all of those, but practically speaking, I can't. I think it'll be Barbary Coast and Beyond, plus the NYPO. Sometimes I've gotten have fun.

Spoiler Warnings

Dear Opera Companies,

When you're making up preview videos for popular newbie operas, don't put major plot spoilers in the first ten seconds of the film. I'm just guessing that the filmmaker isn't an opera fan and didn't bother to ask anyone, but didn't somebody inside the company approve the preview before you posted it?

When I take friends to that particular opera and it's their first time seeing it, I tell them not to read the synopsis. Some surprises you can only have once.



Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Why We Need an Independent Blogosphere

So Peter Gelb can't make us take down our postings.

If you don't want to click through: Olivia Giovetti of WQXR posted about the Ring; Gelb called WXQR, which took down the posting and now says it was under review already. Dan Wakin is on the case; read Olivia's posting here.

Good move, WQXR, during a pledge drive! And color this the problems of institutional blogging, from Dan's article:
Ms. Walker [of WQXR], without stating what her specific objections to the piece were, said it was not a review and “not exactly opinion either,” and after it quoted from the Times interview, “goes on without any substantiation or reporting.”
Ms. Walker, that's what blogging is about.

H/T La Cieca for bringing this to everybody's attention.