Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back

It's December 31, and the changing of the year is at hand. I'm not one for digging around in Google Analytics to make a list of my most popular postings, though I will note that my long-ago postings about the late Jerry Hadley have surprising legs.

I also don't always do best-performance postings, but there are a few I really need to mention. I should note that owing to jujitsu and SFS's ticketing software (I never renewed my subscription), my concert-going has been severely curtailed since the summer. I can't go to Sunday afternoon concerts or operas, which is a significant limiting factor given where I live and work.

I'm going to reach back to December, 2011, because there was a spectacular program then that I never blogged about, owing to a peculiarity of the program notes. That note is still haunting me; perhaps I should send out the letter I drafted a year ago after all.

In chronological order:

December, 2011. Esa-Pekka Salonen at SFS; Leila Josefowicz and Christine Brewer. Sibelius, Salonen, Wagner. A Sibelius tone poem, sumptuously played; Salonen's dense and beautiful violin concerto, which Josefowicz brought off in magnificent fashion; Bruennhilde's Immolation, with Brewer in fine voice after sounding rather off in the Missa Solemnis of June, 2011. To my surprise, she sang from a score. I'm not a soprano, but if I were I could sing it from memory. This lends some credence to those who claimed that Brewer was bounced from the last production of the Schenk Ring at the Met for not knowing the music well enough.

January, 2012. SFS/MTT, Christian Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff and a small ensemble in the Ligeti violin concerto. Good god, what a piece and what a performance.

January, 2012. SFS/MTT, Janacek Sinfonietta, Debussy, Le martyr de Saint Sebastien. A brilliant and unexpectedly wonderful pairing. I should have seen it again Saturday night rather than attending Susan Graham's recital.

March, 2012. Abel Gance's Napolean. I only saw the second half (I was feeling poorly in the morning) and wish I'd gone twice.

March, 2012. SFS/MTT, American Mavericks. The usual suspects, alas, but wonderfully played.

May, 2012. Matthias Goerge and Leif Ove Andsnes, Mahler and Shostakovich songs. Simply incredible singing.

June, 2012. Ojai North! Beautiful programming (and playing) by Leif Ove Andsnes, with colleagues including Marc-Andre Hamelin.

June, 2012. Duke Bluebeard's Castle, MTT/SFS; Michelle DeYoung, Alan Held. I'm told that DeYoung's Hungarian was a whole lot better than Held's; what really counts, though, was the top-notch singing, the sumptuous playing by SFS, and the unbelievable sound of the fifth door opening. Yes, I went twice.

June, 2012. Nixon in China, SF Opera. Finally, this masterpiece finds its way to the Bay Area.

July, 2012. King Roger, Santa Fe Opera. Finally, opera companies are recognizing that this rarity shouldn't be rare.

October, 2012. Einstein on the Beach, touring company. Finally! I was a little worried that it might be unbearable; it was, in fact, fascinating and delightful.

I'll give an honorable mention to West Edge Opera: I liked their charming Manga Flute a lot better than the SF Opera production, with its hideously tone-deaf "translation" by David Gockley. Lastly, I had a good year in blogging, as you can see from the post count.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Associate principal trumpet Glenn Fischthal and principal percussionist Jack van Geem both retired from San Francisco Symphony at the end of the 2011-12 season. The orchestra will be holding auditions in January for both positions.

At the beginning of December, the Chicago Symphony announced that David Herbert - our principal timpanist - has been appointed their principal timpanist, effective July 10, 2013.  Presumably we'll have auditions for that spot as well, at some point, though it is often the case that a departing principal player is considered on leave for the first year of a new job. And goodness knows, sometimes it has taken MTT a good long time to replace solo players.

Oh - read the fascinating comment thread to the Slipped Disk posting linked to above about David Herbert.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More on "The Music They Made"

Alex Ross also had a few things to say about this. Take a look at his posting, and the ridiculous excuse from Hugo Lindgren. Hey, Ravi Shankar's ragas somehow managed to fit; if Beethoven had died, I bet it would be easy to fit him into a montage. And wait: did Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau not record enough 2 to 5 minute numbers in his career?

Alex mentions the death of Elliott Carter, a towering figure, and a native New Yorker, whom the Times couldn't be bothered to include in this feature.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Time for a Letter to the Editor

The NY Times Magazine video feature "The Music They Made" is especially revealing this year. They've recognized one classical musician: Ravi Shankar, and you know he's there for his pop-music connections rather than his greatness as a performer of Indian classical music. Not only that, of the 29 individuals I count, five are women.

Just so we know who is important to the Times, it's male musicians, mostly in rock, pop, and blues.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caveat Lector 2

Remember my posting about an incompetent on-line music review, evidence of the value of knowledgeable critics? Of course you do.

Here's a NY Times article about the trouble with Amazon book reviews and what Amazon is trying to do about them (delete lots of suspicious reviews). It comes down to credibility: reviews by your kids, your mother, social media followers who haven't read the book yet, and that woman in Atlanta who has published 28,366 Amazon reviews - I am not making that number up - are worthless.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

SFO Les Troyens: At Least We Don't Have to Worry About Giordani

A Met cast-change advisory tells me that Marcello Giordani, widely panned as Enee in their current revival of Les Troyens, has withdrawn from the remaining four performances and is retiring the role.

Brian Hymel, who saved the day at Covent Garden when Jonas Kaufmann couldn't sing, replaces Giordani for the balance of the run, including the HD broadcast on January 5.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Secret Garden Cast Announced

San Francisco Opera has announced the cast for the upcoming premiere of Nolan Gasser's The Secret Garden:
Mary Lennox                        Sarah Shafer*     
Colin Craven                        Michael Kepler Meo*                         
Archibald Craven                  Philippe Sly*†                                   
Dickon Sowerby                   Scott Joiner*                                       
Martha Sowerby                   Laura Krumm†                                  
Mrs. Medlock                       Erin Johnson*                                    
Ben Weatherstaff                 Ao Li†                                                    
Susan Sowerby                   Marina Harris*†                  
Conductor                            Sara Jobin
Director                               Jose Maria Condemi
Visual Designer                    Naomie Kremer*
Costume Designer                Kristi Johnson
Lighting Designer                 Christopher Maravich

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robert Bork

West façade of the Supreme Court Building. (Franz Jantzen)

The news comes that Robert Bork, a legal scholar best known for being denied a seat on the Supreme Court, has died at 85.

Reading the NY Times obit reminded me again of how loathsome his legal views were. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying it was unconstitutional, but thought poll taxes were legal. Bork disliked the public accommodation requirements of the Civil Rights Act, as an unwarranted government intrusion on freedom. Okay, whites are free not to admit blacks into public accommodations, such as hotels and stores, but blacks don't get the freedom to use those hotels and stores, just to spell out what Bork supported.

He started out as a New Deal supporter, then became a libertarian, then became the kind of conservative who thinks Griswold v. Connecticut was an incorrect decision. That was the Supreme Court decision that keeps the state from prohibiting married couples from purchasing birth control.

Bork very likely first became known to the general public during the so-called Saturday night massacre. First, Elliott Richardson, the Attorney General, refused President Richard M. Nixon's order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, resigning instead. Richardson's deputy did the same. Bork, third in line at Justice, pulled the trigger, firing Cox.

Read the Times obit and Jeffrey Toobin's brief column in The New Yorker, then be thankful that this man never served on the Supreme Court.

Advice for Young Composers Everywhere

1. Let your music speak for itself.

2. Learn the purposes of a program note: to provide information that locates the work in history and illuminates its background; to provide musical guideposts for those who desire or need help in understand the music.

3. Remember that thanks to the magic of search engines, anything you say or write that makes it on to the Internet will be discoverable when you're old enough to embarrassed by what you said at 16, 20, or 23. Yes, I am grateful that my youthful follies are on paper only.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Because I Needed a Change, That's Why

The hot pink got too wearing. Still fiddling with fonts, etc. and thinking about getting a graphic into the header someplace.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why I Hate Phone Companies, Every Last One of Them

For the last four and a half years, I've been wandering around with two cell phones.

One is a now-six-year-old Sanyo Katana, which was a nice dumb phone back when I got it. On this phone is the eight-year-old Credo mobile number that lots of people and organizations have for me.

The other has been a series of Android smartphones, all of them given to me by my employer, which during that time has also provided me with a T-Mobile SIM, essentially in exchange for the phone acting as a test-and-data-collection device for the company. The current phone is a Galaxy Nexus, which is an especially nice phone. Google has now decided to cancel all the SIMs in that test program.

I make very few phone calls these days, but I use the smartphone heavily for email, Google Reader, internet browsing, and so on, including some work-related functions. My dojo's Google Voice number currently forward to the smartphone.

I would like to stop carrying two phones.

I could get an Android phone on Credo, but this has two drawbacks. One, I'd have to pay for a new phone; two, it would have a bunch of carrier-added junk on it. The Galaxy Nexus has what's called the pure Android experience on it; just the OS, no crap added by a carrier. I would like to continue using it, so I'm currently planning to port my Credo number to T-Mobile. (The Galaxy Nexus is a GSM phone but I cannot for the life of me remember whether it is unlocked or locked to T-Mobile.)

Picking a cell phone plan is pure hell. For one thing, it's difficult to pay for just what you want (smallish number of talk minutes, at least 2GB of data/month). For another, T-Mobile does things like set up two or three different pages of plans, while giving you no way to directly compare them. (See this page, this page, and this page, for example.) You're stuck making your own spreadsheet.

I only found one of the pages above because a T-Mobile rep sent it to me on a chat window. I asked whether T-Mobile provides any way to provide the various plans, and the rep apologetically said no. I replied that I'd either make up my own spreadsheet or stick with Credo - not that I can easily compare Credo's plans with T-Mobiles, of course.

Robert le Diable at the ROH

The Royal Opera House has revived Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable, a work that hadn't been performed in that storied theater in 122 years. (The Met hasn't staged it since 1884!) Critical reaction has been mixed:
General background:
But why depend on critics? Judge for yourself, by listening to Robert on BBC 3. The recording is available for several more days.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Personnel Matters

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been famous for its brass section for a good long time. Now the CSO has a problem in that brass section, as a recently-published article in the Chicago Reader makes clear: Critics in Chicago and NY have noticed that principal horn Dale Clevenger's playing isn't what it used to be. John von Rhein, Lawrence Johnson, and Andrew Patner in Chicago, and Steve Smith in NY, have all remarked on this in published reviews. Andrew Patner is quoted extensively in the Reader article.

Clevenger is a legendary player who has held his position for 44 years; he is now 69 years old. If you click through and read the Reader article and the comments to the article, you'll see that the CSO has several problems on its hands.
  • Clevenger's playing
  • Clevenger's behavior toward women, if the allegations in the comments are true
  • Clevenger's unwillingness to step down
  • Muti's unwillingness to follow the contractually-mandated process for removing Clevenger from his position
This is a sad situation all around. Knowing when it's time to quit takes a particular kind of grace; a musician has to be attuned to his or her own weaknesses, has to have the humility to listen to others, and has to be willing to call it a day. There's an old saw about quitting before people are saying it's time, when they want you to hang around for a while longer.

In San Francisco, Glenn Fischthal stepped down voluntarily several years ago as principal trumpet, finishing his career at SFS as associate principal, because he felt his skills were not what they had been. He retired at the end of the 2011-12 season because he had developed aura migraines. Now, that's grace.

It seems Dale Clevenger thinks he can recover his former skill. Any professional musicians want to weigh in on the likelihood of this? I am doubtful, given Clevenger's age (69) and the exacting demands and known difficulties of the horn.

Further, if Clevenger is a serial harasser of women, he's creating what's known legally as a hostile working environment. Should women joining the orchestra or who are already members have to deal with this? It's the job of the CSO's management to make sure its employees behave themselves.

As for Muti and other conductors: if you're not willing to deal in a forthright manner with players' declining skills, perhaps permanent guest conductor is a better job for you than Music Director. It's tough, but that's what you get paid the big bucks for.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ravi Shankar

The great Indian musician, master of the sitar, has died at 92, in San Diego. He did an enormous amount to bring Indian classical music to Westerners.

Carter 104

Elliott Cook Carter, Jr., gone but not forgotten. He would have been 104 today.

Here's an excerpt from his gorgeous flute concerto, performed by Emmanuel Pahud and the Berlin Philharmonic:

Lisa della Casa

And Lisa della Casa, Swiss soprano and noted beauty, has died at 93. She is most closely associated with the works of Strauss and Mozart. Here she is with Wolfgang Windgassen in an uncharacteristic bit of repertory. She sounds utterly gorgeous, even in the wrong language.

Galina Vishnevskaya

The great Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya has died, age 86. Here she is, nearly 60 years ago, in a Rachmaninov song ("Do not grieve").

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charles Rosen

Pianist and intellectual Charles Rosen died yesterday, age 85, at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. That's as it should be: he was the quintessential New Yorker, and died across Central Park from the Upper West Side apartment where he lived for most of his life. It was his parents' apartment before him, and presumably he inherited it from them.

I have a few Rosen anecdotes, but first, the important stuff. Rosen was an extremely smart man, learned in many fields. I assume he was best known to the general public as a pianist, where he had quite a pedigree, as a student of Moriz Rosenthal, himself a Liszt and Mikuli pupil. Rosen's Ph.D., though, was in French, and he taught university-level French at MIT and Harvard.

He was a fine pianist, recording a fair amount of the core classical-era repertory and known especially for his Beethoven. For me, his most significant work as a pianist was as a champion of the music of Elliott Carter and other modernist and 20th c. composers. Among other things, he was one of four co-commissioners of Carter's Night Fantasies, an exceptionally important work in Carter's oeuvre, which Rosen recorded.

Rosen also published a number of books about music, though he said many times - once within my hearing - that he never took music classes when he was in school. Some musical scholars looked on Rosen's books with suspicion, though I believe over time they came to be more accepted with the academy. He was a tireless writer of articles on a range of subjects, many of them published the New York Review of Books.

Rosen taught music at Stony Brook when I was a grad student. Enough of my contemporaries wanted to grow up to do criticism (as opposed to musicology - see the writings of Treitler and Kerman on this subject, from the late 70s and early-to-mid-80s) that I felt somewhat out of place in the student body, as someone who was interested in manuscript studies and transcriptions. I never did take a class with Rosen, and I can't remember anything about how others liked him as a teacher.

I encountered Rosen a couple of times in the last decade. There was a concert of the late Beethoven sonatas that had its good and bad points, complete with a polemical talk on a number of subject. (I think I might be closer to Rich Scheinin's views today.) There was his participation in Reactions to the Record 2 at Stanford in 2009. He performed the Brahms/Handel Variations there rather clangorously; one pianist friend simply left the hall before he played. It would be fair to say that toward the end of his life, his piano skills weren't what they had once been. And during one talk, he was rather contentious, to put it politely, in disagreeing with one prominent scholar, whom I'd swear knew more about the subject at hand then he did.

In retrospect, I'm rather pleased with my two direct interactions with him at that conference. Joe Horowitz played a spectacular-sounding, and spectacularly self-indugent, 1930s Stokowski recording of some Beethoven, and Rosen was visibly shocked when I said that yes, I did like the performance, though I wouldn't want my Beethoven like that every day. And I asked him to sign my copy of The Music of Elliott Carter, where it joined the signatures of Ursula Oppens and the Pacifica Quartet. He initially demurred, but I insisted, and as he signed, he looked happy to have been asked.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Zellberbach Hall

Photo: UC Berkeley Facilities

Okay, after two orchestral concerts at Zellerbach in the last few weeks, I'm convinced that it is the deadest, most acoustically dull space I have ever been in. The orchestras in question? Berkeley Symphony, sounding very, very good under Joana Carneiro, and the Philharmonia, under none other than Esa-Pekka Salonen.

It's as though the sound stops right at the edge of the proscenium. You can see the players moving, you can hear something, but the sound is flat; there's no reverberation, no feedback, nothing.

I don't love the sound at Davies, where a big orchestra sometimes makes the hall sound congested, but at least there's a physical sense of the sound coming at you and having impact. At Zellberbach? It's like the sound is hauling itself through a thick layer of cotton, or maybe mud.

I know that Zellerbach has a fancy Meyer sound system, and also that SFO is planning to use one in their planned 350-seat theater in the Veterans Building. I am extremely curious what Zellerbach sounds like without it.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Compare & Contrast 23: Pandora at SFS

Mark Volkert (Credit: SFS)

San Francisco Symphony performed a work by one of its own this week, Mark Volkert's Pandora, for string orchestra. I didn't get there - I would have been more motivated if I had given a damn about seeing Til Eulenspiegel or the "Emperor" Concerto - but almost everybody else did. Herewith links to various opinions:
  • Joshua Kosman, Chron ("wonderful new opus...boasts a wealth of ingenious surprises")
  • Richard Scheinin, Mercury-News (an extremely positive review, but difficult to excerpt)
  • Jeff Dunn, SFCV ("two ear-grabbing themes, energized passage work, and a satisfying, rock-solid structure")
  • John Marcher, A Beast in a Jungle ("engaging, accessible, yet challenging")
  • Kalimac ("shrieking and screeching;" "sounds like warmed-over modernist crap")
No link, but Janos Gereben told me in email that he was delighted by the piece, and mentioned Bartokian moments. A friend is making me a tape from the eventual broadcast, and I'm looking forward to hearing it. I do not expect to wind up in Kalimac's camp.

For the record, since two writers got this wrong, Mark Volkert is one of two Assistant Concertmasters of SFS; the other is Jeremy Constant. Nadya Tichman is the Associate Concertmaster (and was Acting Concertmaster for several years before Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik was hired). I have heard each of these violinists in the first chair and they are all terrific. You can read all about the first violin section on the SFS web site.

Melchior Talk: Sources & Playlist

I'm only about six weeks late in posting this: the record sources and playlist for my talk on Lauritz Melchior. They're after the jump.

Opening in April

Juan, an entertaining-looking film version of a possibly recognizable work, with an excellent cast. Check out the NSFW trailer.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Tosca, SF Opera

Patricia Racette as Tosca (SF Opera Photo)

To Tosca last week, with Racette, Jagde, Delavan/Luisotti. I had a subscription ticket to see Gheorghiu,  and swapped for Racette even before the show opened. You can see why in one of the interviews I read with the two sopranos: Gheorghiu loves singing Tosca because the character is Gheroghiu. Racette loves singing Tosca because she is such a different personality to explore.

Well, Gheorghiu seems to do the diva thing, or her idea of the diva thing, even in concert, from what I hear. That's not so interesting.

The staging this time around, again by Jose Maria Condemi, was far better than last time. So was the conducting and so was the drama; Nicola Luisotti kept things moving along nicely, and while there were no revelations, I also didn't want to kick him. To the extent that there was any slumping, my sense was that he was being good to Brian Jagde, who needed some help, or he was keeping the volume down a bit.

Brian Jagde. SIGH. According to Racette, the late Salvatore Licitra was originally in the cast. He died in September, 2011, and Jagde must have been swapped in before the January, 2012 season announcement. Along the way, he also picked up some Cavaradossis in Santa Fe, after the tenor there dropped out.

He needs a lot more seasoning before he will be a good Mario. "Recondita Armonia" was square rather than liquid; he had power but no bloom at the top and went out of tune all too often. Ugh. He was better in the more conversational scenes, but "E lucevan le stelle," which got off to a nice introspective start, lay right on his vocal break. You could say that I'm sorry that he's in as Pinkerton in the summer, 2014, run of Butterfly, especially with an otherwise admirable cast headed by Patricia Racette, who is a great Cio-Cio-San. I know who I would have liked to have as Cavaradossi in this run, but unfortunately he was in Los Angeles singing Pinkerton.

Mark Delavan was a whole lot better than the last time I saw him, making an impressively slimey and sadistic Scarpia. I still think his voice is too soft-grained, without much squillo, but whatever. He was fine.

Racette is, indeed, a little underpowered for Tosca, but sounded really good 98% of the time. The other 2%, well, I worry about her: there is more flapping on sustained high forte notes than three years ago in Trittico. But otherwise all was well vocally, with beautiful tone and a fine Italianate line. Dramatically, she was a wonderful Tosca, tremendously appealing, human, complex, changeable, a delicious flirt, jealous but not too jealous, fiercely brave in her act II confrontation with Scarpia. Oh, and very sexy: she looks fantastic in a black wig, with her beautiful skin and the particular makeup she was wearing. She was certainly the most convincing Tosca I've seen; I can't help but think that all those other sopranos trying to put her across as a tigress are missing the boat: she comes across as a caricature, not a human.

On balance, then, a satisfying evening.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Jonathan Harvey

The English composer, whose work I have not heard before, died today at 73. Listening to some of his music on the web, I am tremendously sorry, and hope to hear some of these beautiful pieces in concert.

Dave Brubeck

The great pianist has died at 91. If you think you don't know his music, you're probably wrong:


Sacred & Profane 2012-13 Season

Sacred & Profane Chamber Chorus's season brochure arrived in the mail this week, and unlike last year's, which was printed in light red 8 point type on glossy paper, I can read this year's. (Note to S&P: if someone sends you email about an issue like this, you should answer it. People are more likely to come to your concerts if they can read the season brochure.)

It's a beautiful season with a ton of interesting and rarely-performed music, with an overall theme of Music of Transcendence. The first program focuses on music by Pärt, Tavener, and Górecki; the second on music from the Jewish Tradition; the third, on Scandinavian composers.

A huge draw, for me, is the Requiem of the Icelandic composer Jon Leifs.

Full season after the cut, copied and pasted from the chorus's web site. As for most small choruses, ticket prices are low; $22 at the door, $18 in advance; $15 for students.

I Suspect That a Marketing Person Wrote This.

Found on the Berkeley Symphony web site, in their description of tomorrow's program of Mattingly, Ligeti, and Schumann:
In contrast to the rhythmical Piano Concerto, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 is both passionate and exuberant.
You don't say. Did you notice that "rhythmical" is a word that could be applied to almost every piece of music?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

SFO Season Announcement: Other Coverage

I'm not the only person with a few things to say about this:

Public Service Announcement

Don't leave purses and other objects on the floor where somebody might trip on them.

Monday, December 03, 2012

SF Opera 2013-14, or Wall-to-Wall Racette

Here's the story, in brief:
  • Mefistofele, Boito (Racette, Abdrazokov, Vargas/Luisotti)
  • Dolores Claiborne, Picker (Biller, Zajick, Futral/Monahan)
  • Falstaff, Verdi (Terfel, Arteta, Arwady, Demuro, Rapier, Stober, Capitanucci, Silvestrelli/Luisotti)
  • Flying Dutchman, Wagner (Grimsley, Schnitzer, Storey, Sigmundsson/Summers)
  • Barber of Seville, Rossini (Meacham/Iversen, Leonard/Mack, Camerena/Shrader, Corbelli/Muraro, Silvestrelli, Cook; Finzi)
  • Show Boat, Kern (Stober, Racette, Robinson, Gunn, Simpson/DeMain)
  • Madama Butterfly, Puccini (Racette, Jagde, DeShong, Mulligan/Luisotti)
  • La Traviata, Verdi (Yoncheva/Perez, Pirgu/Costello, Stoyanov/Kelsey, Luisotti/Finzi)
A few things that should jump out at you:
  • Patricia Racette in four roles in three operas
  • Heidi Stober in two substantial leads
  • Andrea Silvestrelli a bit underused as Don Basilio and Pistola
About Racette. As I said during the Q&A, I love Pat more than just about anyone not named Beth Clayton, but WTF? Okay, I didn't put it that way. It turns out that Butterfly was originally something else that turned out to be too expensive, so they swapped it out for Butterfly. I vaguely got the idea that having her sing Julie in Show Boat is....a bit of an aside for her? A sweetener for taking away [nameless postponed opera]? Mefistofele is certainly off the beaten track.

Someone else asked about Britten, and, yes, they did think about doing Britten during his centenary, but. I think this must have been another case of "we need to sell tickets, soooo...."

I also asked about the recent performances of arias from Il Corsaro, and David Gockley said that no, they're not planning Corsaro, but they are planning a different, rarely-done early Verdi opera for a future season.

During his introductory remarks, Gockley was explicit about this: that the need to keep the company on a decent financial footing has been paramount during the ongoing recession. His priority has been to keep quality high while sacrificing repertory. He said that he is leaving repertory holes, and he knows it, that he hopes will be filled by his white knight successor. During the chit chat after the press conference, I told him that this had pre-emptively answered my planned question about whether we'd be seeing From the House of the Dead and Die Frau ohne Schatten, because....both are very expensive to stage and risky as far as ticket sales go.

The Wilsey Center project next door is proceeding; this will given the company shop space nearby as well as a 350-seat theater for chamber opera and other productions suitable for a small theater. (See recent programs for lots of info about the Wilsey Center plans.) The Indiana St. property where shops are currently housed is in contract to be sold. The funds from that sale will pay back the endowment, from which money was borrowed to fund several years of planned deficits.

There's another commission in the works, to a favorite Italian composer of Luisotti's, Marco Tuttino. His opera will be based on Alberto Moravia's Two Women, which was made into a film by Carlo Ponti. Tuttino has already written around 15 stage works (operas or musicals).

Mefistofele will be the company's Robert Carsen production, which had been sold to Turin. We tracked it down and bought it back. We are collaborating with the Met to restore it; they will use it in a future production.

Show Boat will be done in grand opera style, with white and black choruses, white and black dancers, and so on. It cannot be done this way on Broadway because of the economics. I believe we were also promised that it would not be amplified ("not dependent on mikes stuck down their throats").

They're finishing up the process of getting all labor contracts aligned for media purposes; only the stagehands' contract needs to be negotiated before they can have regional & international cinema presentations, streaming media, DVDs, and other. The next ballpark simulcast will be during the summer of 2014.

Tobias Picker, J.D. McClatchy, Dolora Zajick, Elizabeth Futral, Susannah Biller, and James Robinson were all on hand for a nice discussion of Dolores Claiborne and performances of an aria and a trio. I rather liked the music and what they had to say; looking forward to the performances.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Reading Material

Alex Ross, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Ethan Iverson
Herbst Theater, San Francisco, April, 2010

Stuff you should read:

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tax Subsidies to Business

The NY Times is starting what looks like a strong series of articles about tax incentives, subsidies, and rebates to private businesses, and the comparatively small payback in jobs and other public benefits. The next time you hear someone complaining about government social programs that directly benefit individual citizens who need help, show them this series about the high cost of corporate welfare.

Another Chance to See Melody Moore

If you're willing to stand, that is: I just heard that Angela Gheorghiu has withdrawn from tonight's performance on account of flu. The performance is sold out; there are tickets available for tomorrow's 2 p.m. matinee with Patricia Racette.