Elektra

Elektra

Monday, December 30, 2013

Compare & Contrast 24

What Michael Bloomberg says and does:

  • "The business model doesn't seem to be working," he said about the fate of NYCO, which needed $7 million immediately and $20 million for the season to stay alive.
  • He put an estimated $650 million (not a typo) of his own money into the city, including $30 million donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a total estimated at $263 million to NYC's arts, civic, health, and cultural groups, according to the NY Times.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Review

I was holding off on my review of 2013 and then realized that I don't have any tickets before the end of January. Well, duh! I can talk about this year right now.

Because of a combination of factors, especially including my Sunday afternoon jujitsu classes, my concert attendance was spotty this year. I missed many programs I would have liked to see, especially of choral music and at Cal Performances. If only I could drag myself to SF on more Friday nights!

Still, I saw more than a few highly memorable programs and performances. In no particular order:
  • Pacifica Quartet with Marc-Andre Hamelin, in Shostakovich, Ornstein, Dvorak
  • Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Metropolitan Opera
  • Christine Goerke's Dyer's Wife in Frau. OMGoerke! as Steve Smith put it.
  • Charles Dutoit's Poulenc/Berlioz program at SFS
  • Les Noces, with the amazing Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, MTT conducting, at SFS
  • Semyon Bychkov's War Requiem at SFS
  • Alexander Quartet's Britten
  • Pablo Heras-Casado leading excerpts from Thomas Ades's The Tempest, at SFS
  • David Robertson's Carter/Ravel/Gershwin program at SFS, with the mighty Marc-Andre Hamelin in two, two, two piano concertos. Or one-and-a-half, depending on how you count the Ravel Piano Concerto for Left Hand.
  • Dolores Claiborne at San Francisco Opera; a gripping work, not to mention...
  • ...Patricia Racette saved the day and entered operatic history by learning the difficult title role of Dolores in three weeks.
Then there were the musical lowlights:
  • Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, about which plenty of ink has been spilled
  • Nicola Luisotti's dreadful conducting in Cosi fan tutte
Enraging:
  • The demise of New York City Opera, following years of terrible decisions by its board of directors
  • The ongoing destruction of the Minnesota Orchestra by its management and board
Just plain sad:
  • The death of Bill Bennett, SFS's principal oboist, who collapsed on stage while performing the Strauss oboe concert and died several days later
  • And the loss of many others over the course of the year


Thursday, December 19, 2013

NYPO Labor Agreement

The New York Philharmonic has settled with its labor unions. There will be salary increases (6.5% over four years) and the musicians will contribute to their health care costs.

The orchestra ran a $6.1 million deficit last season (2012-13), with a budget for that year of around $71 million. Matthew VanBesien, the executive director, is pleased with the deal. He notes that he has a long-term plan for putting the orchestra on a better financial basis and also that the orchestra had a record year of fund raising.

You'll notice that, despite the deficits and despite a $21 million pension contribution shortfall, there's no talk of a lockout or "new models" here. Unlike the MOA, VanBesien, management, and the board understand that their job is to enable great music making.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole



Almost ten years ago, I spent five weeks in London doing research for a book that never got written. I saw a few operas and concerts, and also went to see the big-screen action/history film Troy, in which Brad Pitt gives perhaps the worst performance of his career as Achilles. (A friend who says Pitt is a great character actor with a leading man's face has it just right.) Eric Bana's Hector impressed me greatly, but then 2/3 of the way through the film, there was an actor I did not recognize as Priam, Hector's father, giving a towering performance while pleading for his son's body.

The credits finally crawled, seemingly hours later, and with them came the explanation: it was Peter O'Toole.

O'Toole has died, age 81, leaving behind a long, long career of extreme carousing and great acting in films great and small, from Lawrence of Arabia, in which he is young, beautiful, and tortured, to cult favorites such as My Favorite Year and The Stunt Man. Nominated eight times for an Academy Award as Best Actor, he didn't win even once. (If you're wondering what could possibly have topped O'Toole's Lawrence, it was Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. And there was a lot of competition that year.)

RIP, Peter O'Toole, and deep thanks for all the memorable movies.


Friday, December 13, 2013

More on that MOA Press Release

You really need to read the following to fully understand the degree of delusion and deception in the MOA press release that I reprinted the other day:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Declaring Victory

spotonlists.com


The Minnesota Orchestra Association put out a press release today about its year-end financial results. The press release may be summarized thusly:

Look, we had a great year!

Even though the orchestra hasn't performed in 13 months.

Alex Ross quite rightly calls out the following bullshit:
'The fact that the organization’s deficit is substantially smaller in a year without any performances indicates the degree to which this business model is out of alignment,' said Board Chair Jon Campbell.
Jon Campbell, do you know what the purpose of a symphony orchestra is, in 25 or fewer words?

The entire press release is after the jump. Read it and weep. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Online Advent Calendars

Musical and otherwise:

Dear TSA:

Well, I certainly hope that you found the contents of my valise interesting. Your examination of my underwear (clean and dirty), t-shirts, bathing suits, 17-year-old Tevas, eye care products, and socks will surely make the United States a safer place.

At the Grave of the USS Arizona



The USS Arizona sank in shallow waters just off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, early on December 7, 1941. A bomb dropped by a Japanese plane from a great height penetrated the ship's armor, exploded, and set off a tremendous explosion in the Arizona's forward magazine. 

Nearly 1200 sailors and marines died in the attack. The remains of about 900 of them are entombed in the Arizona's hulk.


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Doesn't Anybody Bother to Edit this Stuff?

And don't they know anything about music? Found in the Times compendium of classical music box sets and books:

  • "...a former British businessman." No, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, actually, he's a British former businessman, unless he gave up his citizenship when he retired from the business world.
  • "....composers like Julius Korngold, Ernst Krenek and Franz Shrecker." Corinna, that would be composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, not his father Julius, the music critic.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Marion Lignana Rosenberg

The word got around on Monday - which would have been Maria Callas's 90th birthday - that music writer, translator, and blogger Marion Lignana Rosenberg died suddenly, of a pulmonary embolism, on Thanksgiving, while visiting friends. She was 51.

Marion's first blog, Vilaine Fiille, opened on October 31, 2004, the same day I started blogging. It did not take long for us to find each other; I knew Marion slightly from opera-l, and in fact she'd taken my extra ticket to a performance of Tristan at the Met in 1999. So it was good to encounter her again in the blogosphere.

She shut down Vilaine Fille in 2008 and switched to blogging at her web site, Mondo Marion. I did not follow this blog because I was under the impression that she was blogging primarily about Callas, but I see that this was actually not the case.

She was a witty, graceful, and extremely learned writer, with a broad background in comparative literature, European languages, drama, and music. It was a great frustration and pain to her that she was never able to land a full-time music reviewing/criticism/writing gig. Given the excellence of her writing and breadth of her knowledge, I wish she had been able to find such a job.

We were in touch earlier this year when I stumbled across a blog posting in which (among other things), she was puzzled by a reference elsewhere to a friend of mine. I dug up her email address and explained, and that was my last communication with her.  (You don't need the details, really.)

I'm so sad and sorry that she's gone, much, much too soon.

Some remembrances of Marion elsewhere:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's Not Thanksgiving Without This Clip

This scene also features the director's cameo; he's in a blue suit with peach shirt in the back row of the bleachers and speaks at some point during the sequence.




Meanwhile, I have a lot to be thankful for: work that I like, music and jujitsu that sustain me; my wonderful partner Donna, my colleagues, my jujitsu students, my martial arts friends and instructors in the AJJF and elsewhere. My friends in the blogosphere and music journalism (Patrick, Janos, Joshua, Alex, Elaine, Bruce, Steve S., Steve H., Terry, Mark, Zerbinetta, and many others); to the Well (still alive!) and everyone there; to all of you and especially to my readers, many thanks.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bayerische Staatsoper Frau

I'm likely to miss this one (SIGH), but you might want to catch the live stream of the Bayerische Staatsoper's Frau ohne Schatten. It will be on December 1 at 6.00 P.M. (C.E.T.) / 9 a.m. Pacific. The live stream will be here.

Here's a trailer:




It's conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; featuring Johan Botha (Emperor), Adrianne Pieczonka (Empress), Deborah Polaski (Nurse), Wolfgang Koch (Barak), and Elena Pankratova (Dyer's Wife).

You Might Think This Guy is a Communist or Something.

He's arguing for the poor and damning untrammeled markets. He's also the Pope.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Oopsie!

Found in email from S.F. Symphony about this week's performances of the War Requiem:
Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Christine Brewer  soprano
James Gilchrist  tenor
Roderick Williams  baritone
Pacific Boychoir, Kevin Fox   director
San Francisco Symphony ChorusSan Francisco SymphonyBritten   War Requiem
 
Please note there is no intermission. 
Inside Music, an informative talk free to ticketholders, begins one hour prior to concerts.
Meet Christine Brewer at a CD signing in the Symphony Store following the concerts.

And further down:

Pre-order your drinks and enjoy intermission! 
Did you know you can pre-order drinks for intermission? Call (415) 252-1937 or, when you arrive at the hall, tell the bartender you would like to pre-order your drinks. They will be waiting for you at a table or the end of the bar when you return to the lobby at intermission.

Not this time around, I'm afraid!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scotch or Gin, Mr. Woolfe?


A glass of something strong for Zachary Woolfe, who had sufficient fortitude (and a strong enough back, and backside), to attend the entire 9-performance run of Norma at the Met, in the service of evaluating the view and sound quality from many locations in the house. I just wish the Times had scheduled the story - which runs with a similar article addressed to ballet audiences - so that Woolfe could have attended the full run of Die Frau ohne Schatten instead. Norma is by no means an easy opera to get right musically, given its combination of utterly mundane oom-pah-pahs and sublime solos, duets, and trios, and the general problem of conducting a bel canto opera so it doesn't sound like it's all allegro moderato and mezzo-forte, but Frau, with its large cast, exceptionally complex musical demands, and gigantic orchestra, is an order of magnitude or two more difficult to pull off.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Conrad Susa

The distinguished American composer Conrad Susa has died, age 78. Among his works are many choral settings and the opera The Dangerous Liaisons, which was commissioned by and performed at San Francisco Opera.

After the jump, the press release and links from SF Conservatory of Music, where Susa taught for many years.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today's Frau Fix

An unexpected soprano in the Empress's Act II awakening scene:



Of course she never sang this role on stage, but you have to wonder what it would have been like, based on this excerpt.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oh, TIMES!!!

Found in an article about the new recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Among the others on an unusually star-studded list of 16 recipients was Oprah Winfrey, the television entrepreneur; Dean Smith, the Hall of Fame college basketball coach; Bayard Rustin, the civil rights campaigner; Sally Ride, the astronaut killed in the Challenger space shuttle crash in 1985; Benjamin C. Bradlee, the Watergate-era editor of The Washington Post; Daniel K. Inouye, the late senator from Hawaii; Loretta Lynn, the country music singer; and Gloria Steinem, the feminist writer.
Are there no editors, fact-checkers, or even people with memories at the Gray Lady? Dr. Ride died last year of cancer, as the Times reported. I hope the author of the Medal of Freedom article didn't get the above from a White House press release.

Update: The Times has corrected this to "Sally Ride, an astronaut who was the first American woman in space." Thank you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breakthrough Moment?

From the Metropolitan Opera comes the news that soprano Erin Morley will sing all performances of Sophie in the upcoming Rosenkavalier, replace Mojca Erdmann, who is recovering from pneumonia. Best wishes to Erdmann for a complete recovery, but based on my experience of them both - Erdmann as an out-of-tune Forest Bird in the Met HD broadcast of Siegfried, Morley as a glorious Roxana in Santa Fe's King Roger last year - the Met audience is better off with this cast change.

Morley has sung almost 60 Met performances, but they've been in small roles. Hoping this will be a big breakthrough for her.

Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Um, Wow. (And Some Context.)

I am quoted in Alex Ross's New Yorker column dated November 25, 2013, which is about the disastrous failures of management at NYCO and the Minnesota Orchestra and about violinist Hilary Hahn. The quotation comes from a 2011 blog posting about NYCO and Philly that I quoted myself earlier this year in the context of the ongoing wreck in Minnesota.
Thanks to Alex for the mention, and to Will Robin for the tweet alerting me to the article in advance of the arrival of my print copy of The New Yorker.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Fund-Raising Error to Avoid

Do not forget about the people who donated money to you outside the Kickstarter campaign. This makes them less likely to donate to you in the future. So keep a list, and if someone donated to you outside that campaign, or before you had one, send them the premium for their donation level.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Frau Media Roundup

People are weighing in.
I'm surprised that so many reviewers liked Ildiko Komlosi, who sounded lousy from the Grand Tier throughout the opera. I'm also surprised that Tommasini spent so many column-inches rehashing the plot; link to a synopsis, for heaven's sake. 

The Nurse's motivations remain extremely obscure. She hates humans, wishes the Empress weren't drawn to humans, and yet she tries to obtain a shadow so that the Empress can stay in the human world. This seems like a loose end that Strauss and Hofmannsthal never worked out. And the Falcon? What's the point?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Go-To Dramatic Soprano

The Met is hiring Christine Goerke to sing Elektra, Ortrud, Turandot, and Brünnhilde in upcoming seasons. That Elektra will be in the Chereau production that is expected to come to the Met in the near future, and the Ortrud will be in a revival of Robert Wilson's Lohengrin. As for the Ring, alas, the Lepage production will return.

This couldn't happen to a better singer or a nicer person (note the account of her jumping on stage to turn pages).

I am so there! And hoping SF Opera will also hire her.

Sie kommt! Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Met

Herbert Wernicke's 2001 production of Strauss's monumental Die Frau ohne Schatten is on stage again at the Metropolitan Opera, for the first time in a decade. You should go if you can! In the comments below, I complain about any number of details, some more important than others, but nothing I say should keep you from seeing this generally well-performed revival of a great opera that isn't staged nearly enough.

Why isn't it performed all that often? Well, its comparative unpopularity and length are two factors, but much more importantly, it's difficult to find five singers who can sing the crazy demanding leads, and it's enormously expensive to stage, between the scenic requirements, the size of the orchestra, those five leads, and the eight or ten small roles that still need to be cast with good singers.

Christine Goerke (Dyer's wife) and Johan Reuter (Barak)
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Met production has an appealingly drab and humble set for Barak's house, set in more or less modern times and featuring, among other things, a run-down looking refrigerator from which the characters occasionally pull out, and drink, a beer.

Act III - The Nurse about to be banished. 
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

By contrast, there's an absolutely gorgeous set for the world of the Emperor and Empress. It's a huge box mirrored top, bottom, and sides, with effects done entirely with lighting. There's nothing in the way of physical properties or furniture at all, just the glowing mirrored box.

The production photos do not do the set justice, and I really understand why the Met decided against an HD broadcast of this one. They'd be doing a lot of closeups; the spirit world Personregie leaves something to be desired, and I am sure this set looks best when you can see the whole thing.

I have a whole bunch of minor and major beefs with the direction and theatrical side of the production, discussed below, many fewer with the singing and just about none with Vladimir Jurowski's conducting. Although one friend remarked that he hoped Jurowski would keep the orchestra under wraps more, from my seat in the Grand Tier I heard very few moments when the orchestra covered a singer. (If you care, my personal decibel meter pegged the Nurse's departure in Act III as the loudest single moment in the opera, and it was damn loud.)  I thought there was some slackening on Jurowski's part during Act II, but that is also the most dramatically, and perhaps musically, diffuse act of the show. Acts I and III moved along well, and in fact Act III had tremendous musical drama and excitement from the first downbeat.

The orchestra sounded great as well, and played heroically through a very long night. Yes, there were those trumpet clams in consecutive bars at an exposed moment in Act III, but this is entirely forgivable. And major kudos are due concertmaster David Chan and principal cellist Jerry Grossman for their gorgeous solos.

Richard Paul Fink (Spirit Messenger) and Ildiko Komlosi (Nurse)

All of the smaller roles are well sung, although Spirit Messenger Richard Paul Fink's stentorian bass-baritone is starting to show some wear. There's one unusual bit of casting, in that countertenor Andrey Nemzer sings the Guardian of the Threshold. This alternate casting is in the score; I just can't think of another production where this was done.* Nemzer was astonishing, with a very big and rich voice, more a male soprano than any countertenor I've heard before. I also really liked the use of an acrobat to portray on stage the invisible Falcon, who is typically heard but not seen.

The leading singers are overall very good, with exceptions at either end of the scale: Ildiko Komlosi, the Nurse, is wobbly and without enough power, especially in her low register. She just can't register the character's malevolence sufficiently and doesn't make much vocal impact.

Christine Georke and the singing fishes
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

On the other hand, there's Christine Goerke, who is magnificent as the Dyer's Wife. She gives one of the most complete assumptions of a character that I have ever seen. Where too many sopranos sound like shrews when they take on this part, she sings so beautifully and expressively that you realize the Dyer's Wife is young, confused, and vulnerable, lashing out because she is afraid and deeply conflicted about her marriage. Goerke has tremendous vocal range, all the way down and all the way up, and she is a fantastic physical actor. If you have ever heard Christa Ludwig as the Dyer's Wife, Goerke's performance is in that league. And I feel that I now know what the critic Claudia Cassidy meant when she described Rosa Raisa as having "a royal purple dramatic soprano."

The other leads are very good, though none of them quite reach the heights of Goerke. Johan Reuter sings well, but his Barak is little one-dimensional. Barack's goodness comes through loud and clear; I wish he could show some of the pain Barak must feel at his wife's ambivalence and rejection. If you saw his Wozzeck last year with Esa-Pekka Salonen, you may recall that it was a surprisingly sane and amiable Wozzeck, which are not the qualities I expect in that role.

Torsten Kerl, Emperor
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Emperor must be among the most thankless roles in opera. The tenor has to cope with a lot of difficult singing, but gets very little interaction with other characters. You learn about the Emperor and his relationship with the Empress from his monologues and from what the Nurse says about them. Torsten Kerl doesn't have a huge or especially beefy voice; he sings tirelessly and sounds good, with a bright, clear tenor, but the direction gives him nothing to do at all. He stands around as if he were a stone, even when he's not.

Anne Schwanewilms (Empress)
 Her face looked exactly like this throughout the opera.
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

And it's the same story with Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress. She has a beautiful voice, and sufficient range and volume and flexibility - "Is mein Liebster dahin?" was gorgeous - but her face is just a blank; I spent a fair amount of time with my binoculars trained on her, and I would swear her facial expression hardly varied and that her forehead never moved. She is poorly directed in any number of ways, starting with the way she wanders around that mirrored stage in Act I with her arms extended, as if she were a child imitating a bird, badly.

 Over the course of Act II, the Empress has little to sing when in the human realm, but the realization slowly dawns on her that there will be terrible consequences for the Dyer's Wife and Barak if she takes the shadow. But Schwanewilms expresses none of this physically, missing out on the beginning of the Empress's transformation and maturity.

Because Schwanewilms is so blank and Goerke is so expressive, I was far more moved by the transformation of the Dyer's Wife than by that of the Empress. On record, "Ich will NICHT!" is what moves me to tears. In this performance, I wept for the Dyer's Wife at the end of Act II

And there were other reasons the Empress's big scene in Act III did not have the impact it ought to have had. While I am not a stickler for following stage directions, I cannot believe that the production ignores the instruction after "Ich will nicht" to darken the stage, then bring up the lights again to show that the Empress is casting a clear shadow. Instead, the production does something much vaguer with the lighting to show what I presume to be a shadow on the back wall of the mirror box. They're ducking an easy lighting effect - my high school theater could have done it - that has enormous impact. And hey, they've been yelling about her lack of a shadow for 3 hours 45 minutes by then! Give us a shadow, Met!

Anne Schwanewilms (Empress) and Torsten Kerl (Emperor, turned to stone).
"Ich will nicht!" but are those blobs the Emperor, her shadow, or a Rorschach test?
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

I have also got some issues with the staging of the last five or ten minutes. The mirrored box, where most of the last act has taken place, is withdrawn, leaving the two couples on the lip of the bare stage. Then the giant Met lighting rig is lowered until it's hovering maybe 15 feet above them - shades of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I would bet is not what Herbert Wernicke had in mind, and is certainly not what I want to be thinking of at the end of this great opera. Moreover,  there's this Kumbaya business where the two couples meet and Barak and his wife make obeisances to the Emperor and Empress. I don't buy it and I think it lessens the dramatic impact of the ending. Perhaps the production team was trying to distract us from the voices of unborn children.

* Update: Henry Holland calls to my attention a 1993 LA Opera production in which David Daniels sang the Guardian of the Threshold.

Huge thanks to BH and JF for asking me questions that helped me get this written.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Frau at the Met, Short Version

Go see it. You just don't have many opportunities to catch this one; the production is solid and often absolutely gorgeous, though I have many quibbles with it. The singing is mostly excellent, and.....CHRISTINE GOERKE. Well. You may have thought this opera was about the Empress, the woman of the title, but Goerke steals the show in magnificent fashion as the Dyer's Wife.

Hoping to get something longer up - Bruce Hodges heard a half-hour brain dump Friday night - but having a hell of a time getting going on it.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

What's the Right Age?

Kalimac is pointing to this blog posting of mine, about the latest kid singing Puccini on YouTube, and says it is like a dog walking on its hind legs; "one is amazed it is done at all." The Dutch child is at least the third in the last few years to try this one; to see the previous kids, search for "Charlotte Church" and "Jackie Evancho." Yes, somehow it is always a little girl: I classify this with junior beauty pageants and other ways our society tries to sexualize girls and promote them prematurely to adulthood.

You'll notice that these kids are singing with microphones: by definition, unless the composer specifically calls for amplification (I'm looking at you, John Coolidge Adams), it's an unamplified art form. Kids do not, as a rule, have the vocal power to be heard over an orchestra without an electronic boost. And Puccini's orchestration tends to be fairly heavy. Cio-Cio-San is one of the longest and most difficult roles in the soprano repertory!

I linked in previous comments to Renata Scotto's performance of "O, mio babbino caro" in a Metropolitan Opera Gianni Schicchi, because she is so very stylish and because her mugging acting makes it quite clear that the opera is comic. Okay, it's an opera that invites mugging, I gotta admit, and I love it to pieces, so there.

But anyway. What age is too young for opera?

Here's a long list of works in the standard repertory that call for children, usually in the form of a chorus. The music written for children's choruses is, above all, appropriate for their voices and age. If your child likes to sing and has been in a chorus, and you can deal with the rehearsal and performance requirements (the children's chorus in Die Frau ohne Schatten is, I think, in Act I and in the last ten minutes of a very long opera; there will be seated rehearsals, separate chorus rehearsals, and staging rehearsals), by all means, have the child audition for your local opera company. The Met's children's chorus requirements are here and they are rather time-intensive; your local, lower-budget company will vary.

What about solo singing roles for children? Well, the longest and most demanding has got to be the boy soprano role of Miles in Britten's The Turn of the Screw, one of the greatest of 20th c. operas. I have also seen a production where his sister Flora was taken by a girl, but I think it is more common to have a small adult soprano in that role. I note that the first singer I heard in this role was Michael Kepler Meo, in Los Angeles in early 2011. He took some time off the stage and returned as a teen-aged tenor for The Secret Garden earlier this year. The role he played in that opera was written with him in mind, meaning it took into account his specific abilities, vocal range, power, etc.

There are short children's solos in other operas, such as the shepherd's song at the start of Act III of Tosca; I saw the role of Amore sung by a boy soprano in SF Opera's L'incoronazione di Poppea back in 1998. There is the non-singing role of Dolor (sadness, trouble) in Madama Butterfly.

Okay, let's get to the real point: when should a child start singing opera solos written for adults? Well, it depends on the kid and his or her voice. The great Spanish mezzo Conchita Supervia seems to have her sung her first Octavian (Rosenkavalier) at the tender age of 15. About 12 years ago, I saw a completely professional Cherubino (Nozze di Figaro) who was around 14 or 15; this was in a smallish house, the 900-seat Lesher Center in Walnut Creek.

Dame Eva Turner demanded singing lessons, and got them, at age 10. At 14, she sang "Ozean, du Ungeheurer," from Weber's Oberon, in a recital, presumably with piano. (It was another decade before she sang complete operatic roles on stage, however.) Licia Albanese very likely made her professional debut at the age of 17 or 18.

But for the most part, there's a progression from lighter music, such as 18th c. Italian art songs or Mozart arias, to heavier music. Most singers don't do 19th c. operatic music until they are around college age. Voices develop at different rates, because no two bodies are the same. Frida Leider was singing Bruennhilde in her 20s; Ljuba Welitsch sang Salome in her 20s. Other singers are past 40 before they touch those dramatic soprano roles.

By and large, Puccini is big-girl music. A few years ago, I heard a college-age singer perform a light aria at a short master class given by Will Crutchfield. I remember thinking, whoa, Puccini voice! why isn't she singing "Un bel di" or something like that? I was gratified to hear Will say something similar to her. In any event, it's not for kids.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

What I Bought Last Night



I was hoping the San Francisco Opera shop would have this score, and they did. It was nearly $50, even with the subscriber discount.

I am not lugging it to NYC with me, though. It weighs more than my laptop.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Latest Kid Singing "O Mio Babbino Caro"

So two people have asked me what I think of the nine-year-old Dutch girl whose YouTube video of her singing "O mio babbino caro" has evidently gone viral.

I have not seen the video and don't intend to, because, quite simply:
  • Nine-year-olds shouldn't be singing Puccini (or any other opera, really).
  • Nine-year-olds are not competent to teach themselves to sing opera by watching YouTube.
  • I'm not adding to the excessive attention this child is getting.
Anne Midgette speaks for me. I mean, I think the word purist should be banished from these discussions, because what is meant is "people who know something about opera and singing." But whatever; I'm especially pleased that Anne mentions that the aria is a comic aria. This is obvious in context (and Gianni Schicchi is the funniest hour of opera ever composed, at least in the production SF Opera used in 2009) but most sopranos recording for recital discs don't put it across very well.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Now We Are Nine.



For once, I remembered my blogoversary. The name was to be The Witching Hour, but that was taken - by someone who made three postings - so I settled on a favorite Shakespearean moment.

No Proselytizing

Email sent in response to a comment, which was not from a regular reader:

Dear [redacted]:

You have attempted to proselytize for Christianity in a comment on my classical music blog, Iron Tongue of Midnight.

I must ask whether you read the blog posting to which you attempted to post. It is about the sexual abuse of minors at the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham's Music School in Great Britain.

Comments at my blog are moderated, and I will not be publishing yours. It is off-topic and I do not allow religious proselytizing in the comments.

Yours,

Lisa Hirsch

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why I Don't Belong to the Music Critics Association of North America Any More

I was a member of MCANA for a couple of years, and even participated on a panel at the 2011 meeting, which was held in San Francisco.

At the time that I joined, I heard that the group was trying to recruit bloggers. I heard about this from an MCANA member, and I never did hear of any kind of concerted effort to get bloggers into the group. It's easy to understand why: two years ago, MCANA had fewer than 100 members. There are more than 300 classical music bloggers, of varying degrees of quality, writing in English, with a large proportion of those based in North America. The folks getting paid regularly for their reviews would quickly be overrun by nonpros.

MCANA has never presented specific criteria for a blogger to join, and I think that perhaps the effort to recruit bloggers was short-lived. I was able to join because I had four or more published professional reviews in the previous year. At the time, MCANA didn't even have an online application, so I had to print out a selection of my online SFCV reviews to snail mail to the organization. I understand that this has changed, but what??

I quit for a few reasons.

1. For my $100/year, I could spend a lot of money traveling to the annual conference location, where I could get free tickets to whatever festival was close by. Not a huge benefit, because I can afford to pay for my own tickets. In 2011, there were also a couple of seminars of no particular interest to me, also at distant locations.

2. No mailing list. Seriously, it's the 21st century, and the "mailing list" is "copy this list of member email address and send them all email." So there is no archive and no encouragement of intramember communications and discussion. It takes ten minutes to set up a Yahoo mailing list or Google Group, or if you want to live dangerously, Listserv.

3. I got omitted from a mailing coming from the organization itself, presumably as a result of the above.

4. MCANA just launched a new web review magazine. Did you know that? I bet you didn't, because I found out about it 1) in email containing a link to Robert Commanday's Dolores Claiborne review 2) from Alex Ross's blog. Uh, emailing prominent bloggers and musical organizations might get you some publicity - and hits! But people don't read what they don't know about.

5. Terrible outreach. I don't understand why MCANA hasn't tried to get every SFCV writer to join, but evidently they haven't tried. (I was asked if I wanted to join the membership committee. No, I did not.)

6. The worst web site imaginable.

7. I run a technical writer organization at my workplace that has twice as many members as MCANA, and thus I know from personal experience that it's not so hard to do things better than MCANA has been doing things.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I Hope the (Other) CSO is Embarrassed by This.

Columbus, OH music blogger Heather Brown tells you what it's like to make an online contribution to various nonprofits around town:
  • Opera Columbus: Five (5) steps.
  • Promusica Chamber Ensemble: Five (5) steps.
  • Columbus Symphony Orchestra: Up to twenty (20) steps. The process is so confusing that it's barely possible to determine how long it will take any particular individual.
As I've been saying for quite some time on my Web Site Basics page, make it as easy as possible for people to give you their money. The CSO is failing this, bigtime. My advice: put a PayPal button on your home page somewhere. Really.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Musical Invective: Jenufa

As several guessed, the opera in the previous posting was Leoš Janáček's wonderful Jenufa, a work that was greeted with a certain amount of derision on its US premiere in 1925. It took a while for public and musical opinion to catch up with the great Moravian composer's music.

Here are a bunch of reviews from the Metropolitan Opera Archives. You can tell how new and different Janáček's music was for these reviewers; they all manage to find different ways to misunderstand it. "Not really an opera," "prettily light comic material" (!), "conventional operatic formulae," "Janáček's colorless music" (!!!), "The best that one can say for the music is that it does not ruin the histrionic effects." Etc.

Review in the Evening Journal by Irving Weil
From time to time Mr. Giulio Gatti-Casazza seeks to fatten the German repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera, but in spite of such bits of promising nourishment as he picks up here and there, the repertoire seems to remain statically Wagnerian. Young Erich Korngold's "Die tote Stadt" and Max von Schilling's "Mona Lisa" do not appear to have been ecstatically absorbed, and the General Director's latest experiment, "Jenufa," offered up for the first time on Saturday afternoon, is not likely to do any better.

The new opera-new, however, only to New York, for it has been available any time these twenty years-is a setting by the Bohemian, Lèos Janacek, of a tale by Gabriella Preissova. Neither of these names, of course, means anything here, for none of Janacek's music heretofore got across the Atlantic and the librettist is an unknown. Janacek, who is now seventy, is a Checho-Slovakian-a Moravian, to be more specific-and his opera is a Moravian "Cavalleria Rusticana," minus anything remotely as good as Mascagni's music.

Why Mr. Gatti-Casazza ever came to look hopefully upon "Jenufa" would be a mystery if one did not happen to think that he has in his company a Bohemian conductor, a Bohemian ballet master who, nevertheless, is given to offering advice, and a Moravian prima donna. Probably all three were too much for him and therefore, "Jenufa." But no one ought to take it into his head from this that "Jenufa" is the worst opera we have ever heard. As a fact, it is a long way from that. The unforgettable "Mona" of Horatio Parker, the "Cyrano de Bergerac" of Walter Damrosch, "The Polish Jew" of-who was it wrote that one?-were immeasurably worse. Indeed, now we have begun cataloguing, we can think of a score or so far, far worse. But "Jenufa" is quite worse enough.

For one thing, the opera tells a tale of the Moravian contodini over which it is difficult to become greatly excited. Jenufa is ruined, as they used to put it in "Bertha, the Beautiful Sewing-Machine Girl," by a young Don Juan of the Moravian hills, and being that sort he refuses to make her an honest woman, as they still put it in Max Marcin melodrama. Her stepmother conceals her till the child is born and then tells the young Don Juan's brother, who is also crazy about Jenufa, the whole story. The child, she adds, is dead. The brother then agrees to marry her. Meanwhile the stepmother takes the child and drops it under the ice in the offstage river and tells Jenufa it died. But the little thing is of course found by the villagers and Stepmother confesses.

It is easily conceivable that such a tale, or something like it, could be made a gripping affair. One has only to think of Sydney Howard's current peasant drama, "They Knew What They Wanted" with Pauline Lord, or of "Cavalleria Rusticana" itself for that matter, to realize this. But there are a dozen reasons why it isn't. One of them is that the Metropolitan Opera House is the Metropolitan Opera House. Another that Maria Jeritza, the Jenufa is no Pauline Lord; still another that the German translation is either poor stuff or the original is the same. And, chief of them all, that Janacek's music is a pretilly light comic matter trying to characterize the tragic. This music flows along gently and unobtrusively, with a Wagnerian twist and turn every now and again, but never achieves so much as a profile of the drama. Mr. Janacek has theories about song-speech in opera, but he forgot or was unable to make his song-speech say or sing anything definite or apt.

So far as the performance on Saturday went, Margaret Matzenauer, the stepmother, Buryja, walked away with the opera. She was the one person on the stage in whom you had any belief, the only one who put anything of the tragic into the tragedy. Her acting, to be sure, was of the type sometimes designated as all over the place, but, anyhow, it made its point. And, after all, peasants, we suppose, are not expected to be subtle. Her singing was matzenauerian, as usual, but it was rather less atonal than customarily.

Mme. Jeritza's Jenufa seemed to be a girl who, in spite of those Moravian costumes, ought to have known how to take care of herself better than she did. She had her moments, to be sure, and as nearly always, contributed her acrobatic bit, but she was scarcely impressive. And her singing, for the most part, was exceedingly loud. So was Rudolf Laubenthal's, who was the local Moravian Don Juan. He seemed to have the heroic tenor complex for the afternoon and it didn't agree with him very well. Mr. Bodanzky conducted. Mr. Von Wymental did some excellent stage directing.


Here's Ernest Newman:

  "What a crew" said a well known dramatic critic of the characters in one of the Ibsen plays. 'What a crew!" we may say also of the people of "Jenufa" that had its first performance (in German) at the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday. A more complete collection of undesirables and incredibles has never previously appeared in opera.

To [the] crude story, Janacek has written music that is obviously the work of a man who, however many works he may have to his credit, is only a cut above the amateur. The best things in the score are the national songs and dances, which are charming. For the bigger moments he has mostly nothing but conventional operatic formulae. It is a little puzzling, to the non-Czech listener, to find cheerful national dance rhythms running though the most tragic scenes. Apparently in these Central European countries, you do everything to these rhythms; you shave yourself to a Krakoviak, cut a man's throat to a Mazurka, and bury him to a Czardas…

The company labored hard to make these absurd stage figures credible to us, but Mr. Laubenthal, for all his intelligence, could not bring them to life, and Mr. Oehman seemed none too happy as Laca. Mme. Matzenauer was duly convulsive as Burya, and admirably realistic, for naturally you could not expect a poor woman with so much on her mind to sing with perfect melodiousness. I did not see Jenufa anywhere, but her clothes were worn by Mme. Jeritza, who, if she was more self conscious than I imagine the real Jeritza would have been, sang infinitely better. The opera was charmingly staged, and the costumes were a delight to the eye.

 Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune:
The Metropolitan's production of the work is admirable. The opera is beautifully mounted, intelligently directed, and effectively impersonated. It is not easy to imagine a more perfect embodiment of the role of the ill-used peasant girl than Jeritza's. Her handling of the scene in which she learns of the death of her child is as beautiful and affecting a thing as she has done here; it is on a par with her Tosca for veracity and skill and power. We shall not soon forget her moving delivery of "So starb es, mein süsses Herzenskind" And Mme. Matzenauer has done nothing in recent years as adroit and fine as her performance of the Sexton's Widow - save for those few moments at the close of the second act when she overstresses her indication of superstitious dread by excess of movement and gesture. She should study Chaliapin s exquisite economy of movement in his acting of a similar scene in "Boris."

Mr. Laubenthal, as the perfidious Steva, bettered by a good deal his previous impersonations here - his first act bun(sic) is a thing to marvel at. The Laca of Martin Oehman (the Swedish tenor who is new this season at the Metropolitan) was an efficient performance, praiseworthy for its intelligence and its quiet force. These were the chief roles; the others were for the most part capably done.

Mr. Bodanzky conducted devotedly and with authority, as he always does. The settings are delightful, and the charming costumes, with their gorgeous embroidery, their furred coats and their captivating flowered hats would lure us again and again to the Metropolitan, even though we had to. listen to Janacek's colorless music. The audience, a huge one, was extraordinarily enthusiastic. the Metropolitan has played a winning card. "Jenufa" is better than "I Compagnacci."


Review signed S. L. L. in the Philadelphia Public Ledger
JERITZA DOES GREAT ACTING IN CURIOUS JANACEK OPERA

Famous Diva and Mme. Matzenauer Magnificent in Exceedingly Intense Drama Given by Metropolitan Company

One of the most curious "operas" ever given in Philadelphia was presented by the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York at the Academy of Music last evening when Janacek's "Jenufa" was sung by a group of stars to a stupendously powerful orchestra accompaniment led by Artur Bodanzky. The story of the opera is a singularly disagreeable one, but it gives full scope to the extraordinarily dramatic powers of Maria Jeritza and Margaret Matzenauer, both of whom improved their opportunities in this line to the utmost.

Musically the opera is in a class by itself, for nothing like it in musical content has ever been heard here. It is really not opera at all, but incidental music accompanying an exceedingly intense drama. The work follows no precedent. There are many themes which recur throughout the opera, but this recurrence has nothing in common with the Wagnerian "leit- motif," because they are repeated virtually in toto and without development of that reference to previous characters or scenes which is carried out to so high a degree by the master of Bayreuth.

At the same time, it must be admitted that the music never intrudes upon the dramatic action. In the intensity of some of the scenes the hearer is entirely unconscious of any music at all, which shows in itself that it fits the dramatic situation. Did it intrude, it would be incongruous and therefore unfitting. Nevertheless, it is by no means great music, for the thrills which the work contains (and there are many) are entirely dramatic and not musical ones. The best that one can say for the music is that it does not ruin the histrionic effects.

But there are unquestionably points in the opera where the music rises to considerable heights. The greatest of these is the monologue of the Sexton's Widow (Mme. Matzenauer) where she decides on the death of the baby as the best way out of a most undesirable situation. Also the ensuing scene, where Jenufa (Mme. Jeritza) discovers the absence of the child, and again in the same act where the explanation is made.

The opera was superbly staged and magnificently acted by Mesdames Jeritza and Matzenauer. There are defects of operatic and libretto techniques throughout, as both the second and third acts end in anti-climaxes and the emotional tension in both these acts is too long sustained for the hearer. Had the curtain been rung down when Jenufa discovers the loss of the child and sinks faintingly against the locked door, the audience, wrought to the highest emotional pitch of the evening, would have "gone crazy" to use a stage term. Instead, the explanation and the first love scene follow. There is a limit of emotional endurance to the audience as well as to the performers and Mesdames Jeritza and Matzenauer were manifestly "all in" when they responded to the curtain calls at the close of the act.

Columns more might be written of this unique opera. The tenors (it calls for two of these) were moderately good in the persons of Messers Laubenthal and Ohman and Kathleen Howard was very fine, vocally and dramatically, as Grandmother Buryja. The numerous lesser roles were well taken by Arnold Gabor, Ellen Dalossy, Grace Anthony, Charlotte Ryan and Marie Mattfeld. Mr. Bodanzky, with his usual lack of appreciation of the wonderful acoustics of the Philadelphia Academy of Music, allowed the orchestra to overpower the singers most of the time, even admitting that the orchestral parts are more important than the vocal ones.


Musical Invective

What opera's US premiere is under discussion in the following review excerpts? No fair using web search.

From time to time [general director redacted] seeks to fatten the German repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera, but in spite of such bits of promising nourishment as he picks up here and there, the repertoire seems to remain statically Wagnerian. Young Erich Korngold's "Die tote Stadt" and Max von Schilling's "Mona Lisa" do not appear to have been ecstatically absorbed, and the General Director's latest experiment, [redacted], offered up for the first time on Saturday afternoon, is not likely to do any better. 
The new opera-new, however, only to New York, for it has been available any time these twenty years-is a setting by [composer] of a tale by [librettist]. Neither of these names, of course, means anything here, for none of [composer's[ music heretofore got across the Atlantic and the librettist is an unknown. [composer] is a [nationality], to be more specific-and his opera is a [nationality] "Cavalleria Rusticana," minus anything remotely as good as Mascagni's music.
[couple of paragraphs redacted in their entirety, as they are total spoilers]
It is easily conceivable that such a tale, or something like it, could be made a gripping affair. One has only to think of Sydney Howard's current peasant drama, "They Knew What They Wanted" with Pauline Lord, or of "Cavalleria Rusticana" itself for that matter, to realize this. But there are a dozen reasons why it isn't. One of them is that the Metropolitan Opera House is the Metropolitan Opera House. Another that [diva], the [leading role] is no Pauline Lord; still another that the German translation is either poor stuff or the original is the same. And, chief of them all, that [composer's] music is a pretilly light comic matter trying to characterize the tragic. This music flows along gently and unobtrusively, with a Wagnerian twist and turn every now and again, but never achieves so much as a profile of the drama. 
I'll provide a link after the opera in question is guessed.

Oropesa in for Stober in 10/15 SFO Falstaff

Heidi Stober is ill; I have heard that she only sang Act I yesterday, though she acted the rest while a last-minute substitute sang. Tomorrow night, October 15, the wonderful Lisette Oropesa sings the role of Nanetta.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Separated at Birth?

Legendary Viennese tenor Richard Tauber:


Legendary Hungarian conductor Fritz Reiner:



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Privacy, Ads, and Google: A Public Service Announcement

You may have seen this article in the NY Times about a change to the Google Terms of Service and the reasons for it. Google wants to take your +1s and use them in ads, as "personal endorsements." The terms of service change enables Google to do this without your explicit consent for each use.

You can opt any existing Google accounts you have out of this policy and you have some time to do it.

Here's what you do.

1. Log in to your Google account (say, sign in to Gmail).

 2. Click the icon representing you in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. For example, I would click the little photo of Marina Tcherkaskaya that I use for my profile photo:



 3. Click Account.



 4. In the left-hand menu, click Google+.



 5. Find the line Shared Endorsements.




 6. If the value is Off, you're fine - your +1s, etc. will not be used in search ads as endorsements.

 7. If the value is On, click Edit.

 8. Read the explanation, if you care. It includes examples of what this  looks like.

 9. To turn Shared Endorsements off, scroll down to this line:



 10. Uncheck the check box.

 11. Click the blue Save button.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Breaking: Peninsula Symphony Missing Half Its Money

Rather shocking news:

MEDIA CONTACT:
Larry Kamer of the Kamer Consulting Group
(lkamer@kamergroup.com or 415.290.7240)


On Oct. 10, 2013, the Peninsula Symphony of Northern California issued the following statement:

The Peninsula Symphony of Northern California, a well-respected 65-year old non-profit arts organization based in Los Altos, whose musical presentations cover the San Francisco Peninsula, recently discovered that nearly all of its endowment and operating funds are missing. The Symphony immediately notified the Los Altos Police Department.

Symphony leaders have engaged, pro bono, the nationally known law firm of Baker & McKenzie to assist with the Symphony’s efforts to recover the missing assets. The Board of Directors is also in the process of securing the services of a professional accounting firm to investigate the financial losses and is implementing strengthened financial control mechanisms to protect future donations and contributions. The Executive Director has resigned and a search for a replacement is underway.

Upon learning of the situation, Symphony Board members and musicians rallied together within five days to pledge new contributions to fund nearly half a season’s scaled down operating budget. These pledges and donations by the musicians and the Board have allowed the Symphony to plan to present its complete announced season, beginning with concerts onOctober 25 and 26, featuring the legendary Irish pianist, John O’Conor, and the Masterworks Chorale, and followed by concerts at the new Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University with the Stanford University Symphonic Chorus on November 22 and 24.

Each year the Peninsula Symphony performs concerts for over 10,000 audience members from every community on the San Francisco Peninsula; presents more than 50 concerts to children in schools that lack their own music programs in Redwood City, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale; and offers master classes for hundreds of area high school musicians. The Symphony also performs free Family Concerts and outdoor concerts; provides performing opportunities for the community’s finest young musicians through the Marilyn Mindell Piano Competition and the Young Musicians’ Competition; and offers a wide variety of other educational programs through its Bridges to Music program.

The Symphony is appealing to all of its supporters and to the community at large for additional financial support to restore the organization to good financial health for many years to come. Key supporters have renewed their commitment to the future success of the Symphony by pledging a matching grant.

Donations may be sent to the Peninsula Symphony, 146 Main St., Suite 102, Los Altos, CA 94022, or made online atpeninsulasymphony.org.

Notably, the organization doesn't appear to have an executive director or a board president at the moment. The most recent 990 shows Steve Carlton as a paid employee, though without a title; some research shows that he was the ED from 2009 until....when?

Who had sufficient access to these accounts to abscond with the money, and how was it done? Over how many years?

Updates: kalimac points out in comments that the orchestra board has a chair and vice-chair: my bad, looking for a board president. Also, kalimac found a news report about the missing money, which he sent me in email.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Unfair Comparisons

But if you're thinking about how good a singer is, it might as well be by comparison with the best there is.

Here's Kirsten Flagstad singing Senta's ballad in 1937; she is transported and you will be too:

And here's Astrid Varnay, sterner than Flagstad and not nearly as delicate, but still impressive (1950):

It's Official: Lise Lindestrom Replaces Petra Maria Schnitzer as Senta

Rumor confirmed: Petra Maria Schnitzer withdraws from Flying Dutchman for health reasons, in this case, bronchitis and swollen vocal cords. Bay area native Lise Lindstrom replaces her, making her San Francisco Opera debut.
Here she is in Senta's Ballad, in New Orleans a few years ago:

This Made Me Happy


Not an Improvement

Dear SFO,

The version of Tessitura you recently installed isn't much of an improvement - from the end-user standpoint - over the version you used to have. I don't see any information it didn't already provide. The bigger graphics probably make things easier for some people. It seems to be slower than the previous version.

I hope that it's providing features you need or find useful.

Yours,


Local Crank

Monday, October 07, 2013

Put Steve in Charge

Composer Steve Hicken has a few things to say about how concerts should work. I endorse every last one of his recommendations, so let's put Steve in charge of all concerts, now and forever.

As I told him in email, we can just swap in my fantasy opera series for the Utopia Opera Company, since it's funded by an anonymous opera-loving billionaire. And his stricture about big-name soloists is fine with me, because my man Marc-Andre Hamelin has the weirdest recorded repertory of any pianist, living or dead, and technique sufficient for any new work you might throw at him.

Patrice Chéreau



Patrice Chéreau, director of Bayreuth's Centennial Ring, has died, much too young, at 68, of lung cancer.

I have not seen any of his productions live, but the Salzburg From the House of the Dead is on DVD, and it is beautiful and deeply moving. Yes, I will get that Ring on DVD one of these days.

Elsewhere:


Vänskä's Farewell

Heartbreaking.


Alex Ross has links to coverage.

OMG!

Seen in the NY Times: an umlaut!

I thought their style guide was based on hot type (or something) that didn't have diacriticals, but there it is, in an article about the Nobel laureates in medicine:
The Karolinska Institute in Stockholmannounced the winners: James E. Rothman of Yale University; Randy W. Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University.
So why doesn't Osmo Vänskä rate his own umlauts?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Oh, SFS....

Sigh.
  • SFS sent me a survey about a concert I attended. I view these with dread; my interests and tastes are so out of the presumed mainstream that a season constructed with the aim of pleasing other people is likely to be a season I recoil from.
  • Moreover, the survey asked about the wrong concert. I attended last night's orchestral program, not Thursday's chamber music program. (Shoulda gone, couldn't drag myself there.)
  • And I couldn't send email to the right people about this, because the latest SFS web site redesign removed the email addresses of staff members. How come? Too much spam? Solution: better spam filtering. Too much email from patrons? Solution: deal with it. Making it harder to contact people at SFS isn't a good business practice.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Reviews - Not By Me - of Shapero Memorial Concert

The Justice has a review and an interview with Sally Pinkas. I'm guessing the reviewer is not a music student, either, since she was surprised that a piece for "piano four-hands" meant the pianists were sitting side-by-side at the same instrument.
The Brandeis Hoot has a review of sorts. "Huge impact on the world of classical music" is debatable. He wrote a smallish number of very good pieces but had a 40-year composer's block; he taught many students, some of whom became terrific composers, many of whom loved and learned a lot from him. But "huge impact"? I reserve that kind of hyperbole for people on the Bernstein or Copland level.

Updated October 5 and moved to top of queue.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Awaiting Ticket


And while I wait, I am listening to recordings and a podcast. Some links and observations:
  • The podcast is here (h/t Bill K., with thanks). Only quibble so far: I alternate between calling it Frau and FROSCH.
  • If you have one of those all-access Google Music subscriptions, the Solti recordings, which is complete, is available streaming.
  • I have a vague feeling that the Sawallisch is better conducted than the Solti, but holy cow, Domingo!!! Yeah, his German isn't ideal, but wow. He sounds fabulous, and how many tenors do you call fabulous in Strauss? (The entire Solti cast sings like gods, actually.)
  • The libretto is just as loathsome as I remember. Good thing the music is beyond fabulous.
  • The only previous time I saw Frau was in 1989, in SF. Gwyneth Jones was the Dyer's Wife, and she was on, and on fire.
  • Listening to the opera for the first time in about five years, I wanted to strangle the falcon by the end of Act I.
  • The first time I heard Patricia Racette, she was singing the Voice of the Falcon in that 1989 production.
  • The Guardian of the Threshold of the Temple is possibly my favorite character name in all of opera, equaled - maybe - by the Omniscient Mussel. (And someday I'll see Die Aegyptische Helene, I hope.)
  • You have not lived until you've heard Leonie Rysanek as the Empress. There are better-sung performances; Cheryl Studer is certainly more accurate, and achieves a kind of otherworldly tone that is just right for the character. But Rysanek owned this role for about 30 years, with good reason. Fortunately, you can hear her in several commercially-released and numerous pirate recordings.