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
  • 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

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: