Friday, February 26, 2016

Hong Out of Met Butterfly Entirely

Hei-Kyung Hong is still sick and has withdrawn from the remaining performances. Ana Maria Martinez continues in the role on February 27 and March 5; she got great reviews last week, and this bodes well for her upcoming appearance as Elisabetta di Valois in San Francisco in June.

On March 2, Latonia Moore will sing Cio-Cio-San, making her Met role debut.

Robert Moses and Lincoln Center

In last week's New Yorker, dated February 22, there's a short item in The Talk of the Town about a forthcoming opera, A Marvelous Order, which is about Robert Moses, the city planner who remade New York City, and Jane Jacobs, whose Death and Life of Great American Cities was a seminal book about how cities thrive.

It's a fine and entertaining article, by Reeves Wiedeman. But he inserts a comment that is unexamined and really does need to be examined. Here's the paragraph in question:
"Jane is our Moses figure, Biblically speaking," Frankel said. "But is' not very useful to look at them as 'pure' Jame Jacobs and 'evil' Robert Moses." Moses razed neighborhoods and displaced families, but he also built Lincoln Center.
Okay. Moses razed a neighborhood and displaced families to build Lincoln Center, to spell it out what really happened. And in the US in the 1950s and 60s, and through into the 1990s, neighborhoods were razed and people displaced to build other cultural centers, too.

In Los Angeles, the Bunker Hill neighborhood was demolished to build a good chunk of downtown.... including the Music Center, home of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall. In San Francisco, the south of Market neighborhood now occupied by Yerba Buena Center and the Moscone Convention Center was demolished to make way for those projects. (San Francisco's Civic Center area, where we have the opera house, Davies Symphony Hall, City Hall, the main public library, and the Asian Arts Museum, seems to have grown rather more organically after the fire and earthquake, but I'm willing to be corrected on this point.)

Whether it makes sense to concentrate so much big-organization activity in a single cultural center seems to be to be debatable. Has Lincoln Center had good synergies among its constituent organizations, which include the Koch New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater, and Film Society? What about Juilliard next door?

I admit, it did make sense for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to move the heck down to Civic Center - for the benefit of its students and perhaps those of its teachers who are members of SFS. But I have yet to hear of much crossover between SFS and SFO.

Just asking: I have no settled viewpoint on this.

Germany Friday Photo

Beets & Kohlrabi, Viktuelienmarkt, Munich
August, 2015

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Learn to Protect Yourself! Take a Women's Self-Defense Class!

Four Saturday afternoons
March 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2016
12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
$150/student. No one turned away for lack of funds. We are LGBT-welcoming.

Class open to all women, cis or trans, age 16 and up.

Concerned about your personal safety? This 12-hour class reinforces your self-confidence and provides practice in self-protection techniques, including:

  • The foundations of self-protection: Alertness, awareness, & avoidance
  • Use of the voice; use of common objects as weapons
  • Basic strikes: hammer blow, heel of hand, elbow blows
  • Basic kicks: front, side, rear
  • Escapes from common attacks: chokes, bear hugs, hair pulls
  • Defending yourself on the ground or against a wall
  • How to deal with an attacker who has a weapon
  • Securing your home
  • Staying safe on the street, in your car, home, or workplace

To enroll, or for more information about either of these classes, email me at or phone me at 510-842-6243.

Met 2016-17 Season Announcement, Part 1

The Met season announcement is trickling in, and I mean that more or less literally. I have the press release for the 10-opera HD season, but not for the full season. Parterre Box is reporting the full season and I'm guessing that there's a press conference and La Cieca is attending.

Those of us in the Bay Area are already weeping and wailing, and totally aghast, at our Italian-opera-heavy upcoming season. The next Met season will just make us weep and wail a lot more, at both the variety of works being performed and at the quality of the casting. Yeah, for Peter Mattei, even I would suffer through The Barber of Seville.

Here's the HD season, after the cut.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Join the People's Orchestra!

The People's Orchestra of West Bromwich, England, is looking for new members. Their press release says:
The charity run orchestra is locally funded and looking for musicians trained to a grade 7 with an interest to play film scores, as well as popular music, with a view to expanding their talent in a fun and inexpensive way.
The organisation was founded in 2012 by Sarah Marshall and horn teacher Andrew Sandham and their vision was to bridge the gap between amateur and professional orchestral players. A gateway for people who may not have the time or commitment to join a professional orchestra, the People’s Orchestra now have over 70 members and have performed several concerts across the Midlands. There’s certain to be something for everyone to enjoy!
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played for years, the orchestra would still love to meet you. It may be that you have played in the past or gave up your instrument after school; either way come and join in. Many of our current players hadn’t played for 10 to 15 years.
To join call: 0121 569 2616 or email:
Or visit our website:
Our Facebook page:
I have seen few audition calls that were so welcoming to players of a range of levels, and certainly the orchestra sounds like fun. Readers and musicians near West Bromwich, this might be for you!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Steven Stucky

Shocking news this morning that composer Steven Stucky has died at 66 of a brain tumor. No obit yet; Michael Cooper reported Stucky's death on Twitter.

I've heard and mostly liked several of his works in the last decade, including Radical Light, heard in 2007 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and The Stars and Roses at Berkeley Symphony. Alex Ross has posted the composer's Silent Spring. Tim Mangan has posted Stucky's Symphony.

All sympathies to Stucky's family, friends, students, and colleagues.

Update: Since I posted the above, a few stories have circulated about Stucky's sense of humor and honesty about himself as a composer; look around Facebook and likely Sequenza 21 and elsewhere for memories of the composer. He was a lovely man and colleague from all reports.

Some obits:

A Bit More on Scalia

Just so there is no misunderstanding, I thought him a despicable jurist. The Onion's headline - "Scalia Dies After Thirty Years of Impeding Social Progress" - is sad and true.

Here's a first-person item from Facebook that deserves to be widespread; what a shame this didn't come up in his confirmation hearings.

Here's musicologist Jonathan Bellman dissecting a particularly horrifying comment Scalia made from the bench, and another post in which he discusses truly great scholarship at a "non-elite" university.

All sympathies to his friends, family, and colleagues, of course, but his record as a public servant is open to, and deserving of, great criticism.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Antonin Scalia

He was an extremely smart (and deeply misguided) associate justice; he was a good friend of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; he was an opera fan.

He also predicted, correctly, that marriage equality would be the law of the land, but he was clearly enraged by the thought.

My hope was always that he'd retire to write legal tomes, or go off to a monastery. I am not the slightest bit sorry to see him and his brand of extremism off the Supreme Court.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fluttering By

More Butterfly variety than expected at the Met, according to a cast change announcement:
Ana María Martínez will sing her first Met performances of Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on February 19 and 22, replacing Hei-Kyung Hong, who is ill. Hong is scheduled to sing the performances on February 25, March 2 and 5, as previously announced.
Hong herself, you might recall, replaced the originally-announced Patricia Racette, who has retired the role.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Miscellany

Christine Goerke, who recently made her role debut as the Siegfried Brunnhilde in the Canadian Opera Company's production of that opera, gave a hilarious interview to Robert Harris of The Globe and Mail...The Berkeley (Early Music) Festival has posted its 2016 schedule, although I've received no press release or other publicity about it. Unfortunately, it's opposite both the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and Ojai....Cal Bach has an attractive program of Carissimi, Charpentier, and Schütz. coming up the last weekend of February. They perform in SF, Palo Alto, and Berkeley....Opera Parallele and SFJAZZ present Terence Blanchard's Champion at SFJAZZ, from February 19 to 28....Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is leaving New Century Chamber Orchestra after the 2016-17 season...

Ojai Music Festival: MDs through 2021

Good news on the Music Director front from the Ojai Festival:

  • Peter Sellars, 2016, with a program of mostly women composers
  • Vijay Iyer, 2017
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen, 2018
  • Barbara Hannigan, 2019
  • Patricia Kopatchinskaya, 2020
  • Mitsuko Uchida, 2021; she was also MD in 1998 with conductor David Zinman
The link is to the press release - it hasn't landed in my inbox yet, but email this morning asked me if I'd heard the news, so I checked their web site, and wow. The exact dates of the festivals are there as well, if you plan your travels years ahead. 

As regular readers know, I've been rolling my eyes at their programming annually, owing to a track record where music composed by women was sorely neglected by a festival of new and unusual music. (I see that my 2015 post about the situation mentioned Hannigan and conductor of the hour MGT as potential music directors!)

So thank you, Ojai, for these excellent appointments. And keep MGT in mind for future seasons.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Gap Year

Facts to consider:
So the question arises: what happens in 2017-18?

Well, the NYPO can look to the north, to the seasons between James Levine's resignation from the BSO and the commencement of Andris Nelsons' tenure there: the BSO had two full seasons of guest conductors.

Or the NYPO can look to the south, where Charles Dutoit's long relationship with the orchestra included several years when he was music director but was, I believe, considered to be a placeholder between Christoph Eschenbach and a long-term appointee, in this case, Yannick Nezhet-Seguin.

Or the NYPO could look to former music directors, except there aren't many of them around:
  • Leonard Bernstein (d. 1990)
  • Pierre Boulez (d. 2016)
  • Zubin Mehta (turns 80 this year)
  • Kurt Masur (d. 2015)
  • Lorin Maazel (d. 2014)
A year of Mehta, just what they need! Maybe Dutoit is available to save the day?

Of course, future former music director Alan Gilbert might have some time free in 2017-18; he has not announced a new appointment, and, well, at opera companies it's common for an outgoing intendant to take significant responsibility for the years following his or her departure. And the announcement of van Zweden's appointment did note that he will conduct several weeks in 17-18, as music director designate. And maybe a conductor who holds no music directorship could take the helm for a year: Semyon Bychkov.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Call Her MGT.

MGT, photo Images: Nancy Horowitz / Vern Evans
from CBSO web site

That'll get you around trying to pronounce Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, at least for the moment. Even with the handy video that Alex Ross has posted, I'm finding her name....formidable.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla to CBSO!

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
LAPO photograph

Via Twitter, the immensely talented Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been named the next music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Andris Nelsons. (You know where HE is now.) She (MUSIC TO MY EARS, that pronoun) takes the position in September, 2016. She's currently assistant conductor of the LAPO and will become associate conductor there later this year.

The rumors I heard last year about Edward Gardner were wrong; I'd heard more recently in comments here that she was under consideration for the job.

To answer a question that has crossed my own mind: MEER-gah grah-zhee-NEE-teh tee-LA.

Updated list of open spots:
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO in 2018)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony
  • Orchestra Nationale de France
  • Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)

And closed:
  • City of Birmingham SO; Mirga Grazintye-Tyla appointed, 2/4/2016
  • New York Philharmonic; Jaap Van Zweden appointed, 1/27/16, succeeding Alan Gilbert
  • National Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda appointed, 1/4/2016, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach.
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus: Andris Nelsons appointed, 9/9/2015
  • LSO: Simon Rattle appointed, 3/2/2015
  • Orchestra de Paris: Daniel Harding, 6/11/2015
  • Berlin Philharmonic: Kirill Petrenko appointed, 6/22/2015
  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard succeeds Donald Runnicles in September, 2016


Just sent email to the SFO subscription department:
Dear Ms. [representative], 
Thank you again. I have decided not to renew my subscription in any way, shape, or form. That is the best way I know to tell SF Opera how unhappy I am with the upcoming season, which has uninteresting repertory choices and (mostly) disappointing casting. 
I will buy single seats or go standing room to those operas I want to see.
The money don't spend at SFO is going to Philharmonia Baroque and West Edge Opera. I will re-up at SFO when there's a season of interest.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Keep Calm and Count the Delegates

Cruz: 8 delegates
Trump: 7 delegates
Rubio: 7 delegates

That's a dead heat. Also, 72% of Republicans didn't caucus for Cruz, with similarly high numbers for Trump and Rubio. Cruz didn't "deal Trump a humbling loss" at all.

It's not over yet. Wait to see what happens in the next six weeks. (Ditto for Clinton & Sanders.)

Monday, February 01, 2016

Met Governance, Again (and Again and Again)

Via Parterre  Box, a story in the Times by the estimable Michael Cooper raises the curtain on what's been going on at the Met recently. La Cieca calls it bizarre, and indeed some of the phrasing is very, very careful. But you don't need to read between the lines all that carefully to figure out the real story: James Levine was going to retire, and apparently Cooper was doing research on that, when a visit by Gelb, Levine, and Cooper to Levine's neurologist yielded a medication adjustment that will enable Levine to keep his gig for a while longer.

And that became the story, rather than an announcement of Levine's departure (or semi-retirement) at season end or when the 2016-17 season is announced.

Here's my honking big problem with it all:
And it surprised Mr. Gelb, who said in an interview that he had been in talk with Mr. Levine about announcing the conductor’s retirement after this season and making him the Met’s music director emeritus. But Mr. Gelb said he felt obligated, both morally and artistically, to see if changing Mr. Levine’s dosage would improve his upper body movement and help him get back to normal.
“He has supported this company, he has given everything to this company, and I feel the Met’s responsibility is to support him as long as we can,” Mr. Gelb, who briefed the Met’s board members on the situation on Monday, said in an interview. “If in fact it’s possible that by regulating his medication he will be able to conduct like the James Levine of before, that would be a miraculous turn of events that everyone here would embrace and cheer for.”
It's going on five years since Levine resigned from the BSO, and during those five years, he had two years of not conducting at all and an extremely limited schedule since 2013. Here's what I said in 2012 about the situation at the Met:
It's the Board's responsibility, first and foremost, to take care of the institution, but it looks as though their primary concern right now is taking care of James Levine. I understand their desire to have him as active as possible in an organization he has helped shape for so long. But their evident reluctance to contemplate life without Levine is a serious concern. It is not good for the Met to be so dependent on one individual.
It looks exactly the same right now. Peter, you're doing it wrong. You need to protect the Metropolitan Opera and provide for its future, but you're protecting Levine instead.