Friday, June 29, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018

Museum Mondays

Super Made, by Emily Counts
Museum of Art & Design
NYC, February, 2018

Each of these beautiful objects makes a different sound when pressed or twisted. Again, this is nothing new for composers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

O heilige Götter!

Closing scene of Die Walküre
Greer Grimsley (Wotan), Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde)
Photo: Corey Weaver / San Francisco Opera

My review of San Francisco Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen is now posted at San Francisco Classical Voice. I haven't re-read it yet; I did some editing this morning around 6 a.m. and, as always, I have doubts.

Covering four operas in one review is tough. I took a tack I usually don't, with some comparisons to the 2011 bring up. I think this is reasonable, especially since, overall, the company fielded a much better cast than in 2011. Still, I had to omit so much detail!

In addition, I have some thoughts that really aren't appropriate for a review, though they're fine for a blog post. For this cycle, I decided to sit in my subscription seats up the in Dress Circle, rather than in the Orchestra with the rest of the press corps. This had the advantage of giving me a great view of the stage and better sound than you get from the usual seats, where you can hear the echo off the audience-left wall and from which it is difficult to judge orchestral balances and orchestra/singer balances.

Those were the gains. The loss was in being pretty far from the action versus sitting in the orchestra. Even with binoculars, I felt somewhat removed from the drama, especially since the last time I saw the Ring, I was in about row 6 of the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. That was intimate, and, yeah, I missed that.

That said, I'm pretty darned happy with what I saw and heard in the opera house. Donald Runnicles has the orchestra playing fabulously well, and there's a lot of terrific singing. I should really have managed an "Iréne Theorin saves the day" statement someplace in my review. It's amazing to me that she could come into this production on a month's notice, arriving after that, and learn the staging so fast, then give such a wonderful performance. San Francisco Opera is very, very lucky that she was available and willing to step in.

It's not too late to get tickets, although they will probably be expensive tickets; the less-expensive seats undoubtedly sold out a while ago. This is a good production, and it would be hard to assemble a better cast and conductor.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Museum Mondays

Sound and Light Artwork
Museum of Art & Design
NYC, February 2018

I kind of hated this exhibit, which seemed like it was mostly a bunch of visual artists figuring out what musicians know 50 years ago. It was sonically really unpleasant (LOUD) and probably seemed way better to visual artists than to musicians and composers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Concert Dress Rears Its Ugly Head Again

This time, it's not even about what female recitalist should wear. Instead, it's about an issue I would have thought was settled long ago: what female orchestral players wear.

In today's NY Times, Michael Cooper reports that NY Philharmonic's female players, who make up nearly 50% of the orchestra, must wear long dresses. They can't wear pants. Here's what Cooper writes, putting this in perspective:
And they’re required to: The Philharmonic, alone among the nations’s 20 largest orchestras, does not allow women to wear pants for formal evening concerts.
That's right: women at every other big orchestra in the country have more attire flexibility than those at the NYPO. There are discussions currently going on between the orchestra members and the administrators.

It's honestly amazing that the Phil is so far behind the times. On the one hand, they'd like to appeal to new, younger audience members. On the other, Deborah Borda says this:
But [Borda] noted that it could be difficult to find a broadly acceptable solution, agreeing on clothes that are comfortable but still dressy enough to give a sense of occasion; pleasing longtime patrons, who tend to be conservative in their tastes and have indicated in research surveys that they like things as they are; and finding new outfits that can stand the test of time. 
GIVE ME A BREAK. How many "longtime patrons" would even notice if women were wearing long black pants instead of long black dresses or skirts???

I'm also marveling that the LAPhil only caught up on this issue in their last contract.

The most comfortable musicians in the world are those in the Bayreuther Festspielhaus pit: when they came out for a curtain call at a performance I saw in 2015, they were all wearing short sleeved button-down shirts or t-shirts and whatever comfortable pants they wanted to wear. They can do this because you never see them during the performance, owing to the cowl over the pit and the placement of the pit under the stage.

Of course, no one thinks professional orchestra should play concerts in t-shirts and jeans, and I don't even think many people feel that uniform dress is necessary for women. I did once see a professional, but visible, pit orchestra play in black pants and black turtlenecks, a variant of the Steve Jobs  uniform that managed to look very nice.

I suggest that the NYPO have a nice talk with any orchestra that allows women to wear pans to see whether this has been at all disruptive, or resulted in a loss of ticket sales and donations. I bet I know what the answers will be. I also think that maybe Deborah Borda should wear a long black dress or skirt to work on every day the orchestra performs. That'll give her a sense of why this should change.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Dream Cast

I was thinking the other day about the known fact that Donald Runnicles is under contract to conduct something at San Francisco Opera in the next couple of years, on beyond this month's Ring performances. (Matthew Shilvock said this in public! He's a good source.)

Whatever could it be?

Well, it's Runnicles, so very likely it's something large scale and German. We are not going to have a Troyens revival in the near future.

Big German operas we haven't had for a while: Tristan und Isolde (12 years), Parsifal (18 years), Die Frau ohne Schatten (29 years!). Rosenkavalier also, but....

I got to thinking about my Parsifal dream-cast-of-the-moment:

Gurnemanz - Stephen Milling
Parsifal - Stuart Skelton
Amfortas - Peter Mattei
Kundry - Christine Goerke
Klingsor - Brian Mulligan, or maybe Richard Paul Fink

Hmm. You could create good Tristan and Frau casts from the above, too.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Luisi to Dallas

Fabio Luisi
Barbara Luisi Photograph

Fabio Luisi will succeed Jaap van Zweden as Music Director of the Dallas Symphony. Luisi is best-known in the US as Principal Conductor of the Met, a position he assumed when James Levine's health kept him off the podium for an extended period of time. (You would have thought this would put him in first place to succeed Levine, but no.) He is Music Director Designate for 2018-19 and become MD in 2019-20.

And, from the press release, here is something I dislike intensely:
Best known to American audiences for his acclaimed work as Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and guest engagements with leading U.S. orchestras, Fabio Luisi currently holds three key European positions: Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, General Music Director of the Zurich Opera, and Music Director of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. His previous orchestral posts include tenures as Chief Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, General Music Director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, and Musical Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He is also Music Director of the summer “Festival della Valle d’Itria” in Italy’s Martina Franca.
It'll be interesting to see whether he resigns from any of his current jobs, which include two festivals, an orchestra, and an opera company. I repeat what I have said before: this kind of multiple appointment situation basically suppresses a lot of talented people and keeps them out of good jobs.

Updated list of openings, etc.:
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: currently looking owing to departure of Charles Dutoit
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda 
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie leaves this year 
  • Sao Paulo Symphony: Marin Alsop leaves at some point
  • BBC Philharmonic when Juanjo Mena leaves at the end of 2017-18
  • Berkeley Symphony, when Joana Carneiro leaves at the end of 2017-18
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which Leonard Slatkin leaves at the close of the 2017-18 season.
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Orchestre de Paris, when Daniel Harding leaves at the end of 2018-19
  • Sarasota Orchestra after Anu Tali  leaves at the end of 2018-2019
  • Melbourne Symphony: Sir Andrew Davis leaves at the end of 2019 
  • Ulster Orchestra: Rafael Payare leaves in 2019
  • Richmond Symphony: Steven Smith leaves in 2019 
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra: David Robertson will be leaving the SSO at the end of 2019. So he really will be without an orchestral home as of 1/1/2020.
  • San Francisco Symphony! when MTT leaves at the end of 2019-20
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Kent Nagano is leaving the OSM after 2019-2020. 
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Miguel Harth-Bedoya leaves in 2020 
  • Royal Opera, when Antonio Pappano leaves in 2020
  • Opera de Paris, when Philippe Jordan leaves in 2020
  • Atlanta Symphony, when Robert Spano leaves in 2020
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta leaves in 2020
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales when Thomas Søndergård leaves for his new job
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
Conductors looking for jobs (that is, as of the near future, or now, they do not have a posting):
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Robert Spano
  • Juanjo Mena
  • Antonio Pappano
  • Ludovic Morlot
  • Sian Edwards
  • Jun Markl
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • Simone Young 
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian as of the end of 2017-18
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
And closed:
  • Dallas Symphony: Fabio Luisi assumes the position of Music Director in 2019-20. He has an initial five-year contract.
  • Orchestra of St. Luke's: Bernard Labadie starts with the 2018-2019 season 
  • Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra: Thomas Zehetmair starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • BBC Concert Orchestra: Bramwell Tovey started in 2018 
  • Toledo Symphony: Alain Trudel starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich: Paavo Jarvi starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: Karina Canellakis starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Sylvain Cambreling has replaced the late Sir Jeffrey Tate at the Hamburg Symphony
  • San Diego Symphony: Rafael Payare starts in 2019 
  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony: Sebastian Weigle starts in April 2019
  • Vienna RSO: Marin Alsop starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Elim Chan becomes chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony in 2019-20
  • Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: Jaime Martin starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège: Gergely Madaras starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Kent Nagano is now the Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatsoper in Hamburg
  • WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne: Cristian Măcelaru starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Israel Philharmonic: Lahav Shani starts with the 2020-2021 season 
  • Bayerische Staatsoper when Vladimir Jurowski joins in 2021.
  • Vienna Symphony: Andrés Orozco-Estrada starts with the 2021-2022 season
  • Clarinetist Martin Frøst becomes chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in 2019 when Thomas Dausgaard leaves for Seattle.Thomas Zehetmair is going to the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 2019
  • Matthias Bamert is going to the Sapporo Symphony in 2018 
  • Lorenzo Viotti was named music director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, as of 2018
  • Joana Mallwitz appointed GMD in Nuremberg, effective 2018
  • Philippe Jordan to the Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)
  • Semyon! Bychkov! fills the vacancy at the Czech Philharmonic, following the death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Dennis Russell Davies becomes music director of the Brno Philharmonic, which had been open since 2015, as of the 2018-19 season.
  • Nicola Luisotti becoming an assistant music director at the Teatro Real, Madrid, 2018.
  • Seattle Symphony, where Thomas Dausgaard will succeed Ludovic Morlot in 2018-19; announced early October, 2016
  • Vancouver Symphony; Otto Tausk comes on in 2018

Museum Mondays

Assyrian sculpture detail
Metropolitan Museum of Art
March, 2018

Friday, June 01, 2018

No Yuja

I did not report about this at the time, but a few months ago, Yuja Wang cancelled several west coast recitals. Her plans then were to reschedule the recitals, but now comes the announcement that she is unable to do so. The two press releases I have so quote her as follows:
I have been working hard to find a date in the next few months to play my postponed recitals in Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa but I’m sorry to tell my fans that it is simply impossible. I have been given strict instructions by my doctors that I’m trying very hard to follow to ensure that I remain healthy. I thank you all for your support and kindness and I am already working on returning to you all with a recital program as soon as I am able.
I've heard from SF and LA; I'm not on the press mailing lists for the other venues.

SF Symphony (Great Performers) is offering the following options to ticketholders:
The following options are available for those who purchased tickets to the May 6 recital:
·         Exchange your tickets for any remaining San Francisco Symphony concert in the 2018-19 Season; for any 2018 Summer with the Symphony performance; or for MTT Conducts Pianist Yuja Wang and Appalachian Spring September 13-16, 2018.·         Exchange your tickets for a gift certificate, which can be used at any time.·         Donate your tickets, and receive a tax deduction for the total ticket value.·         Receive a refund for the value of the ticket.For assistance, please contact the San Francisco Symphony Box Office by phone at 415-864-6000, email at, or in person at the Box Office located at 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA.
The LA Phil is offering refunds only.

Wishing the best of health to Ms. Wang, of course.

Friday Photo

Laurel District
March, 2018