Wednesday, February 20, 2019

And Because I Am a Bad Person....

Noted, on the web page about Damnation de Faust, with thoughts of the production of Les Troyens that I just saw in Paris:
High-flying tenor Bryan Hymel sings the doomed and besotted Faust, opposite dazzling mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča as the forsaken Marguerite 

Met Season, 2019-20: More of the Same

Gosh, not long ago a prominent opera commentator was calling SF's season boring. Here's what has dropped at the Met:
  • All-male-composer season
  • Twenty-four operas
  • One opera written after 1950 (Ahknaten)
  • Eight written after 1900 (Turandot, Tosca, Butterfly, Ahknaten, Katya Kabanova, Porgy & Bess, Rosenkavalier, Wozzeck)
  • Three Mozart (Flute, Nozze, Cosi)
  • Five Puccini (Turandot, Tosca, Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Boheme)
  • Three Verdi (Traviata, Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra)
  • Two Massenet (Manon, Werther)
  • One each: Handel (Agrippina), Glass (Ahknaten), Rossini (Cenerentola), Berlioz (Damnation), Wagner (Hollander), Janacek (Katya Kabanova), Donizetti (Maria Stuarda), Gluck (Orfeo), Gershwin (Porgy), Tchaikowsky (Queen of Spades), R. Strauss (Rosenkavalier), Berg (Wozzeck)
  • In Italian: 14
  • In French: 3
  • In German: 4
  • In English: 2
  • In Czech: 1
  • In Russian: 1
I could certainly put together a season of ten operas I'm willing to see out of the 25 above, but it's  otherwise a pretty boring season: Simon Boccanegra, Agrippina, Ahknaten, Damnation, Katya, Orfeo, Porgy, Queen of Spades, Rosenkavalier, and Wozzeck.

UPDATED, since I managed to overlook La Boheme in my original counts and since I was off by one in my count of post-1900; Tosca just makes it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Music at Versailles

I was in France recently, and one of the highlights of my trip was that, on the basis of my review of three operas last October, I was invited to visit the Château de Versailles, the gigantic 17th c. palace located a few miles to the west of the city. Once there, I was shown around by Maxime Ohayon, director of development for Chateau de Versailles Spectacles, which is why there's a photo of me in the Hall of Mirrors with no one behind me.

I also interviewed Laurent Brunner, director of performances for Spectacles, about their musical program. Note that Spectacles handles all performances at the palace.

I wrote about music at Versailles for SFCV, and let me tell you, there are amazing things going on there. I was not able to see an opera in their beautiful little opera house, which seats only 700, but I did see a terrific concert of Baroque music with the Concerto Köln and a wonderful countertenor, Valer Sabadus.

Huge thanks to Maxim, Laurent, and Fanny Collard, (communications), for the invitation and their generosity.

You can see more of my photos in this Flickr photoset. I'm particularly fond of the photos I took under the stage of the opera house.

The Surveillance State in Ticket Sales

Or, why I'll never click a link in email from [redacted] again.

I received email over the weekend from a performing arts org about a program that they're presenting. Curious about what was actually on the program, I clicked through.

Today I got email reading as follows, and I'm pretty sure it's because of how they track and respond to click-throughs:
Hello, Lisa!
We're as excited as you are that [ensemble] is coming to [redacted]! Prices may increase due to demand, so the sooner you get your tickets, the better. 
If you have any trouble purchasing your tickets online, or need assistance in any way, you can contact the Ticket Office and we’ll be happy to help with your order.
Nope, nope, and nope. I may unsubscribe from [redacted]'s mailing list, or I may just never click a link again, but I do not want to feel as though I am being stalked by any performing arts org.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Museum Mondays

Hans Memling: Angel Holding an Olive Branch
Musée du Louvre, Paris
February, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Photo

Old pieces of the Sainte Chappelle, collected outside the chapel
Paris, February, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Duking It Out

News from the Met:
Bryan Hymel has withdrawn from upcoming performances as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto, due to personal reasons. 
Francesco Demuro will sing the Duke in the March 6, 9, 15, and 20 performances; Matthew Polenzani will sing the performances on April 26, May 1, and 4; and Stephen Costello will sing the May 10 performance.
This is Hymel's third high-profile cancelation in the last few months: Les Huguenots and Les Troyen in Paris were the first two.

He's scheduled to open the San Francisco Opera season in September, and...well...I hope he's okay.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Museum Mondays

Birth of Gothic Sculpture 
Musée National du Moyen Age (Musée de Cluny)
National Museum of the Middle Ages
Paris, October, 2018

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Job" Opening at Baltimore Sun

Well, here's a job that I'm not sure I could recommend: working a as freelance music critic for the Baltimore Sun.

Copied and pasted from the web page I linked to:
The Baltimore Sun seeks a freelance critic to review the broad array of classical performances in the Baltimore region. These can include, but are not limited to, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Baltimore Concert Opera and the Peabody Institute. We are keen to reflect the diversity of the classical community in the Baltimore area. 
Plan, in concert with an editor, a schedule of reviews that encompasses the variety within the Baltimore region’s classical scene Write with accuracy, knowledge, speed, flair and an accessible voiceMeet deadlinesEngage with and grow a network of followers on social media. Qualifications 
Three years of critical experience at a journalistic organizationExcellent writing skills Proven ability to build an audience via social mediaFamiliarity with and interest in Baltimore-area classical organizationsThe Baltimore Sun is committed to building a diverse correspondent network that reflects the people it covers and the audience it serves. Candidates are encouraged to highlight new perspectives they can bring to our team.

This is apparently a full-time music critic's job and requires three years of experience at a critic; however, you'll be paid as a freelancer, presumably by the article, and you'll get benefits just like a freelancer, which is to say, none. I have no idea how many freelancers there are who live close enough to Baltimore to be familiar with the scene - and who have either employment that takes care of health insurance or a spouse whose health insurance will keep them covered.

I'm also disturbed by that bit about "Proven ability to build an audience via social media." I mean, I suppose I could sorta demonstrate this, given my 1500 Twitter followers, but I'm not Alex Ross and neither is any other working critic: Alex has north of 100,000 followers, Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has 22,500, Anthony Tommasini of the NY Times has 7262, Zachary Woolfe, the most visible Times critic, has 9683, and James Jorden of Parterre Box has 3,197 (that was a shock; I figured he'd turn up in the 25,000 or higher range).

Honestly, I think that this part of the job is the job of the Sun's social media department. I certainly wouldn't make it a job requirement or expect any freelancer to have a huge following.

This is all related to something Tim Mangan, former critic of the Orange County Register, formerly in-house writer for the Pacific Sympony, wrote about last year: the hobbification of criticism, where it's something done on the side rather than a full-time profession, owing to the decline of print and on-line newspapers willing to pay for criticism. It is a real shame that the Sun is going down this path.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

San Francisco Opera: Casting Updates for Summer, 2019 Operas

Announced in my absence, updates to all three of the summer operas. Coincidentally, this dropped during the second intermission of Rusalka at the Opéra Bastille Thursday.

In Orlando, to absolute no one's surprise, the brilliant young countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will sing Medoro, replacing the recently-indicted David Daniels.

In Rusalka, bass Kristinn Sigmundsson will sing Vodnik (Water Spirit), replacing the previously-announced Ferruccio Furlanetto, who has decided not to add the role to his repertory. (Applause for artists making such a decision with so much notice to the company for which they had planned to sing.)

In Carmen, Michelle Merrill will conduct the June 20, 2019 performance. Jame Gaffigan conducts all other performances.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Museum Mondays

The beautiful Art Nouveau cabinet above contains storage for the four instruments of a string quartet, plus their music. I'm sorry the photo isn't better; I didn't have the dSLR with me that day and this is what I got, shooting too fast, with my phone cam.

This is one of the pairs of matching double music stands. I love the sinuous curves of the base and the grain of the wood. I think it's maple but can't swear to it.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Paris, October, 2018

Friday, February 01, 2019

Sanford Sylvan

I'm so sad to read that baritone Sanford Sylvan died earlier this week, much too young at 65. He was, for decades, a significant figure in the Boston, and American, musical scene, singing in Peter Sellars' famous productions of the Mozart-da Ponte operas, singing Lieder and Bach cantatas, creating the roles of Chou En Lai in Nixon in China and Leon Klinghoffer in The Death of Klinghoffer.

I think that I saw him live only once, during my senior year of college. I spent a good part of that year studying Schubert with Joshua Rifkin, first in a class on the song cycles, then in a private study of three unfinished symphonies by the composer. During that snowy winter, Sylvan gave a recital of Die Schöne Müllerin at a church in the Back Bay somewhere. I went to see the performance, which I'm pretty sure was with his long-time collaborator David Breitman.

I remember it as a wonderful recital, and I also remember, vividly, that after the bows Sylvan and some men who were in the audience hugged each other, and he kissed one of them on the lips.

I was a young and barely out queer at the time and it was the first time I'd seen two men kissing. In 1979-80, this was a rare thing. For context, the first gay pride march I went to, that spring, had perhaps 5,000 nervous marchers, carrying handmade signs, versus 125,000 attendees at this past year's, which I assume, like SF's parade, has plenty of social and corporate support. Being gay was way more likely then to get you fired, abused, denied housing or job or medical care than it is today (and discrimination against LGBTIA folk is still a big problem).

Sylvan was so brave to kiss another man in public back then, and he came out publicly as gay in the 1990s, when almost no classical music world figures were out. This week's tributes are rightly remembering the grace of his singing and the beauty of his voice, his kindness to others, and his bravery. He will be very greatly missed as a musician and a human.


Friday Photo

Terminal 1, Charles de Gaulle
Paris, October, 2018