Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day, 2020


[The post is a photograph of the NY Times's front page from Sunday, May 24, 2020, listing hundreds of names of those who've died from COVID-19. The headline reads U.S. DEATHS NEAR 100,000, AN INCALCULABLE LOSS.]


Will There Be a Fall, 2020, Performing Arts Season?

After the mass cancellation of live musical performances from mid-March through (at least) early August, everyone is wondering what's going to happen come September, when large performing arts organizations typically open their season. So far, the signs are not good.

From London, the Southbank Centre, home of Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, says that it  might not be able to reopen at all without large subsidies. The Southbank Centre expects that the current best case is that it resumes presenting events - some 3,500 annually - in April, 2021.

In New York, the Broadway League announced that theaters there will be shut through at least September 6, 2020.

Last week's announcement from the War Memorial Performing Arts Center, affecting San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet, postponed the seat replacement project that had been scheduled for Spring, 2021, to allow for more performing opportunities for SFB and SFO. That implies that there might not be the expected performances in fall, 2020.

There's an analysis at Parterre Box, by Dawn Fatale, that's worth reading; as always, read Drew McManus at Adaptistration for solid insight into the issues. The NY Times' arts writers interviewed presenting organizations.

At a minimum, it's going to be an extremely difficult season for big performing arts orgs.

The Cardinal Sin

Okay, maybe it's not the worst, but it's pretty bad: your organization provides a contact email on your web site, in an email, or on a brochure, but you don't reply to email sent to the address.

Friends, Romans, arts organizations: don't do this.

It's like lying to your patrons, by implying that the email address is monitored. Your patrons buy tickets and make donations to your organization. They are people you want to keep happy. If they have a question or comment or even a complaint, they deserve an answer from you.

You undermine their trust by not doing this, and you might piss them off enough that they reduce their donations or ticket purchases, or stop entirely. (An organization I donated to for years and years didn't respond to two direct communications I sent them, one of which included a donation. My third letter got a perfunctory apology from its executive director, the addressee of the second letter, and I have not donated since.)

So: if you have a contact email, make sure you read and reply to comments from people who take the time to contact you. It's a great way to earn the trust of the people who care about your organization.

Museum Mondays


Ivory Book Covers
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, November, 2019

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ars Minerva Event (Friday, Mary 22)!

Ars Minerva is having an event on Friday, May22, 2020, on Zoom. It's from 3 to 3:30 p.m., Pacific Time. Joe McClinton and Céline Ricci will talk about Forgotten Operas and Operas Translation.

Here's the Zoom link:
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/73200724209?pwd=dkxiRnRwUHd0bDVYZnJiNzBBQTZXUT09

If you don't have Zoom yet, you will need to do a bit of setup, so click that link 10 or 15 minutes early.



West Edge Postpones

West Edge Opera did a lot to prepare to perform this summer, even if it had to be in some unusual form, but now, like other companies in the US, they've postponed performing, with the planned 2020 festival moved to next year:

Facing Covid-19 Concerns, West Edge Opera Postpones West Edge Festival Until 2021
"The safety of our artists, our staff, and our audiences must come first and it’s now clear that the risks outweigh the potential for reward." - General Director Mark Streshinsky

OAKLAND, CA, May 21, 2020 - General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner have announced that West Edge Opera will postpone its annual summer festival until the 2021 season. Their productions of Katya Kabanova, Eliogabalo, and Elizabeth Cree, originally scheduled for July 25th through August 9th, 2020, will instead be presented starting July 24th of 2021.

"We are disappointed, but not devastated" reports Streshinsky. "New research has shown that it is nearly impossible to rehearse an opera with the level of safety and confidence we would need to feel comfortable. We had been holding out hope for a sharp reduction in cases or a medical breakthrough, but none of that seems to be happening in time."

"We're thrilled that almost the entire cast of our shows are available next year and are looking forward to creating the productions that we intended, without the uncertainty and other challenges that 2020 introduced."

According to Streshinsky, ticket holders for this summer will be asked to choose between a refund and donating the cost of the ticket towards the artists. "When we first realized that postponement was a possibility, making sure that our artists were paid was our top priority. It is unlikely we will be able to realize their full fees, but 100% of the ticket revenue donated will go straight to the artists and crew. We hope that our patrons back us in our mission to make certain this amazing team of talent is recognized and supported."

For more information and a full statement issued to the public, visit the West Edge Website at:

http://www.westedgeopera.org/articles/2020/5/20/statement2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Long Beach Opera's 2021 Season

A great season next year at LBO:

Long Beach Opera 2021 “Season of Solidarity”
Programmed by Yuval Sharon, Interim Artistic Advisor 
 
The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies
Directed & Designed by Andreas Mitisek
Conducted by Stephen Karr
  January 23, 30, 31
 
Les Enfants Terribles by Philip Glass
Directed by James Darrah   
Conducted by Christopher Rountree 
March 20, 27, 28
 
Pierrot Lunaire  / Voices From the Killing Jar
By Arnold Schoenberg / Kate Soper
Directed by Danielle Agami & Zoe Aja Moore
Conducted by Jenny Wong  
April 17, 18
 
Comet / Poppea
Composed by George Lewis and Claudio Monteverdi
Libretto by Douglas Kearney
Directed and conceived by Yuval Sharon
June 20, 26, 27

Separate Release with details on Comet/Poppea here
Season Announcement Video here

I've seen The Lighthouse and Les Enfants Terriblest, both at Opera Parallele, and they are both terrific pieces. (The Glass is much better than the film it's based on!) Pretty great lineup (composers, directors, conductors) for the entire season.

Be there or be square for Long Beach Opera's 2021 season!

Monday, May 18, 2020

War Memorial Opera House Seat Replacement Project


War Memorial Opera House Interior
December, 2019
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


My post last week about the opera house seat replacement project turns out not to have been too far off base. I just received this from SF Opera, over Matthew Shilvock's signature:
I hope this email finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
I am writing today to share an update on the War Memorial Opera House seat upgrade project.
As you know, due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, both San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet have had to cancel the remainder of their 2019–20 seasons. 
In looking ahead to the seat upgrade project scheduled for summer 2021, both companies have been concerned about the additional performance loss in 2021 needed to undertake the project. After much discussion, the Opera, Ballet, and the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center have agreed to reschedule the final phase of the War Memorial Opera House seat replacement installation originally scheduled for May–August 2021. This rescheduling will allow for as much performance activity as possible in the Opera House once it is safe to re-open to the public.
While this news is disappointing, I want you to know that all three organizations are dedicated to completing this project in a timely manner. We are in weekly conversations about next steps and, while discussions are ongoing and preliminary at this time, I am hopeful that we will find a solution that benefits us all. I will keep you updated as soon as we have news to share.
Thank you as always for your support and understanding. 
With gratitude,

As I read this, one implication is that they're expecting the fall season to be truncated in some way. As ever, I am sad, but not surprised. 

Museum Mondays


Lobby
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
May, 2016

Friday, May 15, 2020

If I Were the SF War Memorial and Performing Arts Center....


Interior of the War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
December, 2019


.....I'd be thinking about re-arranging certain scheduled operations taking place in the next year at the opera house.
  • San Francisco Opera fall and spring seasons (September 11 to December 6, 2020; April 25 to May 16, 2021)
  • San Francisco Ballet winter-spring season (dates not yet announced, but let's try December 7, 2020 to May, 2021, if they can run simultaneously with SFO)
  • War Memorial Opera House seating replacement project (May - August 2021)
The opera house seats around 3200, and during performances, there's an orchestra of 40 to 90, plus the on-stage performers, plus lighting, stage, costume, makeup, hair staff, plus ushers, plus people selling stuff at the concession stands and in the gift shop.

Let me guess that replacing the seats would take many fewer people than putting on performances and also let me conjecture that construction projects might be okayed at the state level before gatherings of thousands.

So I'd be on the phone to find out whether the seats (and maybe new carpeting?) could be delivered early. I'd be trying to figure out whether September to December, 2020, could be dedicated to replacing seats, with live performances starting up in January....and running through next summer, to allow SFO and SFB to perform as much of their seasons as possible.

This would be much easier for SFB than for SFO; the ballet is a repertory company of dancers, not a company that is highly dependent on visiting artists, most of whom are here for six weeks to rehearse and perform one work, then leave. (This wasn't always the case in opera; look at the Met archives from the 1900s to 1930s and you see singers here for multiple roles performed over several months.) But everyone's schedules are being disrupted for the next six to eighteen months, so maybe opera companies could find some way to work together on this. Or maybe everything can be recast with singers who don't have out-of-town engagements, or who have workable openings in their own schedules. Philip Skinner in a bunch of leading roles would suit me just fine, for example.

Friday Photo


Columbus Circle, NY
Photo taken from the Museum of Art & Design
February, 2018

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Harbinger of Things to Come


Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


Did I mention nail-biting the other day? Yes, I did, and here are the first cancellations of the 2020-21 season to hit my inbox, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its scheduled US tour, which included two dates at Davies:

October 18: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason
October 19: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, with Gidon Kremer

We will have to wait, again, for MGT's first visit to the Bay Area.

And the China Philharmonic is doing the same, which included this program:

November 8: China Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Rachmaninoff

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Los Angeles Philharmonic Cancels Hollywood Bowl and Ford Seasons


Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
March, 2017


Just a few minutes after I updated my previous posting, which was in part about musical organizations' finances, a press release from the Los Angeles Philharmonic came through, with rather breath-taking, though not really surprising, news: they're cancelling their summer seasons at the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford.

The revenue stream from the Bowl is very large and keeps the LA Phil well-funded and financially stable; note, also, that the orchestra has had exceptionally strong management since Ernest Fleischmann became executive director in 1969. The press release says that the orchestra is facing a revenue shortfall of $80 million. That's bigger than the Met's deficit of $60 million and dwarfs the losses of most other organizations as well.

I suspect that the $80 million is the reason for that measly ask of $50,000 the other week, which I found surprising. The orchestra knew that this was coming, and while they wanted to stay in the public eye, they also wanted to separate this gigantic loss from everyone else's fund-raising.

The full press release is after the cut, but here's an excerpt about what the orchestra is doing to mitigate the revenue loss:
To mitigate these losses, the LA Phil must now take additional steps to address the financial impact caused by the pandemic and is furloughing approximately 25% of its full-time non-union workforce, as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra through September 30, 2020, and is laying off seasonal Hollywood Bowl employees. Prior to these decisions, the Association reduced all non-essential expenses, laid off its part-time employees, instituted salary reductions of 35% in aggregate, and made the decision to draw from its endowment. These cost-saving measures will continue through the summer.   To preserve the LA Phil as it faces unprecedented financial strain, the Association is launching “Play Your Part,” a $35 million campaign. “Play Your Part” will support all of the Association’s ongoing operations and programs, including the LA Phil’s YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) program and other educational initiatives, which serve more than 150,000 youth, families, and teachers every year. As part of the overall campaign, Hollywood Bowl ticketholders will have the option of supporting what has been a summertime tradition for generations of Los Angeles families by donating the value of their tickets back to the LA Phil, raising an initial $1 million from a challenge grant from Jane and Michael Eisner. 

(The above ought to mention that Jane Eisner is one of the vice chairs of the LA Phil's board of directors. I feel it's important to highlight what board members are doing to help any organization during the current financial crisis.)


There's a Lot of Nail-Biting Going On Right Now.

And it's because of the four-step State of California roadmap for restoring various types of events:


(graphic shows four stages of response to the pandemic; the full text is at the link)


Stage 4: End of Stay Home Order. Reopen areas of highest risk; e.g. concerts, conventions, sports arenas.

We're currently just shading into stage 2: lower-risk workplaces, in which we'll "Gradually reopen retail (curbside only), manufacturing & logistics. Later, relax retail restrictions, adapt & reopen schools, child care, offices & limited hospitality, personal services."'

There's no specific timeline for this; the state is wisely relying on public health metrics to determine what is safe. Here are the full criteria for moving fully to stage 2 (alas, a PDF).

What does this mean? It seems to me that it is very unlikely that we'll be attending concerts and opera performances in September. Note, also, reports that certain big tech companies have told their employees that most can choose to work from home until January 1. 

This can only be causing varying degrees of concern on the part of arts organizations' managers and administrators, as well as a lot of consultation with investment advisors. Endowment portfolios must have been affected by the stock market gyrations of the last couple of months, and different organizations, with their different budgets and income sources, will be affected differently.

If you're an organization with a $300 million/year budget and an endowment that started around the same amount, you're in a very different position from an organization with a $75 million/year budget and a $275 million endowment. If you're an organization that kept a famous singer/serial harasser as your general manager, presumably for prestige and his fund-raising abilities, you might find yourself wondering why his fund-raising prowess didn't manage to get the endowment above $22 million, especially when your annual budgets run around $40-45 million. 

That last sentence - the ratio of budget to endowment - is why I am expecting LA Opera to go under rather than survive the ongoing economic crisis in the arts. I have similar expectations of the Baltimore Symphony, which has had ongoing financial problems, with terrible management, and whose music director isn't renewing her contract. 


Monday, May 11, 2020

Claire Chase Benefit Recital


Claire Chase
Photo: from her web site; uncredited


A couple of years ago, I attended, and reviewed, an extraordinary recital, by flutist Claire Chase. In support of the  New Music Solidarity Fund, she is giving a four-hour recital this Thursday, running from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time; that's 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on West Coast. She's streaming the recital from her living room.

I encourage everyone with an interest in new music, the flute repertory, and just plain great music making to listen in! If you're in a position to donate to the New Music Solidarity Fund, please do that as well.

Thursday, May 14, 6-10pm EST
Live New Music Marathon hosted by MUSIC on the Rebound
Claire Chase, flutes

STREAM IT HERE

SET #1: Selections from Density 2036, prelude (2013)
6-6:45pm

Steve Reich: Vermont Counterpoint for flute and pre-recorded flutes (1981)
Marcos Balter: Pessoa for bass flute and five pre-recorded bass flutes (2013)
Mario Diaz de León: Luciform for flute and electronics (2013)
**SURPRISE WORLD PREMIERE**

SET #2: Selections from Density 2036, parts i & ii (2013-14)
7-7:45pm

Felipe Lara: Meditation and Calligraphy for solo bass flute (2014)
Felipe Lara: Parabolas na Caverna for solo amplified flute (2014)
Du Yun: An Empty Garlic for bass flute and electronics (2014)
**SURPRISE WORLD PREMIERE**

SET #3: Selections from Density 2036, parts iii & iv (2015-16)
8-8:30pm


Dai Fujikura: Lila for solo flute (2015)
Suzanne Farrin: The Stimulus of Loss for flute and pre-recorded ondes martenot (2016)
Nathan Davis: Limn for bass flute, contrabass flute and electronics (2015)
Pauline Oliveros: Intensity 21.5 (excerpt) for contrabass flute and speaking flutist (2015)
**SURPRISE WORLD PREMIERE**

SET #4: Selections from Density 2036, part v (2017-18)
8:45-9:15pm


Marcos Balter: Excerpts from Pan, for vocalizing flutist (2017-19)
The Death of Pan
Processional
Pan’s Flute
Echo
Fray
**SURPRISE WORLD PREMIERE**

SET #5: Selections from Density 2036, part vi (2018-19)
9:30-10pm


Pamela Z: Louder, Warmer, Denser for flute, bass flute and fixed media (2019)
Phyllis Chen: Roots of Interior for flutist and her heartbeat (2019)
**SURPRISE WORLD PREMIERE*

Santa Fe Opera Cancels 2020 Summer Season


Santa Fe Opera House
Seen from the parking lot
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


I'm sad, but not surprised. Here's the general director's message, which includes a commitment to providing some compensation to all. Big applause for that:

Dear Friends,
It is with profound sadness that I announce today that the Santa Fe Opera has been forced to cancel its 2020 Season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This difficult but necessary decision was made with the health and safety of our staff, artists, patrons and the entire Santa Fe community at the forefront of our thoughts. 
Throughout our deliberations, we have maintained close contact with our elected officials and we extend our deepest thanks to the Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, for her leadership in guiding our state through this pandemic. 
I am at a loss to describe the disappointment that I myself and all my colleagues feel today. I know that we are joined by the many singers, artisans and musicians who have been tirelessly preparing to bring our 2020 Season to life when I say that our greatest regret is not being able to share in the creative process with you, our beloved patrons. 
Since the early days of the outbreak, we have remained steadfast in our optimism and explored every possible contingency scenario for realizing a 2020 Season – including how to test and quarantine, limiting theater capacity and conducting wellness checks. We remained hopeful that we could somehow prevail and be able to perform this summer. 
Each year at this time, we begin to welcome over 600 additional staff members in preparation for our summer performances. Many of them now face an extremely difficult and uncertain future. It is with their welfare in mind that I announce our commitment to providing a level of compensation to all artists, musicians, artisans and seasonal staff who were engaged for the 2020 Season. 
But, we can only do so with your help. I ask you to please support this commitment by donating the value of your tickets back to the Santa Fe Opera. With over $5 million in tickets already sold for the 2020 Season, this represents the single greatest financial challenge we currently face as well as the greatest opportunity for you to help during this time of unprecedented need.  
I am pleased to announce that a group of generous friends have collectively offered to match all donated tickets dollar-for-dollar – up to $3 million. Your tax-deductible donation will have double the impact and will provide the Santa Fe Opera with a bridge over these dark and turbulent times. 
You will also receive recognition and benefits for the value of your gift during our 2021 Season. We will be contacting all ticket buyers with options in the next 24 hours and we thank you for your kind consideration of this urgent and critical request. 
Once we have surmounted the immediate challenges involved in the cancellation of our season, we will be in touch to discuss plans for our 2021 Season, which will include the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. 
Brighter days will soon be on the horizon, and there is no greater view than from a seat at the Santa Fe Opera.
With deepest gratitude,
Robert K. Meya
General Director

Museum Mondays


Greek Statuary
Musée du Louvre
Paris, October, 2018

Friday, May 08, 2020

Friday Photo


Professor Pat Browne applies pain to my wrist.
Camp Kodenkan Midwest, 1990

I'm not sure who took this photo - it might have been Professor Maureen Browne, Pat's sister, who sent photos to just about everyone who attended camp, which was generally...I think around 50 people, but I'd have to dig up one of my group photos and count. I attended in 1986, 88, 90, and 92, at yonkyu, sankyu, ikkyu, and shodan. I'm sorry I didn't go in 1994, but that was a busy and expensive year: I bought a house and had a new relationship on the east coast. (We're still together, on the west coast.)

Pat was an astonishing martial artist and a great teacher. I met him at my first AJJF convention, in 1984, when he taught a class in rolling and falling. I'll never forget the encouragement he gave to a fellow student at The Dojo who was having some difficulty learning to roll; unsurprisingly, his technical advice worked. When I got back to the school and mentioned how much I'd liked the class to my sensei, she smiled and said "Some people find him totally obnoxious, but I like Pat."

He was funny, profane, smart, honest, and very much to the point. He died much too young, in 1996 at 49; he was exposed to AIDS in a lab accident in the early 1980s and did not quite survive to the age of protease inhibitors and effective treatments for AIDS.

Pat was never my sensei, but his arts and teaching had an enormous effect on me. I will always miss him.

You can see what he was like from some videos that have made it to YouTube.




Monday, May 04, 2020

Summer Festivals


Bronze, grave of sculpture Baltasar Lobo
 (A kneeling male, collapsed in grief and bent over, clutching an upright cane with a curved handle.)
Cimetière du Montparnasse
February, 2019
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


As a friend said to me at the end of March, I have little hope for the summer festivals that haven't already canceled, including:

Grand Tetons (MD Donald Runnicles, for local and distant fans of the conductor) and West Edge have optimistic notes on their web sites. Do I think that Gavin Newsom and Alameda County are going to lift state and local SIP restrictions in time for WEO's rehearsals and performances? Also, Andrew Cuomo, for the NY State events.

Everything at Lincoln Center has been canceled - I don't have a press release, but there's a banner on the web site of Mostly Mozart dated today that leads to a page with a letter from Lincoln Center.

There Goes Merola.


War Memorial Opera House


Another sad landmark: Merola Opera, which was scheduled for July 9 to August 22, 2020, just canceled, for the obvious reasons. The young artists who planned to attend will be able to return as participants in 2021. Press release after the cut.


Museum Mondays


Putto holding the crown and coat of arms of Scotland
Probably by Arnold Quellin and Grinling Gibbons, c. 1686
Victoria & Albert Museu, London
November, 2019


Sunday, May 03, 2020

San Francisco Opera Streaming


War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


SFO is getting on the streaming opera bandwagon. Here's the current schedule:

Boito, Mefistofele, on Saturday, May 9

Followed by - dates not yet announced -

  • Bellini, I Capuleti e i Montecchi
  • Heggie, Moby-Dick
  • Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia


The deal is that these will go up at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Saturdays, and they will be available on the company home page until midnight the following day. (I take this to mean 11:59 PM on Sunday). They will apparently remain available past that date if you have a login.

Let me be the first to nominate a few favorite productions:

  • Elektra, the amazing cast and production from 2017.
  • Don Carlo, 2016, with an astonishing cast.
  • Jenufa, 2016. An excellent cast with an incandescent performance by Karita Mattila and the unforgettable conducting of the late Jiri Belohlavek.
  • Makropulos Case, 2009. An excellent cast with an incandescent performance by Karita Mattila.
  • Dolores Claiborne, 2012
  • Nixon in China, 2012
  • Das Rheingold, because Stefan Margita
  • Die Walküre, 2010, because at the end of Act I, those of us clustered in the reviewer seats were gaping.
  • Madame Butterfly, 2007 (Racette, Jovanovich, Cao, Powell/Runnicles). One of the greatest performances I have ever seen, of anything.


Cancelled














Kalimac has been posting regularly about concerts missed because they were cancelled. Time for me to post a few missed performances myself.

  • Das Liebesverbot, Wagner; Pocket Opera. A great rarity, basically never done anywhere.
  • The Wreckers, Smith; Island City Opera. Another great rarity, possibly the west coast premiere.
  • The Cat Became a Woman (Offenbach) and Cav, Pocket Opera
  • Florence Price, Symphony No. 3, San Francisco Symphony/Michael Morgan (SFS debut) conducting
  • SF Silent Film Festival (postponed to November)
  • German Requiem, Brahms; SFS/MTT (I'm always happy to hear this great work)
  • Igor Levitt in recital
  • Pelléas et Mélisande, LA Opera. I would have paired Pelléas with one of these programs at the LA Phil:
    • Mälkki conducts Saariaho and Sibelius OR
    • Sunday in the Park with George, by the great Stephen Sondheim
  • Ojai Music Festival
  • Partenope, SF Opera, even though I disliked the production first time around.
  • Ernani, SF Opera. Great early Verdi with what sure looked like a great cast.
  • The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, SF Opera. Because I liked it at Santa Fe, there've been some additions to the score, and I figured that Bay Area tech folks would buy tickets out of sheer curiosity, even though the libretto isn't great.
  • The Flying Dutchman; SFS/MTT, with a great cast
  • Mahler 8; MTT's last concert as music director of SFS





Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Another Big Sigh: SFS Cancels Remainder of Season


Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


San Francisco Symphony canceled all concerts scheduled for this season, going all the way out to August 31. This includes whatever the summer concerts would have been in July and August. So, no Flying Dutchman, no Mahler 8, no hours of applause for MTT, who is retiring as music director as of the end of the season. (I note that 2020-21 is starting on the late side this year, and that now looks prescient. I bet that CEO Mark Hanson and MDD Esa-Pekka Salonen are breathing huge sighs of relief just now.)

A short-ish email went to patrons; the press release is extremely informative about how all interested parties (orchestra, paid chorus, stagehands, administration, music director) decided on budgetary savings, that is, salary cuts. I continue to be positively impressed by how Hanson is doing his job.

Note the section about the matching ticket donations by board members and other donors up to $1 million: this is why the LA Phil's request for a measly $50,000 looked so very odd to me.

Full press release after the cut.



A Curious Item


Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


Received yesterday: a begging letter from, wait for this, the LA Philharmonic.

Asking me to donate toward their $50,000* goal.

Yes, that's right. The LA Phil, which is the wealthiest**, biggest-budget*** orchestra in the United States, is asking their donors to give them money toward a very tiny goal. Here's the text:
#GivingTuesdayNow, taking place on May 5 is a global day of giving and unity organized in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. #GivingTuesdayNow will harness the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to drive a spike of generosity and support for communities and nonprofits around the world.
The LA Phil is asking for your support. In times of strain, we turn to the arts – the power of music to uplift us remains constant. For over 100 years, the music of the LA Phil has inspired, taught, united and comforted our community. Your generosity during #GivingTuesdayNow will ensure that we emerge stronger, more vibrant, and more creative than ever.
Join us for #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5 and help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 for the future of the LA Phil. In this time of uncertainty, there’s a fundamental truth that gives us hope – together we can accomplish the extraordinary.

I am perplexed. That could be less than what the orchestra pays Chad Smith's executive assistant. The board members collectively can likely find $50K in the cushions of their sofas. The future of the orchestra in no way depends on raising $50,000 right now.

So what is this about? Just to keep the orchestra in the forefront of people's minds? So they can participate in #GivingTuesdayNow and it would look unseemly to ask for a million when they have so much? Because they actually need the $50K for some immediate need??


* That's the entire annual budget for a small community chorus.

** Because of the giant income stream from the Hollywood Bowl and their $280 million endowment, which is about the same as the Met and San Francisco Opera.

*** Around $120 million/year.

UPDATE: A look at the orchestra's most recent 990 shows that in the two years whose income/expense figures are visible, the LA Phil had the following:

Income, fiscal 2017: $203 million
Expenses, fiscal 2017: $142.5 million
Net income: $60.7 million

Income, fiscal 2018: $190.8 million
Expenses: fiscal 2018: $159 million
Net income: $31.7 million

Again, WTF with the $50,000?


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Santa Fe Opera: Season Decision by May 12


Santa Fe Opera House, seen from parking lot
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


Received from Santa Fe Opera just now:
Dear Friends, 
I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and keeping in good spirits. In line with New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s recent extension of the stay-at-home instruction through May 15, the Santa Fe Opera staff, like many of you, continues to work from home.  
Over the course of the last six weeks, the Santa Fe Opera Leadership Team and Board of Directors have been working tirelessly to evaluate all possible scenarios for the future of our 2020 Season. Working in close communication with the Office of the Governor, we continue to keep the health and safety of our artists, staff and patrons as the primary factor in all deliberations.  
I want to assure you that the Santa Fe Opera is doing everything in our power to do right by our community. We are committed to making the best decision for everyone whose life is touched by the opera and the business it brings to northern New Mexico. We expect to have that announcement by May 12. 
In the meantime, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your patience and continued support. 
With deepest gratitude,Robert K. MeyaGeneral Director
This is the second email from them, and I certainly appreciate their keeping the audience informed of their decision-making process. I would definitely like to see both Rusalka and Tristan und Isolde this season, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020

American Composers Orchestra Concert Series

Gah, I should have reported on this a week ago. The American Composers Orchestra is doing something very cool. They commissioned composers to write new solo works that will be premiered on Zoom, with the performances starting last week.

Here's a complete list and a link:

Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 5pm EST: Ethan Iverson & Miranda Cuckson, violin (info)

Sunday, April 26, 2020 at 5pm EST: Shara Nova & Ahya Simone, harp (info)

Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 5pm EST: Vicente Hansen Atria & Jay Campbell, cello (info)

Sunday, May 10, 2020 at 5pm EST: Sakari Dixon Vanderveer & Derek Bermel, clarinet (info)

Sunday, May 17, 2020 at 5pm EST: Gity Razaz & Jennifer Koh, violin (info)

Sunday, May 24, 2020 at 5pm EST: Yuan-Chen Li & Jeffrey Zeigler, cello (info)

Sunday, May 31, 2020 at 5pm EST: Carlos Simon & Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor and Brooklyn Youth Chorus (info)


Ticket proceeds fund the artists in the project, and you can obtain a fee waiver in two ways:

1. Fill out an anonymous form at https://bit.ly/ACOConnectComp or 

2. Email Aiden Feltkamp at aiden@americancomposers.org to request a fee waiver.