Thursday, October 29, 2020


This is a non-partisan message: if you're a US citizen who is at least 18, cast your vote between now and Tuesday, November 3. There are some states where it's not even too late to register, if you're eligible. You can use's site to register to vote if your state allows registration this late. 

Your voting choices are somewhat reduced at this point.

1. If you're voting by mail-in/absentee ballot, it's too late to put it in the mail. Instead, drop it off at an approved location. DO NOT MAIL IT. It's not guaranteed to get there in time. Use's web site to locate a drop box.

2. Alternatively, vote in person, whether early or on election day. To find out where to vote in person, go to the web site for, type in your address, and click Search.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Museum Mondays

The Care of Children
Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett
London, November, 2019


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Santa Fe Opera 2021

John Crosby Theater, Santa Fe Opera
Photo by me

Santa Fe Opera just announced their plans - some of them, anyway - for 2021. It's a fine season that I'd be happy to attend, between Nozze, Britten Midsummer Night's Dream (a wonderful piece and a superb setting of the play), Eugene Onegin (maybe I'll like it this time around), and, of course, the John Corigliano / Mark Adamo The Lord of Cries, which is, perhaps, what Adamo's Dracula opera has morphed into.

I've put the majority of the press release after the cut. Note the hot and cold running countertenors (Anthony Roth Costanzo as Dionysis in the Corigliano; Iestyn Davies as Oberon in MSND). Angel Blue is a wonderful singer; I have seen her only once, eleven years ago, and I still remember the beauty and spin of her voice.

No mention of rescheduling Tristan und Isolde or Rusalka, both of which I had hoped to hear this year.

A New Production of Mozart’s THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO

Directed by Laurent Pelly

Opens the 64TH Season on July 10

John Corigliano & Mark Adamo’s THE LORD OF CRIES

Directed by James Darrah

Receives its World Premiere on July 17

A New Production of Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN

Directed by Alessandro Talevi

Opens on July 24

A New Production of Britten’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Directed & Designed by Netia Jones

Receives its Company Premiere on July 31


with 2021 Season Artists and The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra led by John Fiore on August 7


on August 15 & 22

3 New Productions; 1 World Premiere; 30 Performances; 23 Debut Artists

21 Returning Artists; 5 Former Apprentices; 3 U.S. Debuts

San Francisco Opera Relief Fund

War Memorial Opera House, SF
Photo by me

Like nearly every other musical organization in the U.S., San Francisco Opera isn't able to sell tickets to much, if anything, these days: future performances that might or might not take place, special events such as the scheduled drive-in screening of Lucia di Lammermoor on October 25, and...what else? And the company would like to continue paying company members, even if at greatly reduced salaries.

So now there's a matching challenge, from various wealthy sponsors. I'll note that John and Cynthia Fry Gunn donated some $40 million to the company a few years back, sponsoring the new music / commissioning project, I believe.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 13, 2020) — San Francisco Opera announces the launch of the Company Relief Challenge, a $5 million matching fund to help underwrite the Company’s support of its members and sustain San Francisco Opera through the unprecedented disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will match one-to-one all annual gifts, pledges and donated ticket funds through November 23, 2020. This critical challenge is made possible by the inspiring generosity of longtime Company sponsors John and Cynthia Fry Gunn, Pitch and Cathie Johnson, and Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem. 
“San Francisco Opera has always enjoyed extraordinary support from the community, but the dedication our donors have shown during this crisis is truly phenomenal,” said San Francisco Opera Association President Keith Geeslin. “I am so grateful to John and Cynthia, Pitch and Cathie, and Maria and Jan for their generous leadership in supporting the people of the Company and inspiring others to follow their example.”

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock stated: “We are a company of makers and creators, each season employing hundreds of the world’s leading singers, instrumentalists, designers, dancers, crew members, administrators and more. We are deeply grateful both to our Company members who are making such deep sacrifices right now and to the community of opera lovers that is sustaining these incredible employees and artists, allowing us to present world-class opera long into the future. The support that this challenge will make possible ensures we will come back to an exciting future that includes Eun Sun Kim’s inaugural 2021–22 Season and our 2022–23 Centennial Season with confidence, optimism and creativity.”

For more information or to donate to San Francisco Opera’s Company Relief Challenge, visit or call San Francisco Opera Donor Services at (415) 565-3212.

The global pandemic has caused the cancellation of San Francisco Opera’s Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 seasons. During the shutdown, the Company continues to engage with audiences and share great artistry worldwide through new initiatives including Opera is ON, streams of past performances, the Opera Aficionado interactive education series and alternative programming such as the virtual event Celebrating the Summer Season. Over the past months, as health orders have permitted, limited work has resumed at San Francisco Opera’s Scene Shop and Costume Shop. The construction of a new orchestra shell and multilevel set of Fidelio (the new production which was to have premiered last month) will allow the Company to be innovative and flexible in its programming. The Costume Shop has begun creating costumes for future productions while continuing to produce thousands of face masks for Bay Area essential workers. The shutdown has also allowed the final phase of the War Memorial Opera House seat upgrade project to take place this fall and winter, ensuring a more comfortable and accessible opera-going experience when performances resume in the Opera House.

My thought on this: if you can, support the local artistic organizations that are important to you.

Friday, October 23, 2020

More Opera is On from SFO


War Memorial Opera House
Photo by me

Here's what's coming from SFO:

This week: Nozze di Figaro

October 31–November 1: Donizetti’s Lucia di LammermoorOssonce; Dessay, Filanoti, Viviani. 2008. I've never seen this cast/conductor/production.

November 7–8: Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball): Luisotti; Di Giacomo, Vargas, Hampson, Zajick. 2014.

November 14–15: Mussorgsky’s Boris GodunovSinaisky; Ramey, Uhlenhopp, Kowaljow, Ognovenk, Yang. 2008.

November 21–22: Verdi’s Rigoletto: Luisotti; Demuro, Lucic, Kurzak, Silvestrelli. 2012.

November 28–29: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of  Love). Campanella; Mula, Vargas, Corbelli.

Upcoming at San Francisco Symphony

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by me

 From the subscriber/ticket buyer email:

The San Francisco Symphony, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, and our Collaborative Partners join forces in a free online event that reflects the forward-looking and vibrant creativity of our Orchestra. This one-hour concert program is anchored by the world premiere of Throughline, a new SF Symphony commission specially composed for this occasion by Nico Muhly, with performances by SF Symphony musicians and all eight Collaborative Partners, filmed in locations across the globe. The program also includes performances of Ellen Reid’s Fear / Release for percussion quartet; John Adams’ Shaking and Trembling from Shaker Loops, conducted by Salonen; Kev Choice’s Movements, an SF Symphony commission recently released as part of the CURRENTS series; and the opening movement from Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Opus 95.

Throughline: San Francisco Symphony—From Hall to Home is dedicated to the memory of longtime SF Symphony friend and supporter Ann Getty. The event will be accessible to the widest possible audience, streaming worldwide free of charge at and broadcasting locally on KQED Public Television Nov 14 at 7pm PST. The program will re-broadcast on NBC Bay Area on Nov 30 at 7pm PST. 

Friday Photo

Panorama from Chelsea looking north to midtown
NYC, October, 2019


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

LA Phil Cancels Balance of 2020-21


Walt Disney Concert Hall
March, 2017
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

The LA Philharmonic has bowed to the inevitable and canceled the rest of their planned 2020-21 season. Here's the email to subscribers and ticket purchasers:

We are sad to share that, due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis, all LA Phil-presented concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall have been canceled through June 9, 2021. While this news may not be surprising in this climate, it is heartbreaking to keep our venues silent and not be able to share in the experience of live music with you.

As a result of this cancellation, we’ve compiled answers to some common questions to help alleviate any confusion.

If conditions change, could the LA Phil plan new concerts that would happen in spring 2021?
The LA Phil is closely monitoring federal, state, and local public health guidelines and regulations. If we are able to stage socially distanced or outdoor live events in the spring, subscribers will have the opportunity to purchase tickets before the general public.

Will the 2021/22 season include the same artists as the 2020/21 season?
While some of the guest artists who were scheduled to perform in the 2020/21 season may join us for our 2021/22 season, the programs will be different. We anticipate sharing the 2021/22 season programming with you in April 2021.

If I purchased concert tickets, how are those tickets being handled?
Any tickets purchased for the 2020/21 season have been returned as an account credit. As programs will be changing, it relieves you of the need to exchange tickets later. You can simply use your account credit to purchase individual concerts when they become available.

If I have previously requested an account credit or refund, how can I confirm that this request has been completed? 
You may log in to your account at to confirm the status of any previous requests. You are able to see account credit total amounts and you may confirm that a refund has been processed by viewing your subscription under Order History. If you need additional assistance, you may contact Audience Services at or by calling 323 850 2000 from 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday.

Can I talk to someone about my tickets?
Yes, we are here to answer any questions you may have and guide you through this process. Please contact us by email at or by phone at 323 850 2000 between 10am and 6pm Monday through Friday. Due to heavy phone volume and reduced staff, we encourage you to contact us by email to avoid experiencing longer-than-normal wait times.

What is the LA Phil doing during this time?
The LA Phil is continuing to share music online and on the air. In September we launched the first season of SOUND/STAGE, a series of short concert films recorded on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. We are excited to announce the second season will kick off in early January. On January 15, In Concert At the Hollywood Bowl , which ran on KCET and PBS SoCal in the Los Angeles area this summer, will be given a national run. Our newest venue, The Ford, launched a fully digital 2020 seasonfeaturing performances, workshops, and summits with some of Los Angeles’ most exciting artists. Check out our social media channels and websites, or sign up for a weekly Watch & Listen email to get the latest performance videos, playlists, interviews, and more from the LA Phil.

How can I help?
Please consider making a donation to the LA Phil and Learning programs like YOLA, which have continued to serve musicians in under-resourced communities throughout this crisis. Between the concert cancelations at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl this year, the LA Phil has lost approximately $105M as a result of the pandemic. We need your support to help sustain our work during this period, as we continue to realize Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel’s vision of music for all.

Thank you for being a part of the LA Phil family. Knowing that there is a community of music lovers waiting to come together again gives us something to look forward to – our first concert with you as part of our audience is going to be one we will all remember and cherish.

In the meantime, we wish you good health and great music.

And here's the press release:

In accordance with current guidance from public health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association is cancelling the remainder of its previously scheduled concerts for the 2020/21 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall through June 9, 2021.

While Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and The Ford are closed to the public due to COVID-19, the LA Phil is bringing its music and programming to the broadest possible audience through a far-reaching set of media partnerships and digital initiatives. These wide-ranging programs will continue in the new year and will include new episodes of the LA Phil’s innovative media project SOUND/STAGE, which brings together short concert films with essays, interviews, and bonus performances by some of today’s most exciting artists and thinkers; In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a six-episode television series hosted by Gustavo Dudamel airing on PBS stations nationwide starting January 15; and more. 

Chad Smith, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s David C. Bohnett Chair Chief Executive Officer, said, “As hard as it is to lose entire seasons at the Hollywood Bowl, The Ford and now Walt Disney Concert Hall, we are responding creatively under Gustavo’s leadership, so we can continue to bring music, learning programs and important conversations to the largest possible audience in Los Angeles and beyond. This is truly a joint effort of the entire LA Phil community, with leadership from our Board, ongoing support from our generous donors, the open-hearted collaboration of our brilliant orchestra and staff and the work of some of the finest media and programming partners in their fields. Together with all of Los Angeles, we will arrive on the other side of this pandemic. We now look toward next summer, when we will welcome audiences back to the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford and celebrate each iconic venue’s centenary with new meaning and purpose.”

Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said, “Cultural institutions like ours must be a part of the very fabric of our community, and during this challenging time we must strive to inspire and empower people even more through our music and programming. We must reach across genres through screens, livestreams, and more, and remember that each note we play also carries with it an element of hope for the future and a desire for a better world. In the end, I believe that music and art will heal the soul of our community.”

Launched in May 2020, the “Play Your Part” fundraising campaign aims to mitigate the approximately $105 million revenue loss the LA Phil will experience as a result of COVID-19. The campaign helps to support the LA Phil’s operations and programs such as YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), which have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. 

Thomas L. Beckmen, Los Angeles Philharmonic Board Chair, said, “As we look forward to brighter days, we must ensure that the LA Phil remains vibrant and is supported until we are once more able to gather. The LA Phil continues to be here for all of us, and so we must play our part in bolstering this great institution so it can serve the people and communities of Los Angeles and the world long into the future.”

The LA Phil will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and will reassess the Association’s situation as necessary. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Bang on a Can Today

Looking for good music today? Bang on a Can's online marathon has this approximate schedule:

Bang on a Can October 18, 2020 Marathon Performance Schedule

Set times are approximate


3pm     George Crumb A Little Midnight Music (selections) performed by Susan Grace


Annie Gosfield Curveballs and Asteroids (world premiere) performed by Ken Thomson


Christina Wheeler performing her own A Coda for the Totality of Blackness Trilogy (world premiere) 


Alvin Singleton Argoru II performed by Seth Parker Woods


4pm     Haushka


Jeffrey Brooks Santuario (world premiere) performed by Mark Stewart


Mazz Swift performing her own Give up the world 


Greg Saunier John Paul George and Ringo Pry Open the Gates of Hell (world premiere) performed by David Cossin


Gemma Peacocke Fear of Flying (world premiere) performed by Nathalie Joachim


5pm     David Longstreth  


John Fitz Rogers Come Closer performed by Mike Harley


William Parker performing his own Hum Spirituals (world premiere) 


Leaha Maria Villarreal The Warmth of Other Suns performed by Andie Tanning


6pm     Tyshawn Sorey 


Tania León Paisanos Semos! and Bailarín performed by JIJI


Anna Webber 


Christopher Cerrone Liminal Highway (first 2 mvmts) performed by Tim Munro


7pm     Valgeir Sigurðsson Brevis (world premiere) performed by Vicky Chow


Nels Cline & Yuka C. Honda


Daniel Bernard Roumain Why Did They Kill Sandra Bland? (world premiere) performed by Arlen Hlusko


Du Yun 


8pm     Krists Auznieks Arise (world premiere) performed by Robert Black


Bill Frisell 


That URL is

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tsk, Tsk, NY Times.

I'm a pretty regular reporter of typos and factual errors to the NY Times, that is, at least once a month and sometimes more often than that. I count 18 this year. Usually, I send email to the paper's tell-us-the-error address; sometimes I contact the writer. Usually, I get action.

There's an error that has been up at the Times since April about which I sent email and I tried to contact the author (on Twitter, probably a mistake). It's in this Michael Kimmelman article about skyscrapers on Park Avenue.

Scroll down to the photo that's labeled as follows:

The MetLife Building, formerly known as the Pan Am Building, from 1963, squatting over Grand Central Terminal in the middle of Park Avenue.


That's the MetLife Building in the background, all right. But the photo was taken from E. 49th and Park Avenue looking south, and the building over which the MetLife Building squats is the Helmsley Building, not Grand Central Terminal. Here's a similar photo of the Helmsley Building, from Wikipedia; and here's a photo showing the MetLife Building and Grand Central Terminal

You'd think that a photo editor at the NY Times would be able to tell Grand Central from the Helmsley Building. Either the caption or the photo should be corrected. 

Belated Friday Photo


Took my car to the car wash yesterday. Most of the ash from the fires is now gone.
Oakland, CA
October, 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Museum Mondays

St. Anthony Abbot and St. Stephen
Victoria & Albert
November, 2019

Detail of St. Anthony Abbot


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Music at Kohl Mansion

 Music at Kohl Mansion has sent out information about the first part of its upcoming season, with a further announcement coming in December. Let me guess that the future announcement is predicated on whether or not it will be possible to have any in-person programming in 2021.

The press release has information about pricing ($20/ticket), but nothing about how you access these on-line performances. Presumably they provide this when you buy the tickets or right before the concerts take place. If you'd like to purchase tickets, start here.

Fauré Quartett, Sunday, November 1 at 7 p.m.

Programming for this concert will feature Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Opus 15 and two songs by the celebrated French composer, “Notre amour” and “Les berceaux.” [Note from your blogger: the Fauré Quartett is a piano quartet, not a string quartet.] 

Cellist Amit Peled, Sunday, November 15 at 7 p.m.; guest pianist to be announced

In honor of the Beethoven 250 Celebration, the program will feature Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Opus 69 and Cello Sonata No, 4 in C Major, Opus 102.

Alexander String Quartet, Sunday, January 24, 2021 at 7 p.m.

The Beethoven 250 Celebration continues with the grand master’s highly inventive, six- movement String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Not Going to be "Haunted"

Netflix has a new series available, The Haunting of Bly Manor.  That name should ring a bell: Bly is the site of Henry James's story The Turn of the Screw and Benjamin Britten's great opera of the same name.

From the trailer, it looks as though this film is a flat-out horror movie, a description that suits neither the James nor the Britten. The James is extremely subtle; you can hardly tell what's real. When I read it a few years ago, it seemed as though there was a single clarifying sentence about the events in the story. The Britten is more explicit, and terrifying in its own way, but the chills are musical and psychological.

Horror stories they're not. I expect to stay away from Bly Manor.

Cancellations Left and Right

The other week, the Met canceled the balance of the 2020-21 season. This week, Philharmonia Baroque canceled everything through April, 2021. As their web site says:

There is no indication that halls will reopen to capacity, we cannot bring guest artists to the U.S. from other countries because borders are closed, and most importantly, it remains unsafe for our musicians and audience.

The Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills says:

Last July 30, we shared with you our intended programming for the coming year, full of hope that we would be able to invite you back to our stages in some manner. But we have now determined that The Wallis will not open its two indoor theaters - the Bram Goldsmith and the Lovelace Studio Theaters - prior to September 1, 2021, due to the current state of the viral pandemic, local and county health and safety regulations and significant economic sensitivities. Naturally, this is heartbreaking for all of us, but we do not foresee a viable way to make indoor live performances work safely and economically at this time.

I'm sorry to say that we should expect a lot more of this in the next few weeks. I will be very surprised if San Francisco Opera's planned spring performances (Barber of Seville, Der Zwerg, and concerts with Lianna Haroutounian and Irene Theorin) take place as planned. I mean, maybe the concerts could be done outdoors someplace, if the singers are able to travel here and then travel to their respective homes.


Bonus Friday Photo

Doorway, Square Rapp
October, 2018

Bonus because I found a photo that I published twice.


Friday Photo


San Francisco Bay from Oakland Airport
January, 2015

Monday, October 05, 2020

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Early Retirement

Mariusz Kwiecien

Damn: Mariusz Kwiecien is retiring from opera. The baritone injured his back several years ago during rehearsals for Don Giovanni at the Met. He had surgery, for a slipped disc, then subsequently had a second surgery that involved an implant between vertebrae in his back. He's only 47 and surely had a decade or more ahead of him.

I was lucky enough to see him three times, and hoo boy did he make an impression on me. He has an extremely beautiful voice and a truly magnetic, very sexy, stage presence.

First was San Francisco Opera's 2007 Don Giovanni, with Donald Runnicles conducting and an excellent David McVicar production. It was the most successful production of this opera I have seen, because it took the plot seriously and didn't clown around. Also, Kwiecien was just exactly right: virile, sexy, dominating, a little cruel.

Next, Krol Roger, in the title role, a specialty of his, at Santa Fe in 2012. That's a pretty great piece, not done nearly often enough for...incomprehensible reasons, and Kwiecien was at the center of a superb cast (William Burden, in 1960s sheepskin, was the Shepherd, Erin Morley the queen).

Five years ago, he was back for the musically and vocally glorious Don Carlo in SF, which I happily saw twice. He isn't quite a Verdi baritone, but still, his Rodrigo was dramatically magnificent and sounded glorious with Michael Fabiano's Carlo.

So, this is a big loss for opera. A wonderful singer with a great stage presence, Mariusz Kwiecien will be greatly missed. Wishing him success in his future endeavors; he's going to assume the position of Artistic Director of the Wrocław Opera starting with the 2020-21 season.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Thursday, October 01, 2020

San Francisco Opera Resumes Streaming


War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Starting in roughly ten days, San Francisco Opera will resume its weekly streams of operas staged in the last few years. Here's what's coming.

October 10-11, 2020. Tosca, from 2014, in the Thierry Bosquet production that was in use from 1997 until the first bring-up of the new production. Cast: Lianna Haroutounian (house and role debut), Tosca; Brian Jagde, Cavaradossi; Mark Delavan, Scarpia; Dale Travis, Sacristan; Joel Sorensen, Spoletta; Efrain Solis, Sciarrone; Scott Connor, Angelotti. Riccardo Frizza, conductor; Jose Maria Condemi, director.

October 17-18, 2020. Attila, from 2012. Ferrucio Fulanetto, Attila; Lucrecia Garcia, Odabella (I would swear I saw Oksana Dyka in this?); Quinn Kelsey, Ezio; Diego Torre, Foresto; Samuel Ramey, Pope Leo. Conducted by Nicola Luisotti, directed by Gabriele Lavia.

October 24-25, 2020. Le Nozze di Figaro, from 2015, in the awful old production. Philippe Sly, Figaro; Lisette Oropesa, Susanna; Luca Pisaroni, Count Almaviva; Nadine Sierra, Countess Almaviva; Kate Lindsey, Cherubino; John Del Carlo, Bartolo; Catherine Cook, Marcelina; Maria Valdes, Barbarina. Patrick Summers conducts.

My opinions on these: Haroutounian is worth the price of a ticket for the Tosca, in which Jagde is boxy and Frizza misses almost completely what Puccini needs. I remember nothing about Attila except that I suspected we wouldn't be seeing Ramey here again. I missed this Nozze because I swapped my tickets for Les Troyens so friends on a tight budget could see it. The cast is certainly attractive, although I remember my raised eyebrows over the casting of Nadine Sierra, who had been a charming Papagena, as the Countess.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"A Little Off Most of Our Radars"

The post title is how I heard a KDFC announcer describe Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. I mean, it's amazing that one of Shaw's works made the "Classical Top 100" garbage contest that KDFC does every year, but is that ever a tell. They've played enough Shaw that the piece they were playing got the votes to be in 54th place; they have the reach to get Shaw or any other composer "on the radar" of their listeners, and yet they make this bogus claim.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Effects of the Met HD Broadcasts

 Over on Twitter, someone has stated that the Met HD broadcasts hurt other opera companies. The person - who is anonymous - knows this because they "do some work with classical music people" who know. I suggested that the Twitterer ask those people to write about this, and the person say, no, not going to do that. I then noted that if someone put the figures together and got them to a journalist, well, there's a story there.

I'm seriously curious about this. I can imagine the Met broadcasts boosting ticket sales by getting people interested in opera, and those people buy their first tickets to their local, smaller opera company. I can imagine people choosing to go to the broadcasts over live opera because the tickets are cheap, the seats are comfortable, the picture is big, and you can nibble on popcorn during the show. I should also note that there aren't that many companies doing opera on the Met's scale, with lavish sets, big orchestra, and internationally known singers, conductors, and directors.

Locally, the broadcasts aren't cutting into ticket sales by my personal local company, West Edge Opera, which sells out by putting on theatrically innovative, musically strong, performances of opera that is more on the fringes of the repertory than what the Big Company in Town does. They mostly cede core repertory to San Francisco Opera and put on complementary works, in other words, although the WEO Boheme was fantastic, possibly the funniest and most poignant production of that evergreen opera that I've ever seen. 

Challenge to the reader: if you know anything solid about the effects of the Met HD broadcasts - that is, if you can show that an opera company was either harmed or helped by them - and you're willing to talk about this and be quoted, let me know. Or let your local music or arts writer know, or even the folks at the NY Times. We're all ears.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Shape of Things to Come: Met Cancels Balance of 2020-21 Season

Lincoln Center Fountain at night; a circular fountain with many small upward jets of water

Lincoln Center Plaza Fountain
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Well, this doesn't look good: the Met just canceled what was left of the 2020-21 season, which is to say, everything from December 31 to whenever in the May the season was planned to end. Presumably, this leaves the chorus, orchestra, stagehands, costumers, makeup artists, set builders, and administrative staff already on furlough without income through at least then.

Here's Peter Gelb blathering:
“The future of the Met relies upon it being artistically as powerful as ever, if not more so,” Mr. Gelb said in an interview. “The artistic experiences have to be better than ever before to attract audiences back. Where we need to cut back is costs.”

Spend less money, improve the artistic experience? Good luck with that. I mean, it could happen, but probably not at the Met. Here's more:

Mr. Gelb said that the Met would offer to begin paying its work force again during this dark period if the unions agreed to leaner multiyear contracts. The disclosure earlier this week that James Levine, the company’s former music director, had received a $3.5 million settlement after the Met fired him in 2018, citing sexual misconduct, could complicate negotiations.

You don't say.

The article does include some information on the 2021-22 season, which has been announced in full. More on that later.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Museum Mondays

Drawn Stone, by Andy Goldsworthy
Site-specific work for the DeYoung Museum of Art
San Francisco, CA, 2006


Friday, September 18, 2020

The 2016 Presidential Election

 I expect that I probably don't need to tell you how many times in the last 20 years, and last 4 years, I've contemplated the awfulness of democracy in the United States. We elect the president through an antiquated system that throws far too much power to less populous states. The number of people in Congress was limited back in the early 20th century, so that the number of electors in no way reflects the current population distribution. (There's an article about the Electoral College at, if you want more details.)

Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by about a half-million votes. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by nearly three million votes. She lost the Electoral College owing to fewer than 80,000 votes for Trump in three states, of which at least one had serious voter suppression issues. I want to also mention that the Republicans in the Senate collectively received ~24M fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. None of this is democratic.

Consider what the last few years have been like:

  • Mitch McConnell holding a vacant Supreme Court seat open in hopes of a Republican victory.
  • Two new conservative justices appointed; Merrick Garland never even getting a vote.
  • Rollbacks of environmental protections.
  • Russian attacks on the 2016 and 2020 elections.
  • The widespread replacement of career civil servants with cronies.
  • An astounding degree of corruption.
  • The Attorney General acting as the president's lawyer, not our lawyer.
  • 200,000 Americans dead of the coronavirus.
  • Attacks on LGTBIQA+ protections and people.
And now Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who should have retired during the Obama Administration, is gone, and there is a good chance that we'll have yet another conservative justice on the Supreme Court. 

This isn't the will of the people, and, again, don't ever tell me the parties are the same. And don't ever tell me that the tyranny of the minority is a good thing.

Friday Photo


Former Masonic Temple; Former Marciano Foundation Museum
Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
June, 2019

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The 2000 Presidential Election

I think a lot about the 2000 presidential election in the US, about Al Gore and how the world would be different today if it hadn't been for the Palm Beach County, FL, butterfly ballot, which meant that thousands of people accidentally voted for right-wing ideologue Pat Buchanan instead of VP Al Gore;  Ralph Nader, who got more than 93,000 votes in Florida; and the halted recount of ballots in Florida (damn you, SCOTUS). 

  • John Roberts and Samuel Alito wouldn't be on the Supreme Court today (or they would have had to wait for the next Republican president).
  • Gore just might have listened to the intelligence reports that said Osama bin Laden was planning an attack on the US, and maybe to the FBI reports about people taking lessons in how to fly jets.
  • If 9/11 had happened, Gore would have gone after bin Laden rather than cooking up lies to justify the disastrous Iraq War, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and what stability there was in the region.
  • We would almost certainly have had real action on global warming.
Contemplate the above when people tell you the Democrats and the Republicans are the same. Contemplate the willingness of the Republican Party to hold up a SCOTUS nominee. Contemplate the GOP's eagerness to restrict the rights of your fellow citizens to vote. Contemplate their happiness in denying economic relief to your fellow citizens and their unwillingness to support the public health measures that could greatly limit the pandemic (as we approach 200,000 acknowledged dead). Contemplate their willingness to stand by as career civil servants are replaced by Trump's incompetent and criminal cronies.

The parties aren't identical. Don't believe anyone who tells you they are.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Update on the War Memorial Opera House Seat Replacement Project


Opera house interior
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
December, 2019

Email received from a very excited Matthew Shilvock brings good news: the War Memorial Opera House seat replacement project, which was originally to have been done in May-August, 2021, but was postponed, is going to be pulled in and done this year through January, instead. I called this one in May:
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.

It's a good move. I had wondered whether this would be logistically possible, given the number of seats involved and the number of people who would be working in the opera house. Hooray for the suppliers and the construction crew! 

Update with links (9/16/2020):