Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Philadelphia Orchestra Pulls Together

The Philadelphia Orchestra sent out a press release this morning that is a great example of working together during a difficult time. In brief, the administration and the musicians negotiated the following to make sure that the orchestra would survive ("preserve recent financial progress"):

  • Musicians take voluntary 20% salary reduction starting April 1.
  • Staff salaries reduced by net 20% based on salary level beginning April 1.
  • Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin voluntarily reduces compensation (foregoing 20% of his April and May compensation). Yes, one might reasonably wonder why his other institution didn't handle their financial problems this well. Also, if you're drawing music director salaries from two big musician institutions....maybe you could take a bigger cut.
Here's the full press release:

(Philadelphia, March 31, 2020)—The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and the musicians of the Orchestra today jointly announced that musicians have volunteered to take a temporary salary reduction of 20%, beginning April 1, to help counter the significant financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This cooperative step to preserve institutional financial progress of recent years is complemented by a 20% net reduction in staff salaries, based on salary level, also beginning April 1. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin is forgoing 20% of his March and April compensation. These steps are among a series of measures the organization has been taking since the last concert performed on March 12, 2020. 

A call to donate tickets to cancelled concerts has been met generously by dedicated Philadelphia Orchestra audience members, and additional financial gifts made in the context of the crisis have contributed to the initial phase of a plan for long-term financial recovery.

To enable ongoing connection to the Orchestra during a time when music is vitally important, audiences can engage with the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra. Through three specific endeavors—WATCH, LISTEN, LEARN—the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra offers access to past and previously unreleased performance videos, specially-created content from musicians of the orchestra, online learning, new Listen On Demand audio, and more at www.philorch.org/virtual. The Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra is generously funded, in part, by the William Penn Foundation. LEARN initiatives of the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra are supported by Wells Fargo. 

“In the challenging new reality of the COVID-19 crisis, the priorities of The Philadelphia Orchestra are to maintain the integrity of the ensemble, to take care of our people, and to preserve a position of financial strength built by our dedicated Board, generous donors and audiences in the recent past,” said President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky.“We have a plan, and we have taken important initial steps. We will continue to work together to inspire support so that when we come back to the concert hall and to our communities in person we are as vibrant and vital as ever.” 

“The musicians of the Orchestra are dedicated to helping ensure a bright future for The Philadelphia Orchestra," said David Fay, chair of the Members’ Committee of the Orchestra. “This salary reduction is an expression of our commitment to work to maintain the progress we have made together. We look forward to being with our audience again and to thanking them in person for their support during this time.”

“We remain focused on the future.” said Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “We are in this together, and know that our collective strength and resolve will bring us together again. We look forward to when we can reunite to thank our beloved audiences for the outpouring of support that we have felt so deeply.”


I have said this in the past, but it's important to compare this excellent leadership and communication style to what went on previously with the orchestra.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Cabrillo Festival Cancels

Well, I'm sad about this one. I never get to as many concerts at Cabrillo as I'd like, and this year looked especially good. I don't know whether the Festival will bring up this year's program next year, which seems potentially tough given artist schedules and how far in advance they're set.

One thing I do like is Cabrillo's commitment to keeping their staff and paying something to the orchestra, guest performers, and others.

This is the farthest-out US cancellation that I am aware of, chronologically speaking. It means we should watch for other events from June to August to also be cancelled.

Press release:

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Announces Cancellation of 2020 Season
SANTA CRUZ, CA - March 30, 2020 - The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America's longest running festival of new orchestral music, regrets to announce the cancellation of its 2020 Season, scheduled for July 26 - August 9, 2020.
For the past 58 years, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music has been at the forefront of presenting new music, bringing together audiences with preeminent and emerging composers, an orchestra of dedicated professional musicians, and renowned guest artists from across the globe to give voice to works which are rarely more than a year or two old. It's 2020 Season, led by Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru, was brimming with timely, topical, and thought-provoking new works.
However, in light of national and local guidelines regarding social distancing and the spread of COVID-19, the Festival will be canceling its season, for the first time in its 58-year history.
"The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music distinguishes itself not just by the music we play, but by the unique sense of intimacy and connection we create among our musicians, our audiences, our staff and volunteers," said Executive Director Ellen Primack. "That sense of intimacy is at the core of who we are. Our artists travel from across the country and globe and stay in homes with members of our community - making us especially vulnerable. In turn, we feel a special sense of responsibility to safeguard those we hold most dear to us."
In a time of great uncertainty, the Cabrillo Festival will remain loyal to its orchestra, artists, contractors, and production team, providing them some form of compensation, and also intends to retain its full staff through this temporary cessation.
"We are working on ways to share the music our audience has come to expect at Cabrillo - new, thought-provoking content addressing the issues of our time," said Măcelaru. "This is not a substitute for the spiritual connection we form with our audience each year, but a bridge to the 2021 season. I speak on behalf of the entire orchestra when I say that we are deeply grateful to the Cabrillo Festival family for supporting us through this current situation. Their generosity will ensure a strong and healthy return in 2021. Music plays a crucial role in the healing of our societies. I cannot wait to welcome our audience and musicians back to celebrate our shared love for new music."
Subscription holders may donate their ticket(s) as a tax-deductible gift to the Festival, or receive a full refund.
More information is at www.cabrillomusic.org.
Stay connected to the Cabrillo Festival at http://cabrillomusic.org/blog/

Museum Mondays

Paragon speaker, designed by Arnold Wolf
California Midcentury Design
LACMA, March, 2012

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the leading composers of the Polish avant-garde, died on Sunday, March 29, at the age of 86. I don't know much of his music - yes, I know! I should! - but was lucky enough to hear a gripping performance of the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima at San Francisco Symphony, led by the young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski. It's a great piece, deeply moving, and whatever the composer claimed....extremely beautiful.

Opera Streaming

The news site OperaWire has what it's calling a comprehensive list of all opera companies in Europe and the US that are currently streaming past opera performances. It is a very impressive list!

I've seen the streaming information for a few of these companies, and wow. La Monnaie has an especially great-looking bunch of operas, with rarities. This week (March 30 to April 5) the Met has a great line-up. Yeah, Barber of Seville, but JDD, JDF, and PETER MATTEI??? I am so there for it.

That Dialogues was stunning, and I am always up for Nixon in China. All performances start at 7:30 Eastern time.
Monday, March 30
Poulenc’s Dialogues des CarmélitesStarring Isabel Leonard, Adrianne Pieczonka, and Karita Mattila, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From May 11, 2019. 
Tuesday, March 31
Rossini’s Il Barbiere di SivigliaStarring Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, and Peter Mattei, conducted by Maurizio Benini. From March 24, 2007.
Wednesday, April 1
John Adams’s Nixon in ChinaStarring Janis Kelly and James Maddalena, conducted by John Adams. From February 12, 2011.
Thursday, April 2
Verdi’s Don CarloStarring Marina Poplavskaya, Roberto Alagna, Simon Keenlyside, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 11, 2010.
Friday, April 3
Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles Starring Diana Damrau, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecien, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. From January 16, 2016.
Saturday, April 4
Verdi’s MacbethStarring Anna Netrebko, Joseph Calleja, Željko Lučić, and René Pape, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From October 11, 2014.
Sunday, April 5
Bellini’s NormaStarring Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, and Matthew Rose, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. From October 7, 2017.  

University of Michigan Fires David Daniels

From the NY Times, the opening paragraphs of an article about UMich firing countertenor David Daniels; emphasis is mine:
The University of Michigan on Thursday fired David Daniels, a professor of voice and one of the world’s leading countertenors, one year after he and his husband were charged with sexually assaulting another singer. 
It was the first time in more than 60 years that the university’s Board of Regents had voted to dismiss a tenured faculty member, according to the board chairman, Ron Weiser. The board also denied Mr. Daniels severance pay. 
“At the heart of every decision of the board is the safety and well-being of our students, and the integrity of the instruction to which our students are entitled,” Mr. Weiser said. “When the board sees this jeopardized by a tenured member of the faculty, we believe it is necessary to take the extreme action of dismissal.”
I'm certainly glad that Daniels is gone; other reports make it clear that he had a reputation at Michigan as a harasser. But I can guarantee you that there is zero chance that he was the first tenured professor in sixty years to commit academic fraud, harass or assault a student or  staff member or fellow faculty member, or emotionally abuse a student. Where the hell has Michigan been since 1960? Not looking out for the safety of people on campus.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Health Care

I guess, with 3 million people filing for unemployment in the last week, it is being driven home in spectacular fashion just what a terrible idea it is to have people's health care tied to their employment and relationship status. (That is, there are people who have health insurance because they are partnered with or married to people who have health insurance through their jobs.)

Remember, those 3 million people probably represent 4 to 6 million people who might have lost their employer-provided health insurance.

Friday Photo

SF Civic Center
February, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Merola Opera, 2020

In other optimistic news, the Merola program of the San Francisco Opera announced its summer season today:
Schwabacher Summer ConcertPresidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave., San Francisco
7:30pm, Thursday, July 9
2:00pm, Saturday, July 11
Tickets: $35-$55

Postcard from Morocco:
Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave., San Francisco
7:30pm, Thursday, July 23
2:00pm, Saturday, July 25
Tickets: $55-$80
Le nozze di Figaro:Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave., San Francisco
7:30pm, Thursday, August 6
2:00pm, Saturday, August 8
Tickets: $55-$80 
Merola Grand Finale:War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
7:30pm, Saturday, August 22
Tickets: $25-$50Reception tickets: $75
And the Merola fellows are:

Emily Blair, Hoffman Estates, Illinois
Catherine Goode, Friendswood, Texas
Magdalena Kuźma, New York, New York
Celeste Morales, San Antonio, TexasAshley Marie Robillard, Norton, Massachusetts 
Mikayla Sager, Vancouver, BC, CanadaJohanna Will, Dresden, Germany

Mezzo-sopranosGabrielle Barkidjija, River Forest, Illinois Gabrielle Beteag, Atlanta, Georgia
Jesse Mashburn, Hartselle, AlabamaNikola Printz, Novato, CaliforniaIsabel Signoret, Miami, Florida

Victor Cardamone, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Gabriel Hernandez, Tampa, Florida
Philippe L’Esperance, Grafton, Massachusetts WooYoung Yoon, Seoul, South KoreaTianchi Zhang, Huainan, Anhui, China

Thomas Lynch, Lynbrook, New YorkSamson McCrady, Tucson, ArizonaLaureano Quant, Barranquilla, Colombia

Bass-baritonesBen Brady, Denver, Colorado
Andrew Dwan, Mountain View, California
Seungyun Kim, Cheong-ju, South Korea

Apprentice CoachesYang Lin, Shanghai, ChinaMichael McElvain, Chicago, IllinoisAnna Smigelskaya, Saint Petersburg, RussiaShiyu Tan, Changsha, Hunan, ChinaMarika Yasuda, Williamsburg, Virginia

Apprentice Stage Director
Audrey Chait, Menlo Park, California

My fingers are crossed that this actually happens.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

West Edge Opera Festival Will Proceed

In the midst of the bad news, I'm pleasantly surprised to have received email yesterday saying that West Edge Opera is, to date, planning to have their usual summer festival. It's not scheduled to start until July 25, so it's possible that we'll be through the worst of this and it will be legal to have 500 people in one place again.

Their mail included this year's venue (same as last year's, The Bridge Yard) and the full casts for this year's operas:

Katya Kabanova (1921)
Music by Leoš Janáček
Libretto by Vincenc Červinka
In Czech with English surtitles
Conducted by Jonathan Khuner
Directed by Fenlon Lamb
A co-production with Papermoon Opera Productions
Featuring Carrie Hennessey as Katya
Kristin Claton as Kabanicha
Christopher Oglesby as Boris
Alex Boyer as Ticho
Chad Somers as Kudrjaš
Sarah Coit as Varvara
Philip Skinner a Dikój
Saturday, July 25th at 8 pm
Sunday, August 2nd at 5 pm
Thursday, August 6th at 8 pm
Elizabeth Cree (2017)
Music by Kevin Puts
Libretto by Mark Campbell
In English with English surtitles
Conducted by Robert Mollicone
Directed by Sam Helfrich
Featuring Katherine Pracht as Elizabeth Cree
Eugene Villanueva as John Cree
Samuel Faustine as Dan Leno
Simon Barrad as Inspector Kildare
Leslie Katter as Aveline Mortimer
Matt Boehler as Uncle
Ashley Dixon as Doris
J. Raymond Meyers as Victor Farrell
Sunday, July 26th at 5 pm
Friday, July 31st at 8 pm
Saturday, August 8th at 8pm
Eliogabalo (1667)
Music by Francesco Cavalli
In Italian with English surtitles
Conducted from the harpsichord by Adam Pearl
Directed by Mark Streshinsky
Featuring Randall Scotting as Eliogabalo
Derek Chester as Alessandro
Nikki Einfeld as Gemmira
Matheus Coura as Guiliano
Aura Veruni as Eritea
Jean-Paul Jones as Lenia
Malte Roesner as Nerbulone
Jonathan Smucker as Zotico
Saturday, August 1st at 8 pm
Friday, August 7th at 8 pm
Sunday, August 9th at 5 pm

Ojai Festival Cancels

The Ojai Festival, which was scheduled for June 11-14, 2020, has made the decision to cancel. This edition of the long-running festival was curated by composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher, and would have included the participation of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, one of the world's great contemporary music performance groups. I posted the preliminary schedule in November, 2019, and Pintscher and Chad Smith, now chief executive of the LA Phil, had planned a glorious season. The presence of Boulez's great sur Incises alone might have gotten me there.

I want to note that Ojai's letter explaining the decision is a model of how such news should be communicated: with care, with respect for and acknowledgement of the people involved and the emotions they're feeling, with great tact and courtesy. The letter includes the information that the festival participants had already been notified, as well, meaning no one learned of this on Twitter or from the NY Times. Bravo, Ojai.

Good News for San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock with Dianne and Tad Taube
in the War Memorial Opera House. ©Kristen Loken/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera recently announced that they've received a $6 million gift to support the General Director's position. I take this to mean that the gift is to the endowment, and the resulting investment income will pay part or all of the GD's salary. This is a good thing in multiple ways: it's an indication that SFO's fundraising, leading up to the centennial season, is working effectively, and of course any time you can pre-fund a position, you have to do a little less annual fundraising, or those funds can go elsewhere to support operations.

The General Director's position will now be called the Tad and Dianne Taube General Director. The Taubes have previously made a large gift in support of the Tad and Dianne Taube Atrium Theater.

Dear Mr. Gelb:

Lincoln Center Plaza Fountain
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Dear Mr. Gelb:

I received the following appeal from the Met today:
Support the Met Now and Protect Its Future
Dear Ms. Hirsch,
As you know, we recently had no choice but to cancel performances in order to protect our audiences, artists, and staff from the spread of the coronavirus. As devastating as it is to have to close the Met, this was the rare instance where the show simply couldn’t go on. 
But we are determined to weather this storm and are looking ahead to the 2020–21 season, opening in September, since it is now clear that we will not be able to resume operations before the scheduled end of our current season in May. The financial threat to the Met is immense, and we cannot ensure the future of Met performances or seasons without your help. I am writing today to ask you to consider making an urgent gift to the company to help us address the overwhelming economic implications of the pandemic.
In these extraordinarily challenging times, opera and the arts offer solace to a frightened nation and our fellow citizens around the world. That’s the reason why last week we began streaming a different encore performance from our Live in HDseries each night, for free. It’s a reminder that the arts are part of the soul of a civilized society, and without cultural institutions like the Met, our lives would be diminished. 
While we are cutting expenses in every way possible in the coming months, including my own decision to take no salary, we need your help now. The stock market is down, but it will rebound. The Met will recover too, but only with the assistance of our most loyal fans and donors.  
I am forever impressed and grateful for your passion and support. We need it now, more than ever before. Thank you. 
With great appreciation for your help,

And my answer is that you can fuck right off. Because the right way to do this would have been to tell your audience members that you want to continue paying the orchestra, chorus, and union crew members, so please send money to help. Instead, you laid them all off, effective the end of March, and then you sent out an appeal for $60 million to tide you over.

As I'm sure you're aware, the Met's Board of Directors (or Trustees, or whatever the title is) is packed with wealthy people, worth millions to billions. They're the ones who should be coughing up the money. I mean, to a billionaire, $60 million is fairly small change. Former Mayor Bloomberg just dropped at least $500 million on a presidential campaign that was likely intended just to keep Sanders and Warren out of the White House.

He's an opera fan, which I know because I passed him in the halls at the Met a couple of times on my last visit. Suggest you have a chat with him, stat, instead of me, well-off wage earner who lives 2500 miles away.

Yours truly,

Lisa Hirsch

Monday, March 23, 2020

Layoffs, Endowments, & Budgets

For reasons of state or local requirements, Americans must stay home, and some musical organizations have begun to lay off musicians (Oregon Symphony, Metropolitan Opera) or suspend their pay (NY Philharmonic). Justin Davidson has an article about the NY Phil, which includes this rather ominous paragraph:
In an interview, Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda said that the orchestra has negotiated a new interim deal with its musicians: They will be paid in full until March 31, and then accept reduced pay for the next two months. Health insurance and instrument insurance will continue through the remainder of the current contract, which expires September 20.
So, the NYPO's musicians have full or reduced pay until the end of May, and health & instrument insurance for the rest of the contract - but they'll be negotiating a new contract during a time of crisis, when nobody knows when concerts will be able to resume, or what the impact of the pandemic on ticket sales will be.

Anyway, this is an interesting time to look at the budgets and endowments of a few organizations. All that follows is based on the most recent form 990 (FY 2018) for the organization, obtained at Pro Publica's Non-Profit Explorer. All numbers are in the format Budget / Endowment, so if you have a $10 million budget and $20 million endowment, $10 million / $20 million. Budget = expenditures for the most recent year.

Metropolitan Opera: $295 million / $240 million

San Francisco Opera: $78 million / $226 million

Los Angeles Opera: $43 million / $22 million (was $14 million four years before this)

San Francisco Symphony: $78 million / $302 million

NY Philharmonic: $77 million / $217 million

Oregon Symphony: $19 million / $11 million

Note that the endowments have likely taken a nosedive along with the stock market in the last few weeks, but we won't have numbers reflecting this until the 990s for the current FY are published.

A few things jump out from this:

  • The largest performing arts org in the country, by budget and number of performances, has an endowment that is smaller than that of SF Symphony and just barely clears that of SF Opera. 
  • The largest performing arts org in the country has a board of directors that is peppered with billionaires, yet their endowment isn't much bigger than that of the much-smaller-budget SFO.
  • You really have to tip your hat to the top executives at SFS and SFO, past and present, for their endowment-directed fund-raising efforts.
  • LA Opera has no cushion whatsoever, and you should be wondering why its recently-departed "general director" didn't put a little more effort into fund-raising, given that tiny endowment.

  • SFO and LAO are in there because I have a spreadsheet of their financial info for a completely different purpose; also, they're useful for comparison with the Met. 
  • SFS is my not-quite-local band (I live in Oakland), but they've been extremely well-managed.
  • For your amusement: the highest-paid musician at the Met is not one of their two concertmasters. It's chorus master Donald Palumbo. The highest-paid musician at SFS is concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, which you certainly would expect. The second-highest- paid is principal oboe Eugene Izotov; after that, principal trombone Timothy Higgins and principal trumpet Mark Inouye. It will be interesting to see what kind of salaries the incoming, as-yet-unknown, principal cello and flute will be able to negotiate.


Identifying information removed, but 1) it can't be a coincidence that this dropped into my inbox during a pandemic 2) I had a few choice words for the person transmitting a predatory ad for homeopathy to me the other day and, really, I have the same words for these people. Nope, there is no "healing frequency" that "transmits beneficial healing energy because it is a pure tone of math fundamental to nature" and you should STFU with your claims.

I am not saying that the music of one's choice can't have beneficial effects. Yes, listening to music you love can help you with your mood or your focus or help you move your body in ways that make you feel good. But it's not going to magically heal you. Also, if there were such beneficial healing energies, they'd be free and we'd have no illness, and, well, take a look around.
March 23, 2020 -- On 29th March 2020, [performer 1] and [performer2] will release their new album [pretty name].
They join the two forces of electronica and world music, the masculine and the feminine and the journey to unite ourselves with music, dance, and healing in the healing frequency of 432Hz.
This frequency transmits beneficial healing energy because it is a pure tone of math fundamental to nature.
With this album, they will contribute to the future of sound healing and collective consciousness.
“We are investigating the magic healing of music, dance trance, chants, focused intention and sound by mixing futuristic electronics and Mythological ancient prayers and instruments. We believe that the union of male/female, heaven and earth is what brings healing and inspiration to new earth”.

Museum Mondays

Tea Set
California Modernist Design Exhibit
LACMA, March, 2012

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Charles Wuorinen

Composer Charles Wourinen, described everywhere as "uncompromising," died earlier this month. I don't know his music well, but given my liking for other modernists, I plan to investigate him further.

A couple of years ago, musicologist Will Robin wrote a portrait of him for the NY Times, and I have to say, as a human he sounded....difficult and contradictory. I do love the headline, though: "He Has Fans, Fame and an Acclaimed ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Opera. So Why Is Charles Wuorinen So Cranky?"

Well, he was gay, but didn't regard Brokeback Mountain as a gay opera; he sneered at modern use of tonality; he sneered at a lot. The recent portrait includes this:
In a 1988 profile in The New York Times, on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he castigated orchestras, Minimalism, populism, affirmative action and a poorly educated public, declaring that “the current tendency of transmuting art into entertainment will cause serious music to cease to exist.”
I'm glad he turned out to be wrong about that: serious music still exists; some of it is tonal, some of it isn't, and some of it is minimalist. At least some of his fellow composers had a very high opinion of Wuorinen; from Tim Page's Washington Post obit:
In 2011, jazz composer Carla Bley called Mr. Wuorinen “the greatest composer working.” And the proudly poly-stylistic composer John Zorn, who has worked in forms ranging from klezmer to punk rock, recently called Mr. Wuorinen “a true artist whose intense and uncompromising vision produced work of remarkable beauty and drama.”
That's extremely high praise from Bley, considering that in 2011, John (Coolidge) Adams, John Luther Adams, Elliott Carter, Steve Reich, Unsuk Chin, Kaija Sarriaho, and many other terrific composer were working.

Friday, March 20, 2020


War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

I've got the latest in a bunch of cancellations and postponements in hand, in thee wake of the Bay-Area- and state-wide shelter-in-place orders, including the following:
  • LA Phil and events at WDCH, cancelled through May 10.
  • Opera Parallele is postponing Harvey Milk and related events.
  • Earplay is postponing an upcoming concert
  • SF Ballet has suspended the balance of their season.
  • San Francisco Renaissance Voices cancelled another concert and is suspending operations.
Not yet heard from: LA Opera and San Francisco Opera. But note the following:
  • LAO has a production of Pelleas et Melisande scheduled to open in early May. Their rehearsals have to commence around April 1.
  • SF Opera has its summer season opening around the beginning of June. Their rehearsals have to commence around May 1.
I know what I would do if I were SFO: I'd try to postpone the summer season to July, which would mean that rehearsals for the fall season might overlap with the end of the summer season. But it would buy some time for the company.

Friday Photo

Brick mosaic, Paris
October, 2018

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Doriot Anthony Dwyer

Doriot Anthony Dwyer, legendary flutist, has died at 98. Dwyer was the first woman to hold a principal chair in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a position to which she was appointed by Charles Munch in 1952. I had long assumed she was the first woman to be an orchestra principal in the U.S.; I was very surprised to see that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra appointed Helen Kotas as principal horn in 1941. The next female principal in the BSO was not appointed until 1977, so...

Dwyer was a trailblazer, very tough about how she went about negotiating the job, and held the principal flute seat until she retired in 1990. I never studied with Dwyer and never met her, but I lived in the Boston area for five years and she was a towering figure among flutists. Rest in peace, Doriot Anthony Dwyer; you were a hero to so many young women who played the flute.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

More Cancellations & Postponements


Monday, March 16, 2020

CDC Recommendations

New in the last day or so: the CDC is now recommending that all gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled for the next eight weeks. That puts us right in the middle of May, so if musical organizations follow the recommendation - and they should - no SFS or Davies or Cal Performances or SF Performances concerts, not to mention the dozens of smaller organizations. The big organizations have big donors and endowments to keep them in business, but this is a catastrophe for small organizations, freelancers, and of course small business owners.

With SF Opera due to open its summer season around June 1, they are totally hampered by this if they can't figure out a way to run rehearsals....and you know that there are more than 50 people involved in any performance, given the on-stage performers, the orchestra, the crews, etc....I cannot imagine the nail-biting going on at the War Memorial Opera House just now.

(And my county is sheltering in place. Oy.)

Museum Mondays

California Midcentury Design
LACMA, March, 2012

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Free Livesteams in Time of Pandemic

A number of musical organizations are offering free livestreams. This list isn't definitive, but it's a place to start:

If you know of additions to this list, please let me know.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Minor Pedantry

Because I am a professional pedant:

  • COVID-19 is the short version of "coronavirus disease 2019." It's the illness you get from a particular virus.
  • SARS-CoV-2 is the virus itself.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Cancellations Here, There, Everywhere

At this point, you should assume that the performance you've got tickets to has been cancelled, considering the number of states and localities that have declared a state of emergency and limits on the size of public gatherings.Here are just some of what I know of in the United States:
  • NBA games
  • NHL games
  • San Francisco Choral Artists
  • Center for New Music, SF, through at least April 1
  • Livermore Valley Opera
  • Opera San José canceled upcoming performances of The Magic Flute
  • Other Minds postponed their festival
  • San Francisco Symphony NYC & European tour; all concerts through April 30
  • Davies Symphony Hall: all concerts through April 30
  • Philadelphia Orchestra through at least March 23
  • NY Philharmonic through at least March 31
  • Los Angles Philharmonic and all WDCH concerts through at least March 31
  • Berkeley Symphony for all of March
  • Boston Symphony Orchestra, through at least the end of March
  • Metropolitan Opera, NYC, through at least the end of March
  • Carnegie Hall, NYC
  • Broadway, NYC
  • San Francisco: ban on public gatherings over 1,000 people
  • State of California: trying to ban public gatherings of over 250 people

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Advice on Performances

I'm seeing a range of responses to the risks posed by the coronavirus, from "we are forging ahead" to "we are watching critically" to "we are canceling," so the advice is simply:

If you've got tickets to a performance, check the website or box office for the presenting organization, and check your email frequently for updates. Check all of your email addresses, in fact, just to make sure that you check the address the presenting org has for you.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Museum Mondays

Detail,, Retable des sept joies de la Vierge

Paris, October, 2018

This is a very small detail of a large painting, which you can see at this link.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Philip Wilder Leaves NCCO for Chanticleer

I received two press releases simultaneously the other day. Here are the critical sections of each. Let me say that the big surprise, for me, was discovering that Chanticleer is by far the bigger budget organization.

From New Century Chamber Orchestra:
San Francisco, CA – March 2, 2020 – After six years as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra, Philip Wilder announced to the Orchestra, Board and Staff that he will step down from his position at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season. In the fall of 2020, Mr. Wilder will assume the role of President & General Director of the GRAMMY Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer, where he began his career in music as a member of the ensemble in 1990. “Philip Wilder’s inspired leadership as Executive Director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra has been transformative for the organization,” commented New Century Board President Mark Salkind. “During the past six years, Philip has dramatically expanded the orchestra’s footprint and reach, leading the search that brought the internationally renowned violinist, Daniel Hope, to New Century as Music Director, engaging celebrated guest artists, instituting innovative programming and partnerships, and undertaking the orchestra’s first-ever and enormously successful European tour in 2019. Although he will be greatly missed, we all wish him the greatest success in the next chapter of his career.”  “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra,” remarked Philip Wilder. “The Board of Directors, musicians and staff approach their work with a boldness, generosity, and fearlessness that has allowed me to expand the orchestra’s activities on all fronts. In collaboration with Music Director Daniel Hope, we have broadened the reach of New Century to an international audience, and mounted the most venturesome repertoire in the organization’s history. I look forward to cheering on the orchestra as it continues on this exciting path.”

From Chanticleer:
San Francisco, CA – March 2, 2020 – Long-standing President and General Director of Chanticleer Christine Bullin announced today that she will retire from her position September 1, 2020. Board of Trustees Chair Keith Jantzen announced the appointment of Philip Wilder as the ensemble’s new President and General Director. After six years as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra, Mr. Wilder makes his Chanticleer return after previously serving as a member of the ensemble, Assistant Music Director, Artistic Administrator and Director of Education from 1990 to 2003. “Over the last two decades, the prominence of this fine organization has continued to expand throughout the world under Christine’s expert leadership, creativity and steadfast commitment,” said Mr. Jantzen. “The entire Board of Trustees, ensemble members and staff would like to express our deepest gratitude for her unwavering loyalty and years of hard work. As we look toward the future, it is with immense pride that we welcome back one of our own family with Philip Wilder ready to lead us into the next phase of evolution and prosperity. In addition to an impressive wealth of experience in arts leadership, management, fundraising and publicity, Philip brings existing knowledge not only of Chanticleer’s operations but the core of what makes this ensemble beloved by audiences all over the world.” “It has been an enormous honor to work alongside the immensely talented artists of Chanticleer, the Board of Trustees and staff,” said Christine Bullin. “The past two decades have taken me all over the country and abroad, watching first-hand as the ensemble has shared its unique artistry with an ever-increasing audience and I will forever cherish these memories. I look forward to taking my place in Chanticleer’s audience, rejoicing in its continued success.”
 Ms. Bullin joined Chanticleer in 1999 and led the organization for 20 seasons. Under her leadership, the ensemble has expanded its touring territory in Europe, Asia, and South America; commissioned and premiered over 20 new works including John Tavener’s Lamentations and Praises; established its Chanticleer Live in Concert recording label releasing more than ten albums; won numerous awards including two GRAMMY awards and Musical America Ensemble of the Year; celebrated its milestone 40thanniversary season; created education programs that have served thousands of students each year through its Youth Choral Festivals, the Louis A. Botto (LAB Choir) Skills/LAB as well as Chanticleer in Sonoma for adults. Further highlights throughout Ms. Bullin’s tenure include Chanticleer’s continued commitment to recording and performing the music of the South American baroque including a noteworthy appearance at the Festival de los Chiquitos in Bolivia.  Philip Wilder stated, “I am honored to be returning to Chanticleer to assume the role of President & General Director. In 1990, Chanticleer launched my career in music when its Founder Louis Botto and legendary Music Director Joseph Jennings hired me to become part of the ensemble. Over the following 13 years, I had the privilege of serving in both artistic and administrative roles, which have provided the blueprint and inspiration for my 30 years in the classical music industry. In the intervening years, I have watched Chanticleer continue to grow and strengthen as a global force of innovation and artistic excellence. I assume my new role with a deep sense of awe and gratitude for the commitment of the Ensemble, Board of Trustees, and Staff to preserve Chanticleer’s beloved legacy while pushing the boundaries of repertoire and vocal virtuosity.”
With a career spanning over 30 years in the classical music industry, Mr. Wilder leaves his post as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra after six years of unprecedented growth. During his time, Mr. Wilder increased charitable contributions by 30% and ticket sales by 21% and founded an education outreach initiative entitled “Hall Pass” offering free access to over 1,500 students and at-risk seniors at 31 Bay Area schools and service organizations. Under his leadership, the Orchestra appointed internationally renowned violinist and Deutsche Grammophon recording artist Daniel Hope as the Orchestra’s fourth Music Director, embarked on its debut European tour and commissioned four major new works for string orchestra. Mr Wilder’s  previous positions include Vice President of 21C Media Group, Executive Director of Communications for the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and Associate Director of the capital campaign for the Harman Center for the Arts. Over a 13-year period at Chanticleer, Mr. Wilder served as the founding Director of Education, Artistic Administrator and Assistant Music Director, as well as singing as a counter tenor with the ensemble in more than 1,000 concerts around the world. He was also responsible for launching the annual Chanticleer Youth Choral Festival for SF Bay Area high school students and led its workshops and masterclasses nationwide.

Election 2020

Elizabeth Warren "suspended" her presidential campaign this morning, which means that she dropped out this morning. You can probably guess, knowing my demographic (white, college degree, woman), that she was my candidate, for the reason that she was the smartest and best-prepared of the remaining Democratic candidates. I have regrets over not supporting Harris and Castro earlier in the campaign, because it is just wrong that the field wound up so old and white. I have a lot of rage about the rules change that let Michael Bloomberg - Mr. Stop & Frisk - get debate time this year when Harris and Castro - who are real Democrats, unlike Mr. Party-Changer - were eliminated so early. And even more over the fact that Bloomberg outperformed her in a number of states.

It's not that Warren was the perfect candidate - there is no such thing. She would need to mend her relationship with Native Americans, at a minimum, and still wouldn't be perfect. But she was so much better than those remaining, which is to say:

I'm very unhappy about the choice I'm left with.

My political aims are well-aligned with those of Bernie Sanders. BUT, I think he is just about unelectable. He's Jewish in an era when anti-Semitism is coming back into view (do not think it ever went away); he calls himself a Democratic Socialist in a country where there is limited knowledge of what that means (he is not in favor of nationalizing all business and property!); he is terrible at compromising; he was unable to bring in the wave of voters he thought he could. Even this week, he was saying he'd be able to do this in the general election. Buddy, if you can't get voters to the polls now, why would you think you would be able to get them to the polls in November? He also hasn't got much traction with African American voters, and let me just say that the Democrats cannot win without earning the support of African American voters. And...his health. That heart attack last fall, which took days for him to acknowledge?

And then there's Joe Biden. He has a terrible history, policy-wise. He supported the terrible bankruptcy bill of 2005...which supposedly is what got Warren into politics. He helped get Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court by not calling witnesses who would have backed up Anita Hill's testimony. He supported the Iraq War. He was the Senator from Delaware and a big supporter of big banking and big corporate interests. He is handsy; he has lied or made up incidents from his past. He is vulnerable to Trump because of his son. His health? Well, he might be showing signs of dementia! This is all terrible! And yet...people are willing to vote for him. To see why African Americans are behind him, read this NY Times op-ed piece by Mara Gay, and any number of Twitter threads by Black people.

We could have had Elizabeth Warren, and now we have to choose between Sanders and Biden. I am about ready to weep.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Sheri Greenawald to Retire

Sheri Greenawald, the lyric soprano who has headed up the Merola Program since 2002, is retiring at the end of this year. She is now 72 and she has plans:
“For nearly 50 years, I have had the privilege to work in a profession that I love. But it is time, at age 72, to begin a new chapter in my life. I look to explore other artistic adventures in music, and I want to work seriously on my photography. There are hundreds of books to be read and poems to be written. I have been so extremely lucky to work at San Francisco Opera these last 18 years and to work with the wonderful people at the Merola Opera Program. I have rejoiced at the amazing talent that we have nurtured and introduced to the world. And I have loved working with my brilliant staff, without whom I would not have succeeded. I thank the community of music lovers who support this art form that has sustained me through these 50 years.”
She had a long career as a soprano; at SF Opera, she sang Marzelline, Pamina, Lauretta, Lucette (Cendrillon), Bella (The Midsummer Marriage), Cordelia (Lear), and Manon (Manon Lescaut).  There's more about her career in the press release after the cut.

First of Its Kind

Here's the first local impact I have seen of the coronavirus on the arts, in the form of a press release from the Stanford Music Department:
Due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and to help each other protect the health of our communities, all Department of Music concerts are canceledeffective immediately through at least 15 April 2020. Depending on the unfolding situation, this date may change. | Department of Music News | Visit Stanford Health Alerts for more information regarding COVID-19.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in my life, the American Judo & Jujitsu Federation decided to proceed with its annual convention. This is a style where, with a few exceptions, you must work in pairs and you touch other people more or less constantly. I am...a little surprised, and wondering what turnout will be like. I will be there, in part because I'm committed to calling a test for third-degree black belt on Friday morning. Not sure which classes I will be attending, though.

If you want to see what Danzan Ryu jujitsu looks like, you can't do better than the 1970s videos of the late Professor Pat Browne, who was then maybe a yodan, demonstrating many arts from the system: