Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ory with Cecilia

This was taken just before the start of the performance of Le Comte Ory at Theater an der Wien.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Puccini at the Sacramento Opera

Above is a picture of Marie Plette dressed as Butterfly.  She sang "Un bel di" for us at the Sacramento Opera Puccini night on Friday.  Previously she appeared in Sacramento as Tosca.  I liked her then and I still like her now.

The program for the evening consisted of a first act theater piece called Puccini:  the Man and his Muses. An actor, Michael Stevenson, plays Puccini in the final year of his life. He describes each of his love affairs with his female characters, and each woman appears in costume and sings her most famous aria.

Anna from Le Villi--Nicolle Foland
Fidelia from Edgar--Leslie Sandefur
Manon from Manon Lescaut--Nicolle Foland
Mimi from La Boheme--Leslie Sandefur
Musetta from La Boheme--Nicolle Foland
Floria Tosca from Tosca--Carrie Hennessey
Butterfly from Madama Butterfly--Marie Plette
Minnie from La Fanciulla del West--Leslie Sandefur
Magda de Civry from La Rondine--Carrie Hennessey
Liu from Turandot--Marie Plette

These ladies appeared in the order in which Puccini composed them and in full costume, so it was not always possible to precisely match them to their roles.  To whom it may concern:  this is exactly how you compose an opera--choose a woman you love, write a drama for her and compose wonderful music for her to sing.  As a concept, this was quite pleasing.  I would describe it as a play with music.

The second half of the program was an excellent performance of Gianni Schicchi.  Luis Ledesma was Gianni Schicchi and Carrie Hennessey was Lauretta of the famous "O mio babbino caro."  Carrie has learned to slide since I last wrote about her Puccini singing, but she still will not attempt a scoop.  I found this an acceptable compromise.

The Sacramento Opera has merged with the Sacramento Philharmonic.  Both are now conducted by Michael Morgan.

It was a pleasant evening at the opera, though under attended and under publicized. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


As an older woman who once sang in Rigoletto, I thought Quartet was the movie for me.  The action takes place in a home for retired musicians called Beecham House.  They have fallen on hard times and want to hold a gala on Verdi's birthday to raise money.

There were many familiar faces on the screen--including Maggie Smith the newcomer, Billy Connolly who can no longer censor anything he says, Michael Gambon, etc.--but none of them were more familiar than the great Dame Gwyneth Jones.  She appeared in many of the scenes and allowed herself to be insulted by the actors.  She even sang parts of "Vissi d'arte" in the gala, the only real singing besides the trio singing "Three little maids from school."  Throughout the film she was treated with a subtle deference.

When it came time to actually hear the quartet from Rigoletto, it was Paravotti, while still in their prime.  The movie reminded me a little of Tosca's Kiss.

Old age is not for sissies.

I've decided to include a copy of the quartet from Rigoletto that I like.

And while we're at it, here is Dame Gwyneth in Der Rosenkavalier.  Octavian is Brigitte Fassbaender.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Singer of the World

Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano, has been chosen to represent the US in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition this year.  Good luck.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

International Opera Awards

These are the singer contestants for the International Opera Awards competition being held somewhere in Great Britain.  My acquaintance with these singers is spotty. 

Jonas Kaufmann Germany, tenor.  He needs no introduction, surely.  He has never sung at the San Francisco Opera but is fast becoming a regular at the Met.  Just to be annoying, I'll post him singing "La donna e mobile."

Aleksandrs Antonenko  Latvia spinto tenor.  He has never sung at the San Francisco Opera.  There are quite a few films of him, but most of them come with terrible sound.  Here he is in Carmen.  He has a bright tone and a huge voice.  It turns out I have seen him--in René Pape's Boris Godunov from the Met.  He shows 20 Met performances.  He has sung Otello in London, Paris, Riga, Wien, Salzburg, Rome and Dresden.

Piotr Beczala  Poland lyric tenor.  He has sung at the San Francisco Opera in Eugene Onegin, Die Zauberflöte, and I reviewed him in La Bohème in 2008.  He shows 62 Met performances.  I've already posted him several times, but here he is in the "Questa o quella" I missed.

Joseph Calleja  Malta, lyric tenor.  He has never sung at the San Francisco Opera but shows 43 Met performances.  For my taste his vibrato is a bit odd.  This performance is from last summer.

Luca Pisaroni  Italy, bass-baritone.  He has never sung at the San Francisco Opera but shows 37 Met performances.  Here he sings the catalog aria and keeps his list on his smart phone. 

Bryn Terfel  Wales, bass-baritone.  At the San Francisco Opera he's sung Nozze di Figaro and Rake's Progress (2000).  He shows 105 Met performances, including the famous Figaro with Bartoli.   Next season he will do Falstaff in San Francisco.  In the clip he's singing Dulcamara.  Forgive the Dutch subtitles.  We have both male and female bimbos.

Sarah Connolly English mezzo-soprano.  She appeared in Semele at the San Francisco Opera and sang the Komponist at the Met.  In general her career is concentrated in her native country.

Joyce Didonato  American mezzo-soprano.  She has sung Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Der Rosenkavalier, and I Capuleti e i Montecchi (2010) at the San Francisco Opera.  She shows 55 Met performances.  We will hear her sing "Tanti affetti" this summer at Santa Fe.

Evelyn Herlitzius German dramatic soprano.  She has never sung at the San Francisco Opera or at the Met.  Her career is concentrated primarily in Germany.  I have posted her before in a clip from Erwartung.  Here she sings the immolation scene from The Ring.

Catherine Naglestad American soprano. At the San Francisco Opera she has sung Alcina, Pagliacci, Norma, and Rodelinda (2005).  She has never sung at the Met.  Lately she sings primarily in Germany.  When I knew her, she sang Handel, but here is something much more recent where she sings Wagner.  Isn't the leggy blond mezzo a hoot.

Nina Stemme  Sweden soprano.  She has sung only 11 times at the Met and has a magnificent international career.  I have seen all of her Die Walküre Brünnhilde, and it was a profound experience.  Here is "Siegmund! Sieh auf mich!"   When he sings, "Gruesse mir Valhal," it is one of the most moving things in all opera.

Beatrice Uria Monzon France, mezzo-soprano.  She has never sung at the San Francisco Opera but shows 18 performances for the Met.  She prefers to sing in her native country.  This is rather an old film of her singing Donizetti.  This aria exists in French, but she's singing in New York where it's best known in Italian.  Remember, Philip Gossett prefers the French version of this opera.

There is very much a preference for big, heavy voices. Joyce is the only one that currently specializes in bel canto.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Neon Rigoletto

Poor Renée.  She worked so hard during the intermissions for the Metropolitan Opera's simulcast of Rigoletto trying to get the singers to comment on the production, but mostly they didn't really want to.  They were happy to tell which member of the rat pack they were supposed to be, but that was about it.

Rat Pack:

Rigoletto (Don Rickles):  Željko Lučić (baritone)
Duke of Mantua (Frank Sinatra):  Piotr Beczala (tenor)
Marullo (Dean Martin):   Jeff Mattsey (baritone)
Count Ceprano (Sam Giancana):   David Crawford (bass)

The rest of the cast:

Gilda:  Diana Damrau (soprano)
Maddalena:  Oksana Volkova (contralto)
Sparafucile:  Stefan Kocán (bass)
Monterone:  Robert Pomakov (baritone)

Conductor:  Michele Mariotti
Production:  Michael Mayer

I guessed Don Rickles before Lučić said it.  If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Rickles' work, here is a sample.    I can actually see a certain similarity.

The best neon was in the last scene where it was used spectacularly to illustrate the sound of lightning flashes found in Verdi's score.  I could see this in every Rigoletto.  Amazing.

The man who issues the curse, Monterone, was costumed as an Arab.  Your average American might shoot the Duke, but would not really think of cursing him.  I wonder if this is a scandal.

Hidden in all this glitz was the regular Rigoletto we all know.   Lučić and Diana Damrau, our Gilda, are part of the ensemble of the Frankfurt Opera and well acquainted.  They have even played Rigoletto and Gilda together before and maintained their already highly developed conceptions.  She commented that Gilda wasn't nearly so hard as Fille de Regiment, referring to the San Francisco production, I assume.  She was carried off inside an Egyptian sarcophagus and died in the trunk of a car.  She also skipped her high note at the end of "Caro nome."

The only character who seemed to really shine in this production, to take on the aura of his environment, was Piotr Beczala as the Duke.  Above we see him looking very young in his disguise as a student.  He seemed completely at home in his white dinner jacket and bow tie.  He relaxed into the character and had a wonderful time.

I've never had any real complaints about Renée Fleming's interviews before, but I must say it was foolish for her to ask Piotr about his up coming high note in "La donna e mobile."  He told her he tries not to think about it, but just asking the question jinxed it.  He came very close to blowing it completely.  So.  Never ask a tenor if he is worrying about an up coming high note.  You can ask him after if you want.  Just never before.  You'd think this was obvious. It's in a category with asking a horn player to do his solo standing on the stage.

This is a Rigoletto for an American audience.  Many of the cultural references meant nothing to the international artists playing them.  It worked fine for me.  A father's love for his daughter transcends time and place.  The rat pack image falls apart when you consider that it assumes that Frank Sinatra would ever have dared to fool around with Sam Giancana's wife.

Ainadamar 👍🏻

Chorus members in costume wandered among us before the drama.

Oswaldo Golijov's opera Ainadamar, Arabic for “fountain of tears,” as presented by Opera Parallèle, is a complete theatrical experience.  We have costumes.  We have marvelous dancing.  We have atmosphere created by lighting projections.  We have fascinating orchestral textures in Spanish style music.  We have poetry.  We have women's chorus.  We have history filled with violence.  And best of all we have gorgeous, full voiced singing.

I went with friends who had seen it before in Santa Fe and were completely confused by the Peter Sellars production.   And they actually know things about Federico Garcia Lorca.  For me a few quick glances at the program were enough to clarify everything I needed to know about this complex drama.  Congratulations to Opera Parallèle for another job well done.

Margarita Xirgu, sung by Marnie Breckenridge, is the main character of the drama.  The story begins in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1969 when Margarita is an old woman who teaches about the historical Spanish figure Mariana Pineda who was the subject of a play by Federico Garcia Lorca, sung by  Lisa Chavez.  Xirgu's main student was sung by Maya Kherani.

Perhaps you are already confused.  Margarita appears with her students and they sing about Mariana.  Margarita knew Lorca, whom she calls Federico, and flashes back to their last meeting in Granada, Spain, in 1936.  The changes in time and place were flashed on the supertitles.  You knew they were good for something.  Federico hands Margarita a drink and tells her that as a child there was a statue of Mariana Pineda outside his room.  She was a martyr to an earlier Spanish revolution in 1831.

So we have three time frames:  1831, 1936 and 1969.  We see Mariana Pineda executed on the stage.  And we see Lorca shot by members of Franco's army.  Margarita tried to persuade Federico to go to Cuba with her on her dance tour, but he wanted to stay in Spain to experience the violence.

The almost Flamenco dancing was extremely beautiful--I say almost because it included everything except the banging on the floor.  The head dancer is named La Tania, I think.  Jesus Montoya sang in a Flamenco style.  He was incredible.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire performance.

You should know by now that I am a fan of Golijov.  Stop writing stupid symphonies and give us another opera.

If you are searching for intelligent life in your opera, I can highly recommend Opera Parallèle in San Francisco.  They have pretty much cornered the market on the National Opera Association's Opera Competition, winning first prize for 2011 and 2012.  Perhaps they will win again this year.

I have just one question:  suitcases?

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I am listening to my copy of Jonas Kaufmann's new album Wagner. I am immediately reminded of how often I praise Donald Runnicles for his Wagner conducting.  The combination of Runnicles and the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin is beautiful and above all sensitive to the singer and this very personal interpretation he brings to the material.  There is an awesome lightness of tone and texture to accompany this proclaimer of the pianissimi of Wagner.  Runnicles doesn't leave out the big moments, but it must when the situation requires it be the most sweetly expressive Wagner I've ever heard.

Of course, the parts of the recording that are most familiar to me are the Wesendonck Lieder.  Jonas doesn't sing anything, really, the way everyone else sings it.  Right now, at this moment, he has to be the most creative musical artist in the classical world.  It probably helps that he's been listening to Wagner since he was 3.

I love the sound of his voice and think I prefer him in tenor mode.  Of all the Wagner I've heard him sing, I definitely prefer Lohengrin, the most truly tenor of Wagner's heroes.  I am reminded of the Munich Lohengrin where Elsa tries to cover Lohengrin's mouth with her hand at the moment where he is about to say his own name.  She has changed her mind, you see.  It is now my favorite Wagner.

My travels to see Jonas have been consistently a treat.  As usual, I digress.  I'm not a particularly gifted reviewer.  It is for the digressions I write.  He answers my wish.  He finds the music anew and recreates it in his own image.  The phrases never die too soon.

Kaufmann and Runnicles together are an unqualified joy.  Listen and be glad.



I notice now that I am posting a list of most popular blog posts, certain perennial favorites have fallen off the list.  Most notably now missing are "14" and "Maria Ewing."  "Camille Claudel is still going strong."  A few have risen and then disappeared, a more expected behavior.  A surprise is the increased popularity of a film of Sondra Radvanovsky singing an aria from Anna Bolena.

Cecilia Bartoli will miss her Ory opening in Vienna.  I hope she gets well soon.  She will be replaced by the rising Pretty Yende, recently in Ory at the Met.

Some time this spring Ailyn Pérez will release her first album titled Poème d’un jour.  This will include music in both French and Spanish.

Big weekend:  Ainadamar, Rigoletto and Philharmonia Baroque.

Larry Brownlee and Pretty Yende triumphing in Vienna.  I was interested to read in a review that during Rossini's lifetime Le Comte Ory was very popular.

Saturday, February 09, 2013


This is such an unbearably sad opera.

Humperdinck's Königskinder is a fairy tale opera, and fairy tales don't usually have the happy endings of those we love today.  Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all find their princes.  We love Hansel and Gretel.  We love to see the witch pushed into the oven and come out a cookie.  We love to see the children come back to life and dance around.  We would not love it if the citizens of a local town came in and destroyed everything.

Witch:  Liliana Nikiteanu
Goose-girl:  Isabel Rey
King's Son:  Jonas Kaufmann
Fiddler:  Oliver Widmer

Conductor:  Ingo Metzmacher

One set is a room full of plant stands with cutouts of geese to represent the witch's home.  The King's son comes and sees the Goose-girl and immediately falls in love with her.  He gives her the crown.  She looks around for somewhere to put it and chooses the prompter's box.

In another scene the community is sitting on benches that look like a cross between a school dining room and a fast food restaurant.  The townspeople are so unpleasant and hateful.  They are told that at a precise moment the King will enter the town.  Then at that exact moment the Goose-girl comes in wearing the crown, and they laugh at her and tear the place up.  Only a young girl and the fiddler know that they were truly the King and Queen.

This is like politics.  If the savior came, would we scorn him?  Oh.  Sorry.  We did.  I digress. 

There is a long introduction to the third act, and the action resumes in the same destroyed room with the young girl still sitting in her place.  Snow comes in through the broken windows.  The fiddler is now blind, and the witch is dead.  The children and fiddler go out to look for the King and Queen.

When everyone has gone, the King and Queen climb in through one of the broken windows.  He carries her and calls her light as a feather.  How many tenors could do this?  They are lost and starving.  He cannot find the way back to his kingdom.

I have always thought of Engelbert Humperdinck as the closest of Wagner's followers.  The technique is similar, the harmony and flow of the scenes.  But the emotional content is entirely different.  He does not want the heavy growl of pomposity that Wagner loved, preferring a much lighter sweetness. 

Spoiler alert:  the King sells his crown for a piece of bread that the witch poisoned.  Sigh.  The music is all very sweet.

They shout for Jonas.  He looks remarkably young in this film, clean shaven, unlike the picture on the cover.  Without the facial hair he looks about 18.

Short post script:  this opera had its premier at the Metropolitan Opera with Geraldine Farrar as the Goose-girl.  She trained the shown flock of geese for her performances.


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Perfect American

The premier of a new opera by Philip Glass called The Perfect American streamed over the internet from Madrid today.  It concerns the death of Walt Disney, and it turned out to be much more truly biographical than I had imagined it would be.  Walt may have wished to be cryogenically preserved, but they make it clear that he was actually cremated.  So no urban legends.

The Glass opera is based on a book with the same name by Peter Stephan Jungk.  The book is narrated by Wilhelm Dantine, an animator for Disney in the 40s and 50s, who also appears as a character in the opera. Dantine stalks Disney who pretends he doesn't exist.

Walt died at 65 of lung cancer while still full of dreams and plans.  He wanted to come back again in 500 years.  

Important things to notice about this opera are:
  • While there is quite a lot of computer animation in the stage design, none of it at all resembles the actual cartoon characters of Walt Disney.  So no lawsuits.  Everything Disney is still covered by copyright because they just keep extending the dates.
  • Curiously, the musical work that it most resembles from a sound perspective is John Adams' Nixon in China.  Who was imitating Glass, of course.  Has nothing happened in 25 years?
  •  Disney was a conservative American who said things like "I'm more famous than Santa Claus" and "The New York Times is undermining everything."  Nothing much has changed.
  • Andy Warhol appears as an admirer of Disney.  He did a lot of Mickey Mouse images, but we don't see any of them.
  • The singing is completely uninteresting.  Despite that, I enjoyed it.

Walt Disney was an iconic American figure, someone who believed in capitalism and the ownership of ideas.  Now he has his own opera.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Renée Fleming talks about the legato.

I'm not making this stuff up.  It's all there--connecting it to the breath, extending it across the consonants.  What have I been saying?


My current fascination is the fast rising mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard.  This photo is from the Canadian Opera Company production of La Clemenza di Tito.  The emotional variety just of the photos is remarkable.

But remember I recently called her "adorable" in The Tempest.

But that term would not have applied at all to the intensely somber performance she gave in Griselda.  It's hard to think it's the same person.

I'll have to go see her in something.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Joyce from Brussels

Today, right now in fact, Joyce DiDonato is being streamed on radio from Brussels where she is giving a Drama Queens concert with Il Complesso barocco, directed by Alan Curtis.  So far she has sung:

Claudio MONTEVERDI - "Disprezzata regina" air d'Ottavia, impératrice de Rome extr. de L'incoronazione di poppea.
Geminiano GIACOMELLI - "Sposa, son disprezzata", air d'Irène princesse de Trésibonde extr. de Merope.

It took me a while to find it, and I missed the first number.  It was very interesting to hear her take on the Monteverdi style ornaments, particularly the repeated notes.  Very intense.

The solo violin in this Vivaldi concerto is spectacular and well received.

Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI - "Da torbida procella", air de Berenice reine de Palestine extr. de Berenice.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Into the Woods

I'm trying to get out and about in Sacramento a bit more and happened on Sondheim's Into the Woods produced by the Light Opera Theater of Sacramento.  The overall quality was very pleasing.  I and the audience liked very much Little Red Riding Hood played by Kelly Cullity.

You'll find it tonight, tomorrow and next weekend at 2791 24th st, but watch out for the neighborhood parking.

Friday, February 01, 2013

10 Bad Things--10 Good Things

This is an annotated version of a post by Jessica Duchen.

Ten Things That Make No Difference Whatsoever To Music, and Things That Do


1. What the conductor wears. As long as he/she does a good job and looks OK. Friend of mine tells me he refuses to wear those popular-alternative-to-white-tie Nehru jackets because they remind him of the Russian mafia. 

[This isn't really an issue for opera since the conductor is hidden away in the pit and appears only at the end in the bows. If the opera is being filmed, you'll see him on the film.]

2. What the orchestra wears. As long as they do a good job and look OK. And people generally look a lot better in evening dress than got up as stage-hands in all-black. They are a team and they should look like one. Saying they shouldn't is as well-informed as saying footballers should be able to wear what they like on the pitch, rather than ugly shorts and outmoded t-shirts in colours that don't suit them. 

[Same comment as #1 except for the fact that at the opera the audience never sees them. However, I remember once performing for a matinee with the SF Symphony and remembering how surprised I was when the players all showed up in morning dress, complete with cutaway coats and striped pants. Who knew? This is probably going to have to do with the expected audience.]

3. What the audience wears, as long as it doesn't smell. 

[Most of my opera going life has been in San Francisco where everyone wears whatever they want. Maybe not to the official opening, but all of the rest of the time. I certainly never dress up. I remember overhearing someone whisper the words "jogging suit" once, though.]

4. Whether people can take drinks into the hall. 

[Wouldn't that be fun. I hide stuff to eat in my purse in spite of the fact that it's forbidden.  This is one of the best things about opera at the movies.  Now that I've experienced dining at the movies, I might like that, too, as long as the dishes don't clank.]

5. Where Valery Gergiev or Simon Rattle will be principal conductor next. 

[Munich and unknown, in that order. Nevertheless, I must know this because someone wrote about it. Why not? I admit to being more interested in VG than in SR. VG's first out of town guesting appearances were at the San Francisco Opera when Lotfi Mansouri imported whole productions from Russia, so I retain an interest in the rest of his career.  We can't afford him any more.  Taking an interest in specific performers and their careers is something I write about quite a lot and is part of the show business part of classical music.]

6. Whether the soloist prefers not to wear shoes.

[Measha Brueggergosman doesn't wear any shoes under her long dress. She's the only one I know. If they wear shoes, you probably wouldn't write about that. I personally think going without shoes in a performance space is dangerous.]

7. What the soloist looks like, ie "hot or not" - as long as he/she is the finest musician there is.

[I haven't done a "hot or not" for instrumental soloists, but that doesn't mean I never would. So far I've only done singers and conductors. Do I think it's possible to be a successful instrumental soloist and not be "hot?" Witness Murray Perahia, a truly wonderful pianist. The original hot pianist was Franz Liszt. I would bet that Murray would be a lot more famous if he looked like Franz.]

8. Whether the orchestra smiles and throws itself around while playing. It may look fun, remember, but most of that music needs a high level of virtuosity and concentration, and you don't expect a brain surgeon to grin and jig about while he's doing his job, do you? 

[To my knowledge no brain surgeon has gone into show business. Billy Jean King raised women's tennis to public awareness, and therefore her fees, by knowing that she was in show business.   Female tennis players are still the highest paid female athletes.  Symphony concerts are show business. However, I am aware that moving your body around a lot while playing will make the orchestra sound different. Do you enjoy the difference or not? That's all that matters.  I sometimes find that I do.  Cecilia bouncing on the bed in Semele did seem to throw off her technique.

Perhaps we're far enough along in this to make a more general comment. What the critics of the stodginess of classical music are trying to say is that this, too, is show business, and that it is long overdue for its participants to begin realizing this. Doing things to arouse the interest of the public, specifically the under 60 public, is a feature of all branches of show business. This is more the job of the publicist than of the journalist.]

9. Imagining that none of these things have ever been addressed. They have. They are being addressed constantly, in many of the country's top orchestras. Go to The Rest is Noise and you'll find Vladimir Jurowski talking most eloquently and approachably to the crowd. Go to the OAE and all sorts happens - just wait and see what they're about to do with Vivaldi's best-known piece. Plus go to either and what do you find? Full halls and standing ovations and audiences of all ages shouting for more. You should have heard the reception for the Richard Strauss concert that opened The Rest is Noise the other day! It's just that you have to go there to experience this before you mouth off about it. 

[She is discussing something in particular about which I have no knowledge.  She lives in London, I think.  We don't have that kind of enthusiasm here.]

10. Writing or reading all that faff yet again. Save yourself the time and go to a good concert instead. 

[Interesting. For some reason I'm not permitted to do both. ]



1. Communication. If a conductor or soloist is good at speaking to the audience, people enjoy this. If he/she isn't, then they shouldn't have to, because it can be embarrassing. 

[I could usually do without this. People love to talk. I prefer the talking to be part of a pre-concert lecture. Which I can then skip. I generally want to be surprised, something that gets harder and harder to achieve. ]

2. Good and safe public transport so that people can get home easily afterwards. Parking is also useful. 

[Everything has to be over in time to take said public transport. This isn't going to generate any PR.]

3. Plenty of choice, and good ambiences, for pre and post-concert food, drink and socialising. A concert is a complete evening out for many. 

[The LA Opera is in a horrible part of town with few choices and not much ambiance. San Francisco is nice for this. There is always somewhere nice to eat.]

4. Mobile phones. Bloody mobile phones. Switch them off! 

[I think it was London where they play a loud sound like a phone ringing to remind people to turn them off. Listening to Joyce from Brussels, I could hear that same sound.  It doesn't hurt to remind again after intermission.  I don't know how this fits with the idea of tweeting during a concert.]

5. Lighting. Not fancy stuff, just low, so that we have to read first and listen during. That's how I prefer it, anyway. It improves concentration. 

[If there are singers, the audience needs to read the translation during. Concerts with surtitles are not out of the question. You can see in my photo of the interior of Salle Pleyel that they have surtitles. I know what's going on in the Dichterliebe and might prefer not to see it flashed on a screen.  I'd have to ponder this.]

6. Someone needs to remind orchestras, sometimes, that they're performing the minute they're on the platform. Yawning, slouching and yakking don't make a great impression. Having so said, see above, no.8. 

[Really. This is so far from the general character of the average musician that the mind boggles. It is, after all, their job. Unlike singers, they have a lot of extra equipment to stash: resin, chin rags, mutes, reeds, piccolos, bass clarinets, etc. Thank goodness for opera with its orchestra pit. And why exactly are you staring at them in the first place?  Now if you want to scold them for reading comic books during the performance, I might understand.  Only brass players seem to do this sort of thing.  The performance starts when the conductor enters.]

7. Venues that are pleasant, welcoming, comfortable to sit in, well managed, not too cold, not too hot and reasonably atmospheric have an edge over places that are not. 

[I live in a place where you take what you can get.  One can always wish.]

8. How deeply and how well the musicians understand and convey what they are playing. 

[And this is number 8? Jesus H. Christ, as we say here in America.]

 9. Good acoustics. 

[Not so easy to find. I support fully the journalist carping about the acoustics. Maybe it might help eventually. People tend to have the venues they have. They don't live in London.]

10. Going to some. 

 [At last.  Something we can agree on.  It is quite shocking how little we do agree on.]

Dr. B:  

This whole discussion completely misses the point.  Perhaps where she lives the halls are always full.  Shocking to me when I was in London was the fact that the major orchestras just do one or two performances a month and not the series of four in a row, week in, week out, we normally do here.

The point of worrying about what anyone wears and how they look when they are performing is to create buzz.  Try to get your group into the papers.  I read about Measha Bruggergosman not wearing shoes and immediately went out to hear her perform.  She was amazing.  And, yes, I spent a lot of the time trying to see her feet under her dress.

Look around you.  See all that gray hair.  See all those empty seats.  This is a problem.  It is a problem that is not solved by just telling people to go to a concert.

I write about hot opera singers so people will know the performers are not all fat ladies with horns.  Classical music can be fun and exciting.   Come out and see.