Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guess Who

If you saw this on Facebook, don't give it away.

Clue:  mezzo.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Performance Practice II

Continuing with Singing in Style by Martha Elliott, subtitled A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices:

Isn't this the coolest thing!   I swear I've never heard of this.  Caccini described an ornament where you start a third or fourth below the written pitch and slide up to the real note.  Another guy calls this cercar della nota (searching for the note).  This is an actual thing.  Doesn't that sound like a scoop to you?  Who knew?

For a description of a scoop see here.  For Part I see here.


There is a new album of songs by Jake Heggie called here/after.  It's on Amazon and perhaps elsewhere, but not iTunes.  So if you import it into you iTunes from disk, it will be blank.

It includes the wonderful Camille Claudel song cycle with Joyce DiDonato and the Alexander Quartet I reported on here.  I still like it as much as before, but there are no pictures of her sculptures here.

Another outstanding cycle on the recording is Friendly Persuasion; Homage to Poulenc with Stephen Costello.

Heggie's music is very seductive.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Nose

Today we were blessed with The Nose by Dmitri Snoztakovich live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD, sung in Russian.  You have no idea how long I've been waiting to tell that joke--stolen from Emily Pulley.

Conductor: Pavel Smelkov
Production: William Kentridge
Stage Directors: William Kentridge, Luc De Wit
Projections: Catherine Meyburgh, William Kentridge
Set Designers: William Kentridge, Sabine Theunissen
Costume Designer:  Greta Goiris
Lighting Designer: Urs Schönebaum
Live in HD Host:  Patricia Racette


Kovalyov: Paulo Szot
Police Inspector: Andrey Popov
The Nose: Alexander Lewis

The only person to be interviewed for this simulcast was William Kentridge who explained that his own nose was the model for the character The Nose.  He turned to show us a profile.

This performance is an art work on three levels.

I.  The short story by Nikolai Gogol.  The opera plot follows this story, written between 1835 and 1836, very closely.

II.  The opera by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) written in 1929, an early work.  My reaction to this was that I was viewing an opera comique complete with spoken dialog.

III.  The production by William Kentridge, which is fully an art work in its own right.

Before I get too far into this, I feel that 2:15 is too long for an opera with no intermission.  A short period to relax, complete with an interview with Paulo Szot, would have made me enjoy this a lot more.

Every time there was piano music in the score there was a film of Shostakovich playing the piano.  The other person whose photograph frequently appeared was Joseph Stalin whose reign had just started two years before.  At this time Shostakovich had not yet fallen from political favor. 

While his owner lounges around in his bedroom staring at himself in the mirror and feeling sorry for himself, the nose has a full and exciting life.  He participates in swim meets and track and field contests.  He loves to ride a horse, and rises to a higher place in the political hierarchy than his owner.  We see all this in the projections on the set.

There is a lot of crashing and banging in this score full of complex and varied orchestral colorings.  There are many soloists, supers, chorus and actors on the set.  I must say I really only enjoyed the parts where Paulo was on the stage.  He is a wonderful performer with great variety and presence.

I was asked on exiting the theater if I would go again to see Nixon in China, and I reported that I had already seen it 3 times in 3 different productions.  I love it, and they hate it.  Maybe once will be enough for The Nose.

This review is supposed to include an extended discussion of the deeper meaning of The Nose.  All I seem to be able to think of is that if a barber actually cut off your nose, your face would have a hole in it and not a flat piece of skin.  And occasionally I would remember the photograph of the man who is growing a new nose on his forehead.  Nothing was done to make Paulo seem not to have a nose.  Perhaps it is all a dream.

Friday, October 25, 2013

News for Today

The big news in the opera world today is the smash hit performance of Angela Meade and Jamie Barton at the Met in Norma.  To hear what a truly wailed Norma sounds like look for the audio clip here.  It is remarkable how well their voices go together.  I hope they like each other because I think there may be many more Normas in their future.

Other important news:  I have heard only good things about Fliegende Hollander at the San Francisco Opera.  I'm going on Halloween.  And on the following day on PBS is Moby Dick.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

La Vestale

This morning Gaspare Spontini's masterpiece La Vestale (1807) is streamed from Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, via Once long ago I read Berlioz' Evenings with the Orchestra--highly recommended, actually.  Monsieur Berlioz had a friend who played in the opera orchestra in Paris, and he allowed Berlioz to view the opera from this in front of the front row perspective.  The book is a memoir on this experience.  All the sources say this is fiction, but I didn't know that when I was reading it.  He wrote about his loves and hates at the opera, and my memory tells me that most beloved were the performances of La Vestale.  This is my first opportunity to view this opera.

Conductor:  Jérémie Rhorer
Stage director:   Eric Lacascade
Set designer:  Emmanuel Clolus
Costume designer:  Marguerite Bordat
Lighting designer:  Philippe Berthomé
Dramaturgy:  Daria Lippi

Julia:  Ermonela Jaho, soprano
Licinius:  Andrew Richards, tenor
La Grande Vestale:  Beatrice Uria Monzon, mezzo
Cinna:  Jean-François Borras, tenor
Le Souverain Pontife:  Konstantin Gorny, bass

Does it sound like anything?  The date is before Rossini and even before Fidelio.  The composer is Italian, but I hear more Gluck, a very formal and intense Gluck.  The expected Italian coloratura is missing.

I see there are 2 full length films of La Vestale on YouTube, one stars Denyce Graves and the other Leyla Gencer, but both are audio only.  In my mind it's Callas, and I see on Amazon that there is a CD version with Callas and Corelli.  I enjoy Beatrice Uria Monzon more than Ermonela Jaho. A mezzo could sing Julia.

I have gotten used to the modern minimalist stagings with only modern clothing and the least possible stage decoration.  People in suits without shirts are soldiers.  Women in slips with red hair are the vestal virgins.  Did I mention La Vestale translates to the Vestal Virgin?  When Lucinius goes off to war, Julia's father makes her become a vestal, while she is in love with Lucinius.  He is a Roman general and is making his triumphal return.  Julia is chosen to crown him--they arrange a date during the ceremony.  Minimalism takes a lot of the fun out of this.  In my brain they are parading through the forum to the rostrum, like Caesar in the movie Cleopatra.

She is assigned to guard the sacred flame.  Hanky-panky ensues and she lets the flame go out, a capital offense.  The goddess relights the flame, and there is a happy ending.

This opera was wildly popular for about 20 years, and then nothing. I think someone truly fabulous could bring it to life, but for me it's almost a Spieloper (a light opera popular in 1830-50).  Maybe you have to be French.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Gershwin Experience

The first event of the combined Sacramento Philharmonic and Sacramento Opera was something called The Gershwin Experience, a packaged show that has already played in places like Portland, Salt Lake City, Des Moines, Savannah, Long Island, etc.  The orchestra was our local Philharmonic with Michael Morgan conducting.  The out of town guest artists were:

David Snyder, piano, vocals and narrator
Sylvia McNair, vocals
Daniel Gardner, vocals and tap dancing
Llewellyn Sanchez-Warner, 17 year old piano virtuoso

The show included photos and films from the Gershwin family files.  Gershwin died in surgery.

Michael Tilson Thomas presented Of Thee I Sing as a semi-staged orchestra concert, so I have seen this sort of thing before.  It was very enjoyable.  Llewellyn Sanchez-Warner played Rialto Ripples, Rhapsody in Blue and Allegro Agitato from Gershwin's Concerto in F, and he received two standing ovations. 

But for the opera goers in the audience there was nothing that resembled opera.  There can never be too much Gershwin.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Performance Practice I

 David with his theorbo

I've started reading Singing in Style by Martha Elliott, subtitled A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices, and I am going to be boring you in future weeks with bits from it.

She starts with John Dowland (1563 – 1626 and Giulio Caccini (1551 – 1618), of course.  Dowland accompanied his songs on the lute and composed in tablature.  Baroque tablature was very similar to modern guitar tablature, and made it possible to write out the whole piece in a form that others could play as is.  Caccini and the Italians composed in score with just melody and bass, expecting the player to fill the other parts in to the best of his ability.  I like it that she says that Caccini recommended accompanying yourself on the theorbo which would have stronger low notes than the lute.  At least now you could find a theorbo.

As an old person, I remember when we had no idea how these pieces were actually composed, except we were aware that figured bass started around this time.  We selected a printed realization we liked and went with it.  Ms Elliott recommends that you acquire an original facsimile of your piece.  She provides one sample by Monteverdi.  I think maybe you have to actually go to the library for this, though I see there are facsimiles on line.  She wants the singer to take responsibility for his own performance.  I searched for quite a while for a small sample of a facsimile lute tablature by Dowland but did not find one that I could show.  Amazon sells something in tablature form, but it cannot be downloaded and isn't a facsimile.  One source says that published facsimiles of lute music are rare.  Caccini was easier to find.  Note:  bass is already figured:

FYI:  modern Italian sounds similar to how it would have sounded in Caccini's time, while Dowland's words would have sounded much different from ours. 

In the early Baroque everything is much harder than you thought.

This first chapter includes an extended discussion and quotes from historical sources about vibrato, tremolo, trill, etc.  It is very important to realize that true knowledge of the constantly fluctuating singing voice required modern technology.  It is only when you record the voice on a graph that you can see that it is always fluctuating.  It even fluctuates as it slides from one note to another.  It is not possible to truly understand this using the ear alone.  It is important to make this modern interpretation of ancient sources.

I have discussed this topic here, here and here.

My own discussion of singing in the Italian Baroque had only to do with the prominence of castrati and preference for high voices.  I don't know how practical it is to require everyone to become a musicologist.  Perhaps if you major in theorbo this would be necessary.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Ian Bostridge, Anna Netrebko and Thomas Hampson

This photograph will be from the performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem at the Salzburg Festival this summer and not from the new recording with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Academia Nazionalle di Santa Cecilia in Rome and Antonio Pappano conducting.  You can listen to it here, I don't know for how long.

This is a wonderful, deeply emotional performance.  I know I've heard this work before but I don't think I knew it was this beautiful.  Each is perfect for the part, and Anna Netrebko is especially gorgeous, by turns dramatic, lyrical and sweet.

Perhaps it is the right thing for today.  We Americans have narrowly escaped our pathetic, made up political crisis which appears to have been nothing more than a game of chicken.  Think about the larger vision of life. We have music to enrich our souls instead of politics to maim us.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Falstaff in San Francisco

I noticed something I hadn't noticed before in Verdi's Falstaff seen last night at the San Francisco Opera:  Bryn Terfel enters Windsor Park in the final scene in his very Wotan-like outfit (see picture above), and some very Wotan-like music accompanies him.  My goodness.  Wasn't he doing Wotan....?

Conductor:  Nicola Luisotti
Director: Olivier Tambosi

Falstaff:  Bryn Terfel
Alice Ford:  Ainhoa Arteta
Nannetta:  Lisette Oropesa
Dame Quickly:  Meredith Arwady
Fenton:  Francesco Demuro
Ford Fabio:  Capitanucci *
Meg Page:  Renée Rapier
Bardolfo:  Greg Fedderly
Dr. Caius:  Joel Sorensen
Pistola:  Andrea Silvestrelli

Heidi Stober was scheduled for Nannetta, but she was replaced by Lisette Oropesa who is singing the role at the Met.  Bryn was fabulous.  Meredith Arwady was excellent as Dame Quickly.  It was well cast and well sung all around.

But.  You knew this was coming.  I couldn't get over how much easier it was to follow the plot in Portland.  Perhaps in Portland the Falstaff was less interesting and therefore the others stood out in comparison.

Remember I'm the one that thinks the production is supposed to explain the opera.  It didn't.  The hiding Falstaff while everyone searches was well done, but the characters were not really drawn individually.  Which is what I like.  I liked the linens being thrown all over the stage.  That was cute.

It is a problem for me to see the same opera over and over in close succession.  One cannot resist comparisons.  And there's going to be another one soon in HD.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Concert from Verbier

I'm listening to a concert on from the Verbier Festival, a Wagner, Verdi celebration concert with Valery Gergiev.  First Netrebko did the first act of Otello, and then Bryn T. Jones sang the third act of Die Walküre.

This may be your only chance to hear Anna Netrebko sing anything from Otello.  She has gone on notice that she doesn't want to play the role.  Act I is only the love duet.

Die Walküre is the only Wagner that I can say I truly love.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Point of Departure

I don't have a lot of musical regrets, but I do regret that I never sang Orlofsky.  At this point in life I begin to regret how long it's been since I saw Die Fledermaus.  Anyway, Brigitte Fassbaender is the best.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Verdi from Chicago

The stream of the Verdi Requiem from Chicago was the perfect celebration for the great Verdi's birthday.  I feel like I'm supposed to explain it now when you know that the perfect musical performance cannot be explained.

Kudos to the maestro Riccardo Muti.  The maestro knows his Verdi.  Kudos to the spectacular performance on the bass drum by Cynthia Yeh.  And very special kudos to Tatiana Serjan for the most wailing in Verdi I've seen in many years.  See here, here, and here for previous references to wailing in Verdi.

What set this performance apart from all other Verdi Requiems I have heard was the fluidity of the tempo, the almost constant rubato that permeated all the performances.  It was like hearing the piece for the first time.  There was a sweetness that made the dynamic explosions heard only in this piece all the more surprising.  There was so much to hear.

Everyone was wonderful--too many names to mention.  I only wish I could have been there.  I hope you all had a wonderful Verdi 200.

For Verdi

This is the chorus, orchestra and conductor we heard at Salzburg--Rome Opera and Riccardo Muti.  In the middle of this film Muti makes a short speech about Italy.  Then follows the traditional encore that is always sung in Italy, but not in Salzburg.  Muti turns and conducts the audience. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Girl of the Golden West 👍🏻

Franz Welser-Möst | Conductor
Marco Arturo Marelli | Direction and lighting
Marco Arturo Marelli | Sets
Dagmar Niefind | Costumes

Nina Stemme | Minnie
Tomasz Konieczny | Sheriff Jack Rance
Jonas Kaufmann | Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)
Norbert Ernst | Nick
Paolo Rumetz | Ashby
Boaz Daniel | Sonora

For Puccini La Fanciulla del West was his best opera. For me it has a special place because it was one of the works that we presented in Ulm while I was there. It was in German, sort of the Winnetou of opera. And yes, I have read the Winnetou books, Germany's answer to Zane Grey.

It is perhaps the most American of operas. Here I am in Sacramento watching a film from the Wiener Staatsoper, writing about a man who claims to be from Sacramento, a man who inherited a band of robbers when his father died. They are in the mountains above Placerville.  I will not tell the surprise ending.  Watch it for yourself.  I'll just say that from an American perspective it isn't as shocking as it is to Europeans.

How could you not love them? Nina Stemme's Minnie is a girl to love, a wild and passionate one who rolls around on the floor in the grip of first love. She and Jonas Kaufmann sing the shit out of it. It rises with them. Nothing is held back. If the singers can sing this big, the opera soars with them. I think it requires just this kind of no holds barred, wildly passionate singing and acting to make its effect.

The set looks more like Edmonton oil fields than it does like the California gold rush. Perhaps the Polka is a truck that stays parked outside the refinery to provide lunch and dinner for the laborers, guys that don't come from Edmonton.

Minnie tries to look like a laborer, too. She reads to them every day out of the Bible. They are now in the Psalms. She explains what hyssop is, which means she knows what hyssop is. She is a good girl who rejects their advances and has never danced with any of them. In return they all love her and bring her gifts.

I love the way she summons him.  "I want a man I can love like that," she sings, and there he is.

Dick enters and asks for whiskey with water. This is to make him look like a softy. She immediately remembers him because he said she had the face of an angel. For him she dances and brings home cigars to give him. For him she brings out her Sunday best dress, shoes and gloves.

He doesn't tell her about the other woman. What man tells a woman that he is seeing someone else? She is very naive with him. Perhaps he really likes her.  She tells him that she keeps the miners' gold in the saloon--he doesn't seem to coax it out of her--but he has already tried to find where it is hidden. She invites him to her cabin. All he's done is ask her if she lives in the Polka, and she has told him she lives in a cabin in the mountains. In this production she lives in a mobile home. Minnie may never have danced, but she knows how to cheat at cards.

Eventually Ramirez tells her everything, and she throws him out. He doesn't steal her gold. I think the intention of the opera is to show that this is true love, not just on Minnie's side but Ramirez's too. It is clear from the start that he might steal her heart or her money but would never cause harm to Minnie.  When she is guarding the gold in Act I, she looks him straight in the face and says that he can steal the gold, but he will have to do it over her dead body.  Perhaps she knows.  After all, he's only been a thief for six months. Perhaps their first meeting was before this. I refuse to think he's a cad like Pinkerton. In Butterfly Cio Cio San sings all the big emotions. In Fanciulla both must sing the big emotions, and in this production they did.  I have never loved it so much as here.

Dear Puccini, I think I too will love it best.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Interview with Riccardo Muti

My usual translation from Kurier.
"We are talking with God, thank Verdi"

The star conductor Ricardo about Verdi, wrong notes,
Regietheater and the KURIER live stream.

Not only is he one of the greatest conductors of the present, but also one of the leading Verdi experts. Currently Riccardo Muti is rehearsing Verdi's "Messa da Requiem" in Chicago, that will be experienced on the 10th October via live stream on ( see details below). The Neapolitan maestro in conversation.

KURIER: Maestro Muti, your interpretation of the Verdi Requiem is transmitted via live stream.  A concession to the new media ?

Riccardo Muti: Rather a concession to Giuseppe Verdi. We want to reach as many people as possible with this transmission. Everyone should have the opportunity to hear Verdi's wonderful music. It's not about to make Verdi even more popular. This is hardly possible. The point is rather that millions of people around the world feel this music at the same time and through this music are linked to one another.

Do you think that music can unite people ?

We live in a society with so many problems. There are wars, crises,  poverty and misery.  I think music can bring people together, because it is a universal language that everyone can understand. Whether through this something has improved, I do not know.  Maybe it's just a dream. But definitely one that you should dream.  In music it should not go primarily to the personal success of the performer, but to a message of humanity.  If you will, to Verdi's message to mankind. If Herbert von Karajan were still alive, he would, however, certainly be the most fervent ambassador to the new media.

What do you personally associate with Verdi's " Requiem"?

I conducted the requiem for the first time in the 1970s. In a basilica in Florence and at the graves of the Borgias. I'll never forget this. Verdi was a Catholic in a very liberal sense. He speaks here to the basic problems of humanity. We speak, thank Verdi, directly with God.  In the sense: You created me, so save me also.  It is a demanding Requiem, and Verdi leaves us in doubt. But as in all his works, by the way also in the operas, Verdi's gaze is always directed towards the heavens. Although Verdi had doubts about what may be after death.  But he knew that answers to this question are a need of the human soul.  In this respect we take a journey into the heart of our soul.

You grant in your new book "My Verdi" intimate insight into your musical understanding and criticize the present treatment of Verdi ...

We have in the Verdi year 2001 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death missed the opportunity to study it again. Now we have this opportunity.  Because we are often very far away from what Verdi wanted. The performance practice has since made ​​many mistakes. And the audience has become a bit sloppy since.  Everyone is waiting only on high notes, and wanting Verdi to be sung like Puccini.  That is completely wrong. Verdi is a classical composer and stands much closer to Haydn than to Puccini. Nevertheless, one must not play him on original instruments, that would be a sacrilege. But this fact should be borne in mind. And then there are also directors ...

... where you basically stand very skeptically opposite  ...

What some directors do there is a single insult to Verdi. But also an abuse of the singer and an affront to the thinking audience. Unfortunately we have too many of these so-called "clever" directors who even delete roles if they don't like a character, who cannot even study the score, who impose their so-called "ideas" on each work. I refuse to be a part of this.  [
Bei so etwas mache ich nicht mit.]

So one should stage Verdi entirely classically?

Beware, one thing must not happen: Verdi did not want any "show business" [in English]. Neither scenically nor with swanky voiced singers. Verdi was a man of the theater, he knew exactly why he wrote the way he did.  Everything is there in the scores.  One needs only to look at them.

Is that one of the reasons why you rarely conduct opera?

As well. But there is another reason. It lies with the houses themselves and their scheduling . When I study a new opera, I need to do this conscientiously, at least a month's time. But this time is rarely given. But I do not accept when singers or conductors arrive a week before the premiere, to then bring in a botched action something on the stage. Unfortunately in this regard the Vienna State Opera also doesn't give me the time required.

You love Vienna ...

Very much so. Vienna is a great city with a very fine and educated audience. And of course there is the city of Vienna Philharmonic.  I love this orchestra.  I have learned so much from the Philharmonic in the course of my life and I'm always happy to come again for concerts.  But as for opera in Vienna or Salzburg, then: You should never say never.

Eugene Onegin in HD

Onegin and Tatiana in the city

I have long been an admirer of Chekhov, the Russian writer of plays and short stories, so when Peter Gelb compared his new Metropolitan Opera production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin to a play by Chekhov, I was prepared to enjoy it.

Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Production:  Deborah Warner

Tatiana: Anna Netrebko
Olga: Oksana Volkova
Madame Larina, their mother:  Elena Zaremba
Tatiana's Nurse:  Larissa Diadkova
Lenski: Piotr Beczala
Onegin: Mariusz Kwiecien
Gremin: Alexei Tanovitski

I liked enormously the sets for the house in the country.  It created an atmosphere of reality and strengthened the sense of the relationships between the characters.  There was too much contrast in the last act with the bare stage and huge columns.  There was no sense of artistic unity for the opera as a whole.

Lensky and Olga in the country

The beginning and ending had a new symmetry.  As Onegin rejects and coldly dismisses Tatiana, he looks at her face and kisses her before walking away.  Netrebko's Tatiana rises to equal Onegin's coldness and arrogance in the final act.  She tells him she loves him but will not sacrifice her life for him.  She stares him down coldly and then kisses him before she walks away in the snow.  There was a kind of perfection to this.  Perhaps Mariusz is the right singer for this conception after all.

Netrebko sang extremely well, giving the letter scene a special intensity.  Alright.  I'll say it.  She looked terrible in the girl's dress.  But the mature Tatiana's outfits made her look beautiful.  Few singing actresses could bring so much strength to a character. 

I couldn't help wondering how this would all play in the house.  Chekhov is not for the huge theater.  Could the softness of the singing be heard in the house?  Could such an intimate and interior conception be seen, heard and indeed felt in the huge expanse of the Met?  Chekhov's sense of humor seemed to be missing.

Beczala was the best Lensky ever.  My favorite was the Nurse, a wonderful actress.  The sense of it all being truly Russian was very powerful.  I would like very much to see this kind of treatment of Pique Dame which somehow just misses for me.

P.S.  Netrebko seemed to be in the mood to argue with Debbie in her interview.  I wonder what that was about?

PPS.   The plot of Onegin is from Pushkin (1799-1837). I know that. What was being discussed was the PRODUCTION which was moved to the time of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) which it just so happens overlaps with the time of Chekhov (1860-1904). My remarks referred to the production and not to the opera.   Gelb is the one who brought up Chekhov.  I liked this and went with it.  The production comes from British theater people who are undoubtedly far more familiar with Chekhov than with either Pushkin or Tchaikovsky.

A truly Chekhovian ending would require much more ambiguity.  Instead of perfect symmetry we would need to be left wondering if perhaps they might get together on occasion, just as we are left wondering in the story "The Lady with the Little Dog."  If she is not required to sacrifice her life and her husband, would Tatiana occasionally meet with Onegin in secret?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Heidi Melton online

Here is a fun interview with Heidi Melton by Rhoslyn Jones about what it's really like to be an opera singer.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Blogging posts are meant to be self criticism of the process of blogging.

I haven't commented on the crisis in Minnesota.  It is hard to grasp this.  What do they imagine they are doing?  The only thing I can think of is union busting.  Minnesota is not a right to work state, but perhaps it wishes it were.  If they fire the entire orchestra, doesn't the union stay?  Wouldn't they still have to negotiate with all those recently graduated students they want to hire?  Students rehearse a lot more than professional musicians generally do. 

I don't get the impression that there is a lot of understanding of how professional musical organizations work in America, at least in the states that are not right to work.  If a state is right to work, the board can negotiate with the people it can find who are not in the union.  I know that the primary reason for the existence of the New Mexico opera I won't name is that New Mexico is right to work.  In a union state the existence of the union requires all the musicians to join.  There's no getting around it.

The board of an American arts organization is generally expected to come up with the money when tickets don't pay enough.  Perhaps the Minnesota board has been paying out more money than they want.  If the orchestra doesn't make enough money, the musicians don't pay anything.  Perhaps these board members imagine that it should actually make money like a regular business.  That's a laugh.

Don't get the wrong idea.  I find this as appalling as everyone else, but the why part of the discussion always seems missing for me.  Maybe they've been listening to too many conservative politicians and think everything will be better if they just shut everything down.

When I was designing software, I went around and talked to each person one at a time to try to understand what that person wanted to achieve.  Then I made up something that did all those things.  These people have completely stopped talking.  They will be happy when they have killed their orchestra and no longer have to pay its bills.  At least that's how it looks from here.

Sexiest Conductors

While out of town for Thanksgiving, it has been suggested to me to conduct a sexiest conductors contest. These are the proposed contestants:

Joana Carneiro is a new entry for sexiest conductor.  She is currently the conductor of the Berkeley Symphony.  Conductors have all the fun.

Russian Valery Gergiev is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.

Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel is currently the principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony in Gothenburg, Sweden, and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Italian Nicola Luisotti is music director of San Francisco Opera since September 2009 and principal guest conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

American Marin Alsop is music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

American Michael Tilson Thomas is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony.

Italian Riccardo Muti is music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He apparently has backed out of directing the Rome Opera.

American Kent Nagano is music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Bavarian State Opera.  After 30 years, he has finally given up the Berkeley Symphony.

Englishman Sir Simon Rattle is principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

German Christian Thielemann was in October 2009 appointed the chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, effective with the 2012-2013 season. He is also effectively the music director of the Bayreuth Festival.

Since people in Europe have been ignoring the Americans, I have been careful to name a few, along with conductors working mainly in America.  Have I omitted your favorite?

Lucy wants to nominate Laurence Equilbey, conductor of Chœur de Chambre Accentus, a small group that works regularly with the Limoges Baroque Ensemble.  I wanted a picture that looks more like she is conducting, to go with the rest.

Emmanuelle Haïm also belongs in this list.

This is Pablo Heras-Casado who started out in early music.

This is fun.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Kick Boxing in KC

Photo by Cory Weaver.

Here we have Joyce DiDonato showing off her street fighting skills in I Capuleti e I Montecchi at the Kansas City Opera, with William Burden.  What other profession provides so many varied opportunities?

Sorry.  Cory Weaver photographs in San Francisco.  What do I know.