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Sat February 25, 2012
Around The Classical Internet: February 24, 2012
By Anastasia Tsioulcas
Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 2:02 pm
- Stephen Colbert had Plácido Domingo on as his guest last night. (Question: "What's the longest it's taken you to die on stage?" Answer: Simon Boccanegra — get poisoned in the second act, don't die until the third.) Also, they sang "La donna è mobile" together.
- If you thought that the two decades between the premiere of The Death Of Klinghoffer by John Adams and Alice Goodman and its latest revival would have been enough time to quell fury — you're wrong. The English National Opera, where Klinghoffer is planned to open this weekend, is bracing for protests. The opera is based on the real story of the disabled, elderly Jewish tourist Leon Klinghoffer, who was murdered by Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists when they hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985.
- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a popular pop psychology author and the former host of a self-help reality show on TLC called "Shalom In The Home") wrote an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on the topic, charging that "the British people, long famed for their tolerance and decency, must be made aware that they and their media organs are increasingly perceived as being biased beyond all reason against the Jewish state, and the resurrection of the Klinghoffer production will cement that view among many."
- Speaking of the ENO: It's launching a competition, Mini Operas, to seek out new librettists, composers and directors. Writers will be invited to create a script based on three example story lines provided by Will Self, AL Kennedy and Neil Gaiman. After 10 finalists are selected, composers will be invited to compose original scores to these tales; they'll be judged by composer Nico Muhly and the ENO's music director, Edward Gardner. In the last round, filmmakers will "construct their vision" for the complete work and be judged by director Terry Gilliam.
- And speaking of the intersection of politics and music: "The way [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chávez has embraced El Sistema has angered some of its supporters and has been seized on by Chávez opponents, provoking rare criticism of two of Venezuela's most celebrated and popular figures: the movement's revered founder, José Antonio Abreu, and its most famous product, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel."
- The BBC Symphony Orchestra has a new chief conductor: Sakari Oramo. The 46-year-old Finn was awarded the OBE for services to music in 2009, in part for his championing of music by Edward Elgar.
- And Oramo's appointment is great news, writes Fiona Maddocks on her blog for The Guardian: "Oramo managed the impossible task of filling, with notable success, the enormous gap left by Simon Rattle when he took over from him at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra ... Oramo worked miracles. It's hard to think of anyone who could have got the chemistry right, so quickly."
- Still reeling from James Levine's departure, the Boston Symphony Orchestra can't catch a break. Kurt Masur, the 84-year-old conductor who was booked to replace Levine for a week of performances of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (and including one at Carnegie Hall), has withdrawn. Masur's assistant, Stefana Atlas, told the New York Times that "a combination of vision problems and the toll of age had led him to cancel."
- South African-born opera singer Elizabeth Connell died this week at age 65; she "was generous, down-to-earth and entertaining, the antithesis of the operatic prima donna, happily dunking a biscuit in her coffee while chatting with interviewers."
- The Wall Street Journal's Heidi Waleson kicks New York City Opera while it's down: She strews her commentary on the first two productions of this revived season (La Traviata and Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna) with such descriptors as "cheesy," "ponderous," "banal," "zombielike" and "provincial." The headline doesn't pull any punches, either: "New York City Opera Makes A Case For Its Own Demise."
- The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns is slightly less brutal in his assessment: "Prima Donna begins with expressive confidence in a heartfelt orchestral prologue as the diva watches the sun come up, and ends with a sublimely beautiful aria of resignation when she realizes her public life is inarguably over. In between are moments of ineptitude."
- And the New York Times' Zachary Woolfe seems to really have wanted to like the Wainwright, but ... "It is a tasteful, well-intentioned, ultimately mystifying failure: mystifying because, after years of development and performances in Manchester, England; London; Melbourne, Australia; and Toronto, no one has seen fit to give it a plot ... chic and pointless."
- Tom Manoff [who has reviewed classical music for All Things Considered since 1985] is accusing La Pasión según San Marcos composer Osvaldo Golijov of plagiarism after the work Sidereus was played by the Eugene [Ore.] Symphony. Golijov's work frequently folds in source material from other artists old and new, but Manoff took serious exception to this collaboration between Golijov and his friend and frequent collaborator, Michael Ward-Bergeman, which borrows heavily from Ward-Bergeman's piece Barbeich.
- The Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard's Bob Keefer picked up the story, noting that "Ward-Bergeman was credited in the symphony program notes only for his melody. Golijov alone is listed as composer of Sidereus."
- Ward-Bergeman responded directly to Manoff (which Manoff republished in his blog post), saying, "I wanted to confirm that Osvaldo and I came to an agreement regarding the use of Barbeich for Sidereus. The terms were clearly understood, and we were both happy to agree. Osvaldo and I have been friends and collaborators for years."
- In the wake of the Sidereus affair, a Brazilian journalist has come forward saying that she noted that another of Golijov's pieces, Kohelet for string quartet, made uncredited use of a Brazilian composer's work; she claims that when she wrote to Golijov to ask about it, he withdrew the movement. (link in Portuguese)
- Alex Ross of The New Yorker points out that Sidereus isn't even the first time that Golijov and Ward-Bergeman have used this Barbeich material in tandem: "The music has also gone by the name Patagonia, and was played by Chicago Symphony musicians in 2010, in a Golijov arrangement." Furthermore, as Ross notes, "Osvaldo Golijov has never presented himself as a purely original figure, forging works in creative isolation ... Yet, whatever the sources, Golijov's output in recent years has paled next to La Pasión, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind and other works from a decade or more ago. He has repeated familiar gestures, submitted works shorter than expected, and, on several occasions, failed to deliver commissions on schedule."
- Former popera moppet Charlotte Church is settling her civil suit with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in the wake of the massive phone-hacking scandal. "Earlier this week the Financial Times reported that News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the News of the World before its closure in July 2011, was likely to offer Church up to £500,000 in damages and costs, with the damages element set at about £180,000."
- A few weeks ago, we mentioned that Los Angeles Opera was introducing dynamic ticket pricing — and now the Metropolitan Opera is following suit by divvying up their seating into 27 different price points. Many of seats will be going up in price, not down, but by the same token there will be 451 seats priced at $25 or under per show.
- Rising conductor Mei-Ann Chen has agreed to stay on as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra for an additional three years. She is also music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta and, in 2005, was the first woman to win the prestigious Malko International Conductors Competition. (She's also a friend of mine from high school, which I would like to think is not the least among her accomplishments.)
- Soprano Natalie Dessay has made an unusual announcement: She's going to take 2015 off as a sabbatical year: "At age 46, I started thinking, there's no more repertoire that really interests me." Her plans for the year? To learn Russian, yoga "and maybe the art of clowning." (Also on her bucket list: "change the world.") (link in French)
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