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Around The Classical Internet: February 3, 2012

Gustavo en 'Sésamo' con Elmo. MoreCloseclosemore
Gustavo en 'Sésamo' con Elmo.

  • Set your DVRs: Hot off a Mahler cycle in LA, Gustavo Dudamel will be on the Sesame Street episode airing this coming Monday. (Different audiences, I suppose.)
  • Four stories about sopranos up next. First: Camilla Williams — the soprano believed to be the first African-American woman to perform with a major US opera company — died Sunday in her home in Bloomington, Ind. at age 92. She made her debut at New York City Opera May 15, 1946, almost nine years before Marian Anderson sang at the Met.
  • Second: Patricia Neway died Jan. 24 at 92. A longtime collaborator of Gian Carlo Menotti, she debuted the role of Magda Sorel in his opera The Consul — and won a Tony for her turn as the Mother Abbess in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music.
  • Third: A profile of soprano Renee Fleming as she enters the next stage in her career. "She has decisions to make about how to spend her remaining years onstage. Opera singers continually assess and refine their own voices, which change over time. What roles are appropriate? When is it good to stretch yourself, and when is it reckless?"
  • Fourth: American singer Angela Meade has been given the Beverly Sills Artist Award. It's a $50,000 prize for singers who have already appeared in featured roles at the Met. Previous winners include Joyce DiDonato, Nathan Gunn and Matthew Polenzani.
  • We've had a lot of coverage of Philip Glass' 75th birthday this week, but here's more: The world premiere recording of his Ninth Symphony debuted at No. 15 on the iTunes Top 100 albums chart.
  • And Justin Davidson wrestles with his lack of affinity for Glass' work: "I felt that I could have walked away in the middle of an arpeggio, had a four-course dinner, and returned to find those soothing chords still burbling away. Glass may well have done the same when he was composing the stuff. Surely there's an app for that. But I also found long seductive stretches that buzzed with energy or settled into feline languor."
  • Now, several items on labor and financial issues. Out of the ashes of the Honolulu Symphony rises the Hawai'i Symphony Orchestra, led by JoAnn Falletta. Their first, eight-program season starts next month.
  • The Philadelphia Orchestra has extended its contract with CEO Allison Vulgamore — for four weeks. (Not a typo. One month.) This is the second such extension of her contract with the struggling ensemble.
  • Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Peter Dobrin continues his dedicated and careful analysis of the orchestra's situation. He says there's been "incremental but encouraging progress" in gifts and pledges, but notes that "several prominent titled players — clarinetist Ricardo Morales, trumpeter David Bilger, and cellist Efe Baltacigil — already have accepted positions elsewhere, and another wave of departures is on the way." (A late-breaking update: The principal trombonist just announced he's leaving for the LA Phil.)
  • The musicians of the Louisville Orchestra have withdrawn their charge of unfair labor practices against management and the board. Says the musicians' committee chair: "We hope this shows that the musicians want to work in a positive way with anyone willing to move forward respectfully."
  • The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's president and CEO abruptly resigned yesterday saying he was simply "ready to move on."
  • The Tuscon Symphony Orchestra just debuted a concerto for ... mountain dulcimer, composed by Conni Ellisor and played by Stephen Seifert. Says a humble Seifert about his instrument: "It's the simplest instrument you can make. It's a box with strings on it."
  • A recording studio owner likens crowd-source funding for classical recording projects to the slow food movement: "Just as the slow-food movement encourages eaters to think more holistically about how food is grown, prepared and brought to the table, this co-producer model gives people much more access to the creative process of music."
  • Remember the grumbling a few months back surrounding the renovation of the Bolshoi Theatre? Apparently a gilded handle broke off in a reporter's hand during a dress rehearsal for opening night, two studio ceilings are so low that dancers bump their heads during lifts, and despite a new shock-absorbent stage surface, dancers are getting injured.
  • Due to the European financial crisis, Barcelona's famed Liceu opera house is closing for eight weeks. More than two dozen performances are being cancelled.
  • The Guardian has a bright idea: "Wouldn't it be exciting ... to have [an artist] talk to the audience about the music that is being performed?" (If that's a new thought, then we clearly don't go to the same concerts.)
  • Pianist Jonathan Biss, who released an ebook called Beethoven's Shadow in late 2011, writes about how hard it is to write about music. (Can I get an "Amen!" around here?) "This is so extraordinarily difficult because to write effectively you need to be direct, clear and specific, whereas the glory of music lies in its abstraction — its nearly infinite malleability according to the listener's psychological state — and if you don't embrace that, you are sure to miss its essence. If you err on one side, you end up with a blow-by-blow account that can read like the minutes of a meeting or, worse, a report card; on the other end of the spectrum you get platitudes about beauty and spirituality without approaching either."
  • There are quite a few half-baked generalizations and weird bromides packed into this little essay about Asians in classical music — Baroque music is "mechanical," and classical music, if it survives at all, "will have an Asian afterlife, much in the way washed-up American rock bands can still pack stadiums in Manila." But the points the author raises about racial diversity in orchestral management and on boards is worth reflection.
  • Drumma Boy — a producer big in Southern hip-hop — muses on the classical music that molded him: "My mother was a professional opera singer and my father was the First Chair clarinet for forty years in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra — the first African-American to hold that position ... When I tackle genres that many people with tunnel vision believe to be the antithesis of Hip-Hop, they don't realize that I'm not broadening my horizons or crashing into a classical members-only party — I'm merely coming back home to Memphis, Tennessee, and the orchestral roots that lie deep beneath my beats."

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