This week, Gustavo Dudamel was in Scotland to visit Raploch, Stirling, the "former haunt of notorious crime-clan matriarch Big Mags Haney and once so educationally deprived it was dubbed a 'higher-free zone.'" It now is the home of Big Noise, a classical music project for kids run by Sistema Scotland.
Locals turned out by the thousands — despite pouring rain — to cheer the children on at the venue, which was once an infamous housing project. El Sistema founder Jose Antonio Abreu was so impressed he's invited the children to perform in Venezuela next year.
Down in Liverpool, a striking answer to the perennial question, "What goes with Beethoven's Ninth?" The Liverpool Philharmonic premiered another Ninth, by Master of the Queen's Music Peter Maxwell Davies. Despite being commissioned for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Liverpool Echosays the "musically angry" piece is a commentary on Western military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 tax return has gone public, and here are some interesting tidbits: James Levine's compensation went up 39% from the year before, to $2.1 million; Peter Gelb earned $1.4 million; the master electrician for the theater made $516,000. Meanwhile, the Met spent $321 million overall that year — ending with a $41 million surplus. (The year before concluded with a $25 million deficit.)
Today's conductor — less a high priest than primus inter pares? "The orchestra's publicity department may still present him/her as the divine spark that ignites the enthusiasm of everyone within their orbit but, in reality, the conductor now fulfills a role somewhere between promotional tool and musically inspiring frontman."
"Israelis have mostly made their peace with Germany. They drive German cars, drink German beer, and even import goods from companies that utilized Jews as slave labor during World War II. But in the still complicated dynamic between the two countries, an unofficial ban on Wagner has somehow survived the rapprochement." How?
Florida's Jacksonville Symphony is about $3 million in debt, and the musicians' contract has expired. The current board proposal calls for 20% pay cut, taking base salary from $40,000 down to $32,000.
Erik Satie on his dietary routine: "My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, moldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuchsia. I have a good appetite, but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself." Also, he never left his squalid apartment without a hammer in his coat pocket.