Around The Classical Internet: April 20, 2012Big prizes for composers, operatic intrigue in New York and a former MP takes to the stage in London: all the news that's fit to link.
- Twenty-one American performing artists, including composer/singer/choreographer/force of nature Meredith Monk and clarinetist/composer Don Byron, have been named as part of the first class of Doris Duke Artists, a new initiative of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Each will receive an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $225,000 plus as much as $50,000 more in targeted support for retirement savings and audience development. (The stipulation for retirement savings is particularly unusual.)
- Kevin Puts won the Pulitzer Prize for music Monday for his very first opera, Silent Night, which was based on the French 2005 World War I film Joyeux N?el, which was in turn based on actual events. When I initially talked to Puts a few minutes after he learned he had won, he sounded as if lovely, friendly, gift-bearing space aliens had just landed in his backyard.
- Rather than seek out two new players, the Tokyo String Quartet has decided to say goodbye at the end of the 2012-13 season.
- Speaking of opera: A fairly blistering editorial against the Met Opera under Peter Gelb's tenure arrived in my mailbox the other night. There's been a lot of public anti-Gelb sentiment of late, but this piece was written by Brian Kellow, features editor of Opera News, which is published by ... the Metropolitan Opera Guild. A sample: "I think the majority of people who deeply love opera would agree that we are in the midst of a very bad period. The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them. I know this because I sit in the audience, and I listen to what people around me are saying at intermission."
- Meanwhile, the New York Times' Zachary Woolfe ventured out to Las Vegas to see the Cirque du Soleil show Ka, a project by Robert LePage, director of the Met's current Ring cycle. Woolfe found many similarities, and wasn't exactly pleased by them: "If you view Wagner's cycle primarily as a series of logistical puzzles waiting to be solved with advanced technology, Ka might convince you, as it apparently did Mr. Gelb, that Mr. Lepage is the man for the job. But if you care more about the cycle's nuances ? its characters and their relationships, its emotions, its philosophical complexities ? then the idea of giving the reins to the creator of Ka, which is wholly devoid of all those complexities, is preposterous."
- And there was an unexpected window of sorts on Valhalla the other night: "In the midst of the Wotan-Br?nnhilde colloquy, 'guess who made a guest appearance? The Microsoft logo... as a projection on The Machine during a technical glitch (about 1/2 a second) on the mountain.' The informant adds that this brief, almost subliminal moment 'won the evening's biggest laugh.'"
- On the other hand, while Gelb may or may not be an inspired artistic chief, the 'Live in HD' movie theater simulcasts have now sold more than 10 million tickets.
- After a season spent as a traveling company, New York City Opera announced this week that they will split the four operas of the 2012-13 season across two houses, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Manhattan's City Center. The operas are pretty tasty: Thomas Ades' Powder Her Face, Britten's The Turn of the Screw, Rossini's Mose in Egitto and Offenbach's La Perichole. GM George Steel also claimed that for the first time in a dozen years, the company will end this season with a balanced budget.
- The San Antonio Opera is filing for bankruptcy within 3 weeks, and faces a federal lawsuit filed by the local musicians union. And a new organization is stepping onto the scene. Opera Theater San Antonio plans to stage its initial event in May 2013.
- Remember the Brooklyn Philharmonic's Beethoven remix competition? The winner is DJ Eddie Marz.
- From the Financial Times, here's a fascinating look at Chen Ping, the power behind Beijing's "Egg," the National Centre for the Performing Arts: "Possibly the most powerful force in current Chinese culture, he functions, with surprising informality, as official leader, bureaucratic boss, aesthetic impresario, prime publicist and, perhaps most imposing, proud lord of the manor."
- There's a new exhibition in Charlotte of 18 violins that survived the Holocaust. Amnon Weinstein, the luthier who collected them, "has restored more than 30 Holocaust-era violins, and many are inlaid with an intricate Star of David in mother-of-pearl. Orthodox Judaism forbade displaying portraits or sculpture, so Weinstein says violins often hung as art on the walls. 'Never [would you] see a Jewish house without an instrument on the wall. It was a kind of tradition,' he says."
- Jordan's Amman Symphony Orchestra ? the only professional Western classical orchestra in that country and one of very few in the Middle East ? will close down at the end of the 2012 season unless they manage to raise funds fast.
- Whatever happened to the stolen Morini Strad ? and why did Erica Morini disappear from the rolls of the great violinists of the 20th century? A new off-Broadway play depicts her life as "a character study about the price of being a great artist and then coping with life after artistry is no longer possible."
- Even though the Olympics organizers failed to pin down Keith Moon for a gig (you know, the drummer of The Who who's been dead for more than three decades), the BBC Proms people are prepping for a big summer on the other side of the city: their 92-concert season will include an entire Beethoven symphony cycle with Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
- This is why I am so suspicious of those who claim to have been born with perfect pitch ? tonality and harmony are cultural constructs and very recent developments in the course of evolution. It's science, people! "What we think of as music isn't what our ancestors thought of as music. Virtually every modern song revolves around harmony, but harmony is an invention that is only a thousand years old."
- In his continuing exploration of the world of opera (and now oratorios), the Telegraph's Sameer Rahim tries out Bach's St. Matthew Passion for the first time, wondering: "Could I, a non-Christian, fully appreciate such a work? Or would my experience be closer to [a] priest's at my Sufi prayers, who sat respectfully but uncomprehending during the Arabic chanting?" On Twitter, we recommended to Rahim that he now try out the Argentine Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov's take on a Passion narrative. We're evangelistic like that, har har.
- British former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has taken on a new role: as the (non-singing) Duchesse de Crackentorp in seven performances of Donizetti's Fille du Regiment at the Royal Opera. This is after her turn as a contestant on the UK show Strictly Come Dancing ? and Daily Mail critic David Gillard has savaged her: "As an actress, she inhabits more of a twilight zone, somewhere between a creature of the night (old bat), grumpy Lady Bracknell and diminutive pocket battleaxe. She speaks mainly in grotesquely accented French, but manages a few gags about Cornish pasties, the Olympics and 'Strictly.' ... Mugging, stamping and glaring, she is endearingly dreadful."
- Oh, and speaking of the Royal Opera, here's Jonas Kauffman.
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