The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel counters pianist Gabriele Montero and defends for art’s sake his remaining distant and quiet about the political and social protests in Venezuela.

March 22, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you have been seeing the many news reports about the major student-led political and social protests going on in Venezuela. They concern corruption, poverty, food shortages and the general ineptitude of Nicolas Maduro, the narrowly elected leader who followed the populist and leftist strong man Hugo Chavez after he died a year ago.

Venezuela protest 2014

venezuela mass protests

Then the protests spilled over into the artistic world.

Take the Venezuela-born pianist Gabriele Montero (below). You may recall that not long ago she played the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15, by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain. She is also known for her improvisations, once of which she performed as an encore in Madison.

Montero has voiced a strong protest over the deadly upheaval in her native land.

Gabriela Montero

She also called on her colleague, superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel (below), who now leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as the student Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela, to speak up about what was happening in his homeland. When he didn’t, she took him to task and protested his silence or his tacit endorsement of the failing government.

DudamelChris Christodoulou

Montero compared Dudamel handling of Venezuela to the election endorsements that two well-known Russian musicians with international reputations — conductor Valery Gergiev (below top on the right with Vladimir Putin) and opera diva Anna Netrebko (below bottom on the right with Putin) — gave to Russian President and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. (Hmm–The Ear wonders how Gergiev and Netrebko stand on Ukraine and the Anschluss or illegal annexation of Crimea.) But that is another issue for another time and another post.

vladimir putin decorates valery gergiev

Anna Netrebko and Vladimir Putin

Here is an open letter that Montero wrote to Dudamel, as it was reprinted in British critic Norman Lebrecht’s blog “Slipped Disc”:

https://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/02/an-open-letter-to-gustavo-dudamel-on-the-venezeuala-situation.html

Dudamel has been silent or timid at best, and many have said it is because Hugo Chavez (below top, on the left with Gustavo Dudamel) and his successor Nicolas Maduro (below bottom) have both been generous to “el sistema,” the national music education program out of which Dudamel emerged. Many observers speculated that Dudamel was watching out for the interest of his young followers and successors.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) spe

Nicolas Maduro

Here is his letter response to Montero, also as it appear on Lebrecht’s blog:

https://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/02/just-in-gustavo-dudamel-replies-to-gabriela-monteros-open-letter.html

But now Dudamel has spoken out forcefully and more at length, defending himself and saying that he intends to keep politics and arts separate.

Except that his removing himself from the controversy is itself political enough, and getting more so. The Ear recalls the saying of the 19-century Romantic French novelist Stendhal that speaking of politics in things of the imagination (like art) is like firing a gun in the middle of a concert.

Anyway, The Ear recently stumbled across a story by The Boston Globe that provided a very good wrap-up of Dudamel’s current position and also included an excellent chronology and summary of the background including Montero’s point of view and accusations.

Here is a link:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2014/03/15/los-angeles-philharmonic-gustavo-dudamel-will-play-music-not-politics/3jz5l0elMa9InVgR4GCZaI/story.html

What do you think?

Should Gustavo Dudamel speak up about the protests and government killings in Venezuela?

Or should art and politics be kept separate?

Does this controversy change what you think of either pianist Gabriele Montero or conductor Gustavo Dudamel?

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: Is it payback time for Russian musicians at the Winter Olympics in Sochi? Conductor Valery Gergiev is the official maestro of Vladimir Putin’s big show that opens tonight with grand ceremony.

February 7, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you have been waiting for the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics (below is the official logo), tonight is the night it all begins for real –- at least officially because some preliminary rounds of sporting events like figure skating and snowboarding have already been held — even amid the terrorist threats, corruption, unfinished construction, dog roundups, authoritarianism and homophobia.

winter olympics 2014 logo

Many of us here in the U.S. will be tuning in at 8 p.m. EST to NBC-TV and streaming the games on-line. Here is a link to a schedule, to background stories and to other links.

http://www.nbcolympics.com

For a complete schedule of events, check out:

http://www.sochi2014.com

And tonight is the opening ceremonies, the March of Nations, where all the athletes will march into the main stadium.

Could it also be payback time for Russian superstar musicians?

The maestro of music for the Olympics is the ever busy, often unshaven and always critically acclaimed conductor Valery Gergiev (below), who guest conducts around the world and holds his own podium at the Mariinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg.

Gergievin NY

But ironically, the maestro is a very close friend and political supporter – as is superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below), who may or may not show up at Sochi — of the heavy-handed and thuggish Russian President, and former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin. (Below is a photo of Vladimir Putin pinning a state decoration on Valery Gergiev.)

vladimir putin decorates valery gergiev

The combination of the two V-Men — Vladimir and Valery — creates certain ironies and some wariness or even dissatisfaction.

Here is a link to a fine story about Gergiev, Putin and the Olympics that aired in NPR. It also has links to some music.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/03/271168650/valery-gergiev-the-powerful-and-polarizing-maestro

And The New York Times has also published a story about Gergiev that focuses on his role as an ambassador and defender of Russian culture’s rebirth under Putin, whom Gergiev endorsed in the last presidential election (both are below), despite the foreign political fallout.

Valery Gergiev and Putin

So, will Anna Netrebko (seen below in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin”), who also endorsed Putin, show up to sing?

Met Eugene Onegin Anna Netrebko face

Will some of the famous ballet dancers from the famed but beleaguered Bolshoi company in Moscow also perform?

Tune in and see.

But while we wait for the Winter Olympics to reveal themselves and for their many cultural contradictions to surface — and to help warm you up in this cold, cold Midwest winter -– here is some of the best music ever composed for the Olympics or sports events: A YouTube video of Milwaukee-born composer Michel Torke’s “Javelin” written for the 1996 Summer Olympics Games in Atlanta, Georgia:

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Classical music: The final curtain falls tonight on the “People’s Opera – the City Opera of New York while across town the Metropolitan Opera launches the new season of the globally successful “Live in HD” satellite broadcasts.

October 5, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This will be a memorable and historic day, especially in New York City, for opera.

It is memorable on two counts.

It is ironic that this afternoon marks the opening of the new season, the eighth since it started in 2006, of “The Met Live in HD,” a spectacularly successful program, that will open this season of 10 Metropolitan Opera productions with soprano superstar Anna Netrebko and globe-trotting conductor Valery Gergiev in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”

Met Live Eugene Onegin poster

The very profitable “Live in HD” series helps to explain the financial success of the world-famous Metropolitan Opera. The series, show in thousands of cinemas around the world, has changed the opera scene world-wide.

Here is a story from this blog with links to other stories:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/classical-music-will-anyone-boo-or-protest-singer-anna-netrebko-and-conductor-valery-gergiev-when-they-open-the-new-live-from-the-met-in-hd-season-this-saturday-with-a-satellite-bro/

(In Madison, the live satellite broadcast starts at 11:55 a.m. at Point Cinemas and Eastgate Cinemas. Admission is $24 for adults, $18 for children.)

Rheingold audience point

But by far the more memorable and historic event will no doubt be the final curtain falling on the historic 70-year-old City Opera of New York. That will come tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music — lately the City Opera has left its home venue in Lincoln Center and traveled around the city to  perform in a vain attempt to save money and fundraise from new audiences  — where the company will give a performance of the new opera “Anna Nicole” (below) by Marc-Anthony Turnage, which some critics see as a fast-food, high calorie and low nutrition, work of art that helped cause the fall of City Opera. (See the YouTube video at the bottom.)

City Opera closes with Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage at BAM

By all accounts, the City Opera has been plagued with financial problems for a few years. But the immediate cause of the failure was the company’s inability to raise $7 million by last Monday.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s longtime music director and conductor, maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo buy Prasad) has had a long history with the City Opera, ever since he was a student at the Juilliard School, as he discussed in an interview last summer with The Ear:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/classical-music-madison-symphony-orchestra-and-madison-opera-conductor-john-demain-talks-about-the-role-of-the-piano-in-his-career-and-his-upcoming-performances-this-weekend-of-robert-and-clara-schum/

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Here are three pieces I think that will giver you a good ideas of the City Opera and the fallout from its failure.

Here is a link to the story by Jeff Lunden that aired on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/10/02/228171680/chronicle-of-a-death-foretold-new-york-city-opera-shuts-its-doors

Here is a background story from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/arts/music/new-york-city-opera-files-for-bankruptcy.html?_r=0

And here is another New York Times story with recollections of the opera company by staff and performers reported by senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below is a 1976 photo with star soprano Beverly Sills on the left, stage director Sarah Caldwell in the center and City Opera then-director Julius Rudel:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/remembering-city-opera-we-will-miss-it-more-than-we-realize/?ref=music&ref=music

new york city opera in 1976 soprano Beverly Sills, stage director Sarah Caldwell and then-director Julius Rudel

There are a lot of devoted opera fans in the Madison area an around the world and especially in New York City.

What do they think of the demise of City Opera?

I hope they will leave an observation in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The new “LIVE From The Met in HD” season starts this Saturday. Will anyone boo or protest the Putin supporters singer Anna Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev during the satellite broadcast of the opera “Eugene Onegin” by the gay composer Tchaikovsky? Here are links to the full season and its background.

October 4, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

You know the new concert season is well underway when the major opera houses rev up.

And this weekend marks the start of the new “Live From the Met in HD’ series. It features 10 new productions, including some very well-known work operas and some lesser-known one.

Met Live Eugene Onegin poster

The opening production by the world-famous Metropolitan Opera (below, the interior seen from the stage) in New York City is Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin,” which the Madison Opera staged to critical acclaim last season.

Met from stage over pit

The new production stars singers Russian soprano Anna Netrebko (below) and the Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien.

Met Eugene Onegin Anna Netrebko face

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Russian globe-trotting conductor Valery Gergiev (below, in a photo from Getty Images), which is sure to give sparkling account of the tuneful Waltz, probably the most famous and popular moment in the entire opera (at bottom in a popular YouTube video) by that Melody Master of a composer.

Valery Gergiev Getty Images

It is a curious and sure-fire musical combination that may also be controversial, given how both Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev have been outspoken supporters of Macho Man Russian President Vladimir Putin (below), despite his oppositional defense of Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad and despite his human rights record, especially fostering the oppression of gays and lesbians in Russia. And how ironic it is that they will perform in an opera by Tchaikovsky, who was himself gay,

pro-gay march in russia with putin poster

Here are two popular  posts I recently did about that issue, posts that drew some great reader comments you should check out:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/classical-music-lets-boycott-them-if-music-superstars-anna-netrebko-and-conductor-valery-gergiev-dont-enlighten-vladimir-putin-about-gays-and-lesbians/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/classical-music-which-opera-villain-would-vladimir-putin-be/

vladimir putin barechested

One wonders; Will the singer or conductor hear any boos or jeers as they start the production, which the Met’s general director Peter Gelb has refused to dedicate to Russia’s gays and lesbians? It could be interesting. But given the cost of seats at the Met, The Ear suspects not. Art will probably win out over politics, at least on the expensive Mother Ship – though the reception might be more vocal and dissenting in local and more affordable cinemas.

But who knows? Still, one can hope.

pro-gay protest in russian with vodka boycott

Anyway, the “Met LIVE in HD” shows will be screened by satellite at the Point Cinemas on Madison’s far west side and the Eastgate Cinemas on the city’s far east side. The opera starts at 11:55 a.m. CDT and runs just over four hours.

Tickets are $24 for adults, $18 for children.

Below are some links with more information about this opening production and about the full season.

Here is a link to the complete season on 10 productions so you can check for conflicts, set aside dates (encore performances are usually the following Wednesday evening) and buy tickets in advance.

http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx

Here is a useful link to the notes with a synopsis of the plot of “Eugene Onegin”:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/uploadedFiles/MetOpera/8_live_in_hd/4_United_States/cast%20sheets/Onegin%20cast%20sheet.pdf

Here is a link to some videos (below is the ball scene) that may whet your appetite to see and hear the production:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/video/2013-2014/eugene-onegin?src=hdpage

Met Eugene Onegin ball

And here are links to two detailed an dwell researched stories in The New York Times that give the history of the Met Live in HD series and offers insightful critiques of what the series means for live opera and the opera scene in general in the U.S. and around the world.

Here is the link to the story with historical, demographic and economics background:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/arts/music/the-mets-hd-broadcasts-are-changing-opera.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Here is the analysis and critique:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/arts/music/met-operas-live-in-hd-series-outside-of-new-york.html?pagewanted=all

If you go, let us know what you thought of the production and whether something unusual happened -– be it a boycott or protest,  jeers or boos.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Which opera villain would Vladimir Putin be? Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s last performance of its acclaimed opening concert is TODAY at 2:30 p.m.

September 29, 2013
2 Comments

A REMINDER: The last performance of the season-opening concert by Madison Symphony Orchestra (below in a photo by Greg Anderson) takes place at 2:30 p.m. today in Overture Hall. The program of Aaron Copland’s dance suite “Appalachian Spring,” Richard Wagner‘s “Love Death” (Liebestod) from the opera “Tristan und Isolde” and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov‘s symphonic tone poem “Scheherazade” celebrates the 20th anniversary of conductor John DeMain‘s tenure. And the performances have received rave reviews. Here are links to reviews by John W. Barker of Isthmus and Greg Hettmansberger of Madison Magazine:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41041&sid=7853c5de52499cbd8d735576acaa10e0

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/September-2013/Demonstrating-What-All-the-Fuss-Is-About/

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that last weekend I asked whether we should boycott the performances and recordings of superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below top) and globe-trotting conductor Valery Gergiev (below bottom) because they supported the election of Vladimir Putin, the thuggish former KGB agent who is the scheming and vicious President of Russia.

anna netrebko

Gergievin NY

There is a lot to complain about Vladimir Putin (below, pictured on a poster in a pro-=gay rights protest) and his record of injustice, human rights and political intrigues. In particular, putting aside questions of Syria and internal Russian dissent, I chastised Netrebko and Gergiev for not standing up to and not speaking out about Putin’s support of extremely harsh and oppressive anti-gay laws in Russia, especially both musicians no doubt work with and depend on gay and lesbian colleagues in performing artists.

pro-gay march in russia with putin poster

The comments led to some pretty heated responses from various readers.

Here is a link so you can see for yourself:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/classical-music-lets-boycott-them-if-music-superstars-anna-netrebko-and-conductor-valery-gergiev-dont-enlighten-vladimir-putin-about-gays-and-lesbians/

Then a god friend and loyal, knowledgeable reader of the blog, who is on a bicycling tour of Hungary, checked in and sent on a link to a piece about how opera houses – including the famed Metropolitan Opera in New York City — have been asked to sign petitions and at least dedicate their opening night performances against Putin and his supporters.

The Met’s general director Peter Gelb (below) refused, pleading that the arts are separate from politics, and some other opera leaders agreed with him. Well, what do you expect from management?

Peter Gelb

Here is a link to that fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal:

http://on.wsj.com/176cPgk

The whole idea of Vladimir Putin (below) as an opera villain got me thinking: Which villain in the opera repertoire best parallels or embodies Vladimir Putin, seen as a parody of himself as a real-life bare-chested macho man in the photo below top? (The beef-cakey baritone Nathan Gunn, below bottom) would be an ideal choice to cast int the role no?)

vladimir putin barechested

Nathan Gunn barechested in Billy Budd

Could Putin be the infamous Scarpia (below, as sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky in a popular YouTube video) who tortures and kills opponents in Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca”?

Could he be the notorious Duke of Mantua who betrays his friend in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto”?

Or maybe Mephistopheles in Charles Gounod’s “Faust”?

Perhaps Modeste Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov as leader who runs astray of the law and the people?

And there many other villain who kill, torture and betray.

In fact, to help you decide here is a list – by no means complete – of the Top 10 opera villains as provided by the famed radio station WQXR FM in New York City.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/167716-top-10-opera-villains/

Maybe you can think of others?

And just maybe we will see a contemporary opera composed that is based on Putin. Why not, The Ear asks, since recently world premiere of a commissioned opera ‘”Anna Nicole” based on the glittery and totally superficial life of the trashy Anna Nicole Smith recently took place at the Royal Opera in London?

anna nicole opera

Anyway, which opera villain do you think best embodies Vladimir Putin?

And could the real Vladimir Putin himself serve as a villainous role in a new and contemporary opera?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Let’s boycott them if music superstars Anna Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev don’t try to enlighten Vladimir Putin about gays and lesbians.

September 22, 2013
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Like everybody else, I am pretty angry, disappointed and frustrated about Russia and the spoiler role it continues to play in defending Syria’s genocidal actions and in blocking justified moves by the United Nations against President Assad and his murderous regime.

Syria family-escapes from-fierce fighting-between free-syrian army-fighters and-government-troops in idlib northern syria in march 2012

But I am also very irritated, annoyed and angered by the way that Macho Man Russian President and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin (below) and the Russian right-wing politicians have stigmatized gays and lesbians and passed laws against the LGBT community.

Russia Armenia

Which is also why I was so proud of U.S. President Barack Obama for openly meeting with LGBT advocates in Saint Petersburg when he recently went there for the G-20 summit of economically powerful nations.

Obama and rainbow banner

So why can’t other important figures speak out about gay rights, as I bet the famous late cellist, conductor and outspoken dissident and defender of human rights Mstislav Rostropovich (below) would have done.

Mstislav Rostropovich

How about the opera superstar soprano Anna Netrebko?

anna netrebko

And how about the globe-trotting and critically acclaimed Russian orchestra conductor Valery Gergiev?

Gergievin NY

You may recall that in the Russian election both of those artists supported the strongman Vladimir Putin as their candidate. (Below top is a photo of Valery Gergiev, on the right, with Vladimir Putin, below bottom, Vladimir Putin greets Anna Netrebko with flowers)

Valery Gergiev and Putin

Anna Netrebko and Vladimir Putin

Isn’t that special? as The Church Lady used to say on “Saturday Night Live.”

Well, The Ear wonders why the two world-renowned classical musicians don’t go to their favored candidate and enlighten him about gays and lesbians? About gay rights as human rights?

I mean is it is not as if they are personally ignorant of or uninvolved in the important role that gays and lesbians play in the world of classical music and opera, and in the performing arts in general.

It is impossible to believe that both Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev don’t count gays and lesbians among their closest friends and collaborators.

Why are they holding back?

What are they afraid of?

They are being hypocritical and should be ashamed. (Below is a YouTube video, with almost one million hits, of Anna Netrebko singing the famous aria “Sempre Libera” — Always Free — from Giuseppe Verdi‘s popular opera “La Traviata.)

gay rights march in russia,jpg

Or could it possibly be that they actually support Putin’s oppressive and repressive policy – now official law – that makes it a crime even to speak about homosexuality openly for fear of spoiling and recruiting young people?

Why don’t they speak out against the violent and thuggish beatings that the intolerant Russians have inflicted on gays and lesbians? Why don’t they support gay rights protests and protesters in Russia? And if they have, who don’t we know about it?

It would sure be news, even if it meant bad box office in their native land.

pro-gay march in russia with putin poster

And if it is the case that Netrebko and Gergiev have remained silence and uninvolved, then The Ear says: It is time to boycott their productions, concert appearances and their recordings. It would be similar to the boycott of Russian vodka that gay rights advocates have called for (below).

pro-gay protest in russian with vodka boycott

What do you say?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Metropolitan Opera announces next season’s schedule “Met Live in HD” broadcasts – which cuts back from 12 to 10 productions.

March 10, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Metropolitan Opera has announced the next season (2013-14) of “Live From the Met in HD” broadcasts, which are shown in cinemas around the world, including at the Eastgate (below) and Point cinemas in Madison.

Eastgate

It is an impressive lineup for the series that, according to The Met, gets transmitted via satellite to 1,900 theaters in 64 countries and has sold more than 12 million tickets since it began in 2006.

But nobody is saying why the season has been cut back from 12 to 10 after two years of expanding, if I recall correctly. Maybe the market can only bear so much. Or maybe it is the budget.

Rheingold audience point

There will be one a month except for two in October and April.

Also, if I recall correctly, the whole program has been a great moneymaker for the Met. So I am not sure why the program was cut back. Maybe it just has to do with impressive new productions and only so much time to stage them in.

Also to look forward to is the return of conductor and Met artistic director James Levine (below top) after a hiatus of two years due to ill health. He will conduct Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck.” Also, “Two Boys,” a new opera commissioned by the Met from composer Nico Muhly (below bottom), will be featured.

James Levine conducting

Nico Muhly 2

As always, the season opens Oct. 5 with a bang – in this case, Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” with superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below right).

Eugene Onegin Met HD Mariusz Kwiecien and Anna Netrebko

And there are a lot of other top-name singers and conductors who will be involved.

Here are the official announcements:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/news/press/releases/2013-14-season/

http://www.metoperafamily.org/en/news-and-features1/press-releases/releases/2013-14-Live-in-HD/

Here is a link to the series’ home website:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/1314

And here are some other stories about the regular Met season and the HD season that offer some analysis and other details:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/the-met-live-in-hd-announces-2013-14-season

And here is another, featuring world-famous opera (and food) expert Fred Plotkin (below), who writes the blog “Operavore” and is a 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/blogs/operavore/2013/feb/26/analysis-metropolitan-operas-2013-14-season/

fred plotkin USE


Classical music: NEWS FLASH – Recovering James Levine will return to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera next season.

October 13, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The timing of the announcement couldn’t have been better, given that today, Saturday, Oct. 13, marked the return of the “Live From the Met in HD” satellite broadcasts with Anna Netrebko in Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love.”

And this story needs no commentary from me except to say that classical music fans and opera fans all over the world will be overjoyed to hear that long-time Met conductor James Levine (seen below in a photo by Damon Winter for The New York Times), long plagued by major and serious health problems, will return to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera next season. Furthermore, the recuperating Levine is being extremely open and candid about overcoming his illnesses and health challenges, which he calls “miraculous.”

Special accommodations are being made to the Met’s for Levine, who usually conducts sitting down (below, in a 2111 photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times) but who must now get around in a motorized wheelchair. But you can read the stories below for those and other details.

Here is a link to a Page One story in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/arts/music/james-levine-to-return-to-conducting-in-2013.html?pagewanted=all

Here is a link to another story by the Associated Press:

http://news.yahoo.com/met-operas-james-levine-return-may-spinal-injury-233313878–sector.html

You could even leave a Message for the Maestro in the COMMENT section of this blog.


Classical Music: Madison Symphony Orchestra’s FREE Community Hymn Sings resume this Saturday. So do “The Met Live in HD” broadcasts, which opens with Anna Netrebko in Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love.”

October 10, 2012
3 Comments

REMINDER: The new season of The Met Live in HD, with 12 operas, opens this Saturday at Eastgate and Westgate cinemas with Donizetti‘s “The Elixir of Love” at 11:55 a.m. (The live satellite broadcast lasts 3 hours and 5  minutes.) The new Metropolitan Opera production stars Anna Netrebko  (below). Tickets are $24 with discounts for seniors and children. For more information and tickets, visit  http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx and http://www.marcustheatres.com

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will resume the FREE Community Hymn Sings during the Dane County Farmers’ Market on this Saturday, Oct 13, at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall.

Says an MSO press release: “Bring your “pipes” and raise a joyful noise with the MSO’s Overture Concert Organ. Join with others in an old-fashioned sing-along led by MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison.

The MSO’s Free Community Christmas Carol Sing will take place in Overture Hall on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 11 a.m. this year.

The Hymn Sings and Christmas Carol Sing are free and open to the public. All ages are welcome. No tickets or reservations are needed. Each event lasts 45 minutes to an hour. The hymns chosen are widely known across many traditions and lyrics are provided.

A growing Madison tradition, the Community Hymn Sings and Christmas Carol Sing are part of the MSO’s Overture Concert Organ season and are presented in partnership with Overture Center.

For more information, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/hymnsings or call the Madison Symphony at (608) 257-3734.


Classical music: What is the best music for Mother’s Day? What music would you play for your Mom? Here are Dvorak songs for all mothers and a Chopin waltz for my Mom.

May 13, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Mother’s Day, a holiday that is rightly celebrated in one way or another and at one time another around the world.

It seems a good time to ask: “What is appropriate music to play on Mother’s Day?”

Well, it depends of course on the music and the Mom.

So for all mothers, I offer these beautiful and poignant “Songs My Mother Taught Me’ by Antonin Dvorak as sung by Anna Netrebko.

They capture the sweetness and innocence of motherhood and childhood without being hackneyed.

Listen to the beauty:

For my Mom, something special and particular is required.

After all, she took me to see the great pianist Artur Rubinstein in Carnegie Hall – where she even managed to get stage seats so I, as a young and aspiring pianist, could be close to The Master — perform an all-Chopin recital on my 15th birthday.

So, here are clips of Rubinstein playing one of the pieces we heard that night way back in 1961.

The choice of a waltz is poignant because at 90 Mom is now confined to a wheelchair. But she fights back with energy and determination and love, always love, and dances in her heart.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I am proud of you.

And I love you.

What piece would you play and dedicate to your Mom on Mothers Day? Let us know,, and include a link is possible, in the Comments section.


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