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.”
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:
(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.)
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.)
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:
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:
Here is a background story from The New York Times:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Here are two popular posts I recently did about that issue, posts that drew some great reader comments you should check out:
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.
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.
Here is a useful link to the notes with a synopsis of the plot of “Eugene Onegin”:
Here is a link to some videos (below is the ball scene) that may whet your appetite to see and hear the production:
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:
Here is the analysis and critique:
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.
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:
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.
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.
The comments led to some pretty heated responses from various readers.
Here is a link so you can see for yourself:
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?
Here is a link to that fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal:
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?)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How about the opera superstar soprano Anna Netrebko?
And how about the globe-trotting and critically acclaimed Russian orchestra conductor Valery Gergiev?
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)
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.)
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.
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).
What do you say?
The Ear wants to hear.
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.
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.
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.
And there are a lot of other top-name singers and conductors who will be involved.
Here are the official announcements:
Here is a link to the series’ home website:
And here are some other stories about the regular Met season and the HD season that offer some analysis and other details:
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:
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:
Here is a link to another story by the Associated Press:
You could even leave a Message for the Maestro in the COMMENT section of this blog.
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
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.
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.
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.
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, it is just a few weeks or more before a lot of some major political events, all of them quite polarizing, contentious and controversial, get decided.
And curiously enough, classical music – which is normally left out of such major social events and political discussions – seems to be playing an important role right now.
And then there is the upcoming election in Russia where Vladimir Putin (below, riding brazenly beefcake and defiantly bare-chested) – often accused making his opponents “disappear” — hopes to return as President.
Of course music creeps into politics now and then. Recently, President Obama made headlines and videos that went viral when he crooned a few bars of Al Green and then later some blues with B.B. King and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.
But classical music and opera?
How do they figure all of a sudden in politics?
Could it be because so many of these extremist-type candidates turn to something more artistically traditional for validation and mainstream cultural acceptance?
Here are some stories to consider:
Mr. Blowhard Speaker Newt Gingrich isn’t doing very well in the polls and primaries. But his former aide, mistress and now third wife, Callista (below), is using music education as the theme she says she would champion as First Lady the same way that Michelle Obama is promoting healthy food and fighting childhood obesity:
Hugo Chavez is so anxious to have good press to retain almost dictatorial power that he is willing to co-opt the superb music education program in Venezuela – the same “el sistema” that brought us superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel (seen below with Chavez) and the system’s famous founder Juan Antonio Abreu – and thereby to neutralize opposition from all the grateful young performers and audiences who benefit from the system he didn’t even start.
Here is a great New York Times story about him and them:
And here is a backgrounder about the success of El Sistema and the loyalty it inspire among its participants:
And then there are the mass demonstrations against former Russian president and KGB secret police agent Vladimir Putin, who seems about to pull off a shady return to power. But that doesn’t seem to prevent him from getting endorsements from some pretty big classical music stars including conductor Valery Gergiev (below top, shaking Putin hand at the recent Tchaikovsky competition) and sexy opera diva soprano Anna Netrebko (below bottom with Putin), who denies rumors that she had an affair with Putin (how operatic that would be!):
For background, try this:
I’ll bet there is more as elections draw closer and the American Presidential Election draws closer.
Do you have any more tips or ideas, suggestions or comments about music and current politics here or elsewhere?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Christmas may be over, but there are still important holiday gifts and special deals involving classical music to be had. Here is one as described in a recent press release The Ear received;
“The go-to site for experiencing world-class classical performances on the Web – medici.tv – will be offering all music lovers in the U.S. an unlimited free day of viewing on Monday, Dec. 26 of the myriad programs in the site’s pay-per-view library. (A sample is below.)
Much of the live programming on medici.tv is available free throughout the year, but on the day after Christmas, the pay-for-view archival programs will be free, too – as a gift to the site’s fans and new friends.
What’s available on medici.tv now includes more opera than ever before – including acclaimed productions from the UK and Paris with such top stars as Jonas Kaufmann (below), Natalie Dessay and Gerald Finley.
There are also live Webcasts of top-tier orchestral concerts, vocal performances, and chamber recitals, along with vintage documentaries and music films – including the much-lauded Christopher Nupen catalog.
More and more praise accrues to medici.tv with each passing month.
New Yorker magazine writer Alex Ross (below) said on his blog, “The Rest Is Noise,” that “the hits keep coming at medici.tv.” Offering “treasures aplenty” was how Gramophone editor-in-chief James Jolly put it, designating medici.tv as one of the Web’s leading classical experiences.
The medici.tv app for iPads, iPhones, and other digital devices – available for free at the Apple app store – was named one of the top five apps for classical music by WQXR, the classical music station of New York City.
In addition to its live webcasts, medici.tv also offers an extensive library of video-on-demand programs, available via subscription. These performances, documentaries and archival features spotlight leading musical institutions and world-class artists – from golden-age legends to today’s top stars.
The 30-plus Christopher Nupen films available at medici.tv include not only the priceless du Pré documents (complete with Elgar’s Cello Concerto and a number of all-star chamber performances) but also films of Evgeny Kissin, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Nathan Milstein. All 32 Beethoven piano sonatas recorded by Daniel Barenboim (below) in 1983-84 will be available by the year’s end.
About medici.tv: Since its official launch in May 2008, medici.tv has gained international recognition, bringing together a community of music and arts lovers from 182 countries – online viewers who have watched over 12 million videos to date. The site currently averages more than 80,000 individual visitors each month.
In addition to offering live concert hall events that music lovers can experience on their computers and entertainment systems, medici.tv now offers a free application (available at the Apple App Store) that makes it possible to experience world-class artistry on iPads and iPhones.
Building on the success of webcasts from the Verbier Festival (below) in 2007, medici.tv has offered high-definition webcasts from many other leading festivals, including Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Denis, Aspen, Glyndebourne, Salzburg, and Lucerne; from such Parisian venues as the Opéra National de Paris, Auditorium du Louvre, Cité de la Musique, and Salle Pleyel; and from Milan’s famed La Scala.
Many operas and concerts performed by the world’s top artists and orchestras have been webcast as live events and later as video-on-demand (VOD) – all available for free. The list of artists presented at medici.tv is a “who’s who” of today’s stars, including Claudio Abbado, Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Plácido Domingo, John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti (below), Anna Netrebko, Maurizio Pollini, Thomas Quasthoff and Simon Rattle.
Among the featured orchestras are such renowned ensembles as the Berlin Philharmonic, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw (below), Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Filarmonica della Scala, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
In addition to webcasts of more than 80 live concerts each year, medici.tv has partnered with the world’s top artists and music institutions to offer subscriptions, giving music-lovers the opportunity to watch more than 700 Video On Demand programs – growing to 1,000 programs over the next two years.
They include concerts, operas, recitals, documentaries, master classes, artist portraits, and archival material. Featured artists include such legendary musicians as Leonard Bernstein, Maria Callas, Glenn Gould, Herbert von Karajan, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arthur Rubinstein (below), Georg Solti and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, as well as such leading film directors as Bruno Monsaingeon, Paul Smaczny and Frank Scheffer.
You can watch medici.tv concerts on iPhone with the free medici.tv App.
You can also: