The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music updates: Pro Arte Quartet gets $40,000 grant from the NEA and Marcus Theatres won’t screen the Metropolitan Opera’s summer encores of “Live in HD”

May 31, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a busy couple of weeks, what with concerts that concluded the regular concert season, graduation ceremonies, holidays, festivals, competitions and other timely topics or events. So let’s start catching up this week. And let’s start with two smaller items:

ITEM 1: The University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) has received a major grant for new commissions – part the quartet’s centennial celebration this coming season. It is $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and will go to the creation of new works of art, specifically four new American works (two string quartets and two piano quintets).

“A great country deserves great art” is the motto of the NEA. It’s a good branding campaign, especially now that the barbarians are waiting at the gates in the form of Republican budget-cutters who would, if they could, gut culture and education funding – including public radio and television — in favor of business and defense. Here is a link to the grant story in 77 Square/The Capital Times:

Of course, I have my bias, since I sit of the centennial planning committee. But putting that aside, I still can’t believe the way local, state, regional and national Republicans see everything in terms of a private-sector bottom line. Some things of value, of major value, just can’t be measured as profit or loss. Only small people living in a small world think that way all the time.

Here is the official statement posted on the NEA website:

Washington, D.C. — National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman today announced the latest round of NEA funding for Fiscal Year 2011 totaling more than $88 million awarded through 1,145 grants to not-for-profit national, regional, state, and local organizations nationwide.

Chairman Landesman said, “NEA research shows that three out of four Americans participate in the arts. The diverse, innovative, and exceptional projects funded in this round will ensure that Americans around the country continue to have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”

This round of funding is provided through four grant programs: Access to Artistic Excellence, Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, Arts on Radio and Television, and Partnership Agreements (State and Regional). Access to Artistic Excellence grants foster and preserve excellence in the arts and provide access to the arts for all Americans. Grants in this round focus on two primary themes: access to the arts and preservation activities. A broad range of activities are funded in the disciplines of dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts.

Projects include outreach, touring, artists’ workshops and residencies, technology, preservation, recordings, and conferences and symposia. In addition, this round of funding includes grants to local arts agencies. Through the Access to Artistic Excellence category, 789 grants out of 1,415 eligible applications are recommended for funding for a total of $24.9 million.

University of Wisconsin at Madison Madison, WI


CATEGORY: Access to Artistic Excellence

FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Music To support a commissioning and performance project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Pro Arte Quartet. Founded in 1912 in Brussels, the Belgian string ensemble was performing on a U.S. concert tour when Europe broke out in World War ; the musicians remained permanently in the U.S. by accepting a residency at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1940.

ITEM 2: Tomorrow, Wednesday night, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. are the encore presentations of “Live From the Met in HD” of Wagner’s “Die Walkure” at the Marcus Point and Eastgate cinemas in Madison. Tickets are $24. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. The entire cast is great, and you will especially be blown away by the German tenor Jonas Kauffmann – to say nothing of Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, Stephanie Blythe and the controversial hi-tech set.

In both attendance and the quality of the productions, it has been a great year for that series, which has been renewed for next season. Yet Marcus Theatres, which operates 600 cinemas in Wisconsin and around the Midwest, apparently is again refusing to screen the summer encore productions of “The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD”, even though the several productions I went to were sold out or close to sold out (below), including the 5-1/2 hour production, with a 45-minute delay, of Wagner’s “Die Walkure” (The Valkyries).

It’s curious choice on Marcus’ part because, according to promotional material, Marcus will carry the satellite-beamed productions of five Shakespeare plays including “Henry IV,” Parts 1 and 2 and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” And opera seems to be outdrawing classic theater these days. Lots of people, I suspect, would find refreshing shelter in listening to great music and seeing great acting in an air-conditioned setting during the hot and humid summer months. And it’s not all Wagner!

So I suspect there is a demand for summertime opera. If you think so too, why not fill out and send an e-mail to Marcus and let them know what you think and what they should do. Sure, it didn’t work last year, but you can always try again for either this summer or next summer.

Here’s a link:

Send’em a message!

Posted in Classical music

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