The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Metropolitan Opera stars Jonas Kaufmann and Anna Netrebko back out of Met’s tour to Japan while others audition to get in the Met. Joshua Bell is the new head of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. American orchestras will hold benefits for tornado victims. Royal Opera also to go “Live in HD” — as the Los Angles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel do this Sunday. | June 4, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings when I read that opera stars won’t go to Japan. It’s easy to say they are overreacting. But Japanese officials haven’t been honest about radiation and it may not take much to ruin a major career. Opera singers – who makes some unbelievable facial expressions when performing, as you can see below –have to be notoriously protective of their voices.

Well, decide for yourself.

And enjoy some of the good news this week.

ITEM: Radiation fears cause star singers, like tenor Jonas Kaufmann (below top) and soprano Anna Netrebko (below bottom), to back out of the Metropolitan Opera’s tour to Japan, which begins its performances today:

ITEM: American violinist Joshua Bell (below, in a photo by Richard Termine) is the new conductor of the London-based The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

I’ve seen a lot of changes and still love that venerable group. I go back to when Sir Neville Marriner founded and conducted it 50 years ago and rose to international fame as a conductor of full-size symphony orchestras, not just chamber orchestras.

(By the way, the smaller chamber ensemble with St. Martin is coming to the Wisconsin Union Theater next fall.)

Bell takes over from American pianist Murray Perahia, who headed it since 2000:

ITEM: Is the Royal Opera House copying the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series as its prepares to beam broadcasts, some live, of operas and BALLET (a smart addition) worldwide?

Why not? I say. After all, the formula works and helps the cause of classical music. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, superstar with conductor Gustavo Dudamel, did it this year.

(In fact, tomorrow, on Sunday, June 5, at 4 p.m., the LA Phil and Dudamel – below — conclude their three-concert  HD season with an all-Brahms concert – featuring the Fourth Symphony and Double Concerto for violin and cello – which will be screened at the Point and Eastgate cinemas.).

ITEM: What do would-be opera stars look like when auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera? Prize-winning and pioneering photographer Lee Friedlander (below), who has done a lot of portraits of musicians and whose son is a professional jazz bassist, takes a look and gets striking results not unlike the PBS promotional ad that shows some guy singing an opera aria in a photo booth and making a flipbook out of the images as he lip-synchs to a Caruso recording:

ITEM: Symphony orchestras raised money for victims of Japan’s earthquakes and tsunami. Now American symphonies will do the same for victims of tornadoes in the south.


Posted in Classical music


  1. Jacob, re: the NY Met artists refusing to sing in Japan, I can understand their concern for their physiological safety. But having lived half my life in Japan, I guess if I were one of those singers, I’d make the tour as a vote of confidence in the Japanese who I’m positive will eventually rebuild their lives despite the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Tohoku. You may know that PM Naoto Kan survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote this past week because so many of his countrymen are angry with the government’s slow reaction. I was also extremely impressed that German Chancellor Merkyl has slammed on the brakes for nuclear power there.

    And speaking of the NY Met’s members, there was a recent photo essay/narrative in the NY Times Sunday magazine on the “walk-on” amateurs who auditioned for the group. Incredibly of the several hundred initial auditionees & now one of the 8 finalists, is a black guy who as a youth was something of a juvenile delinquent. Music has such power to influence the human psyche.

    Comment by Larry Retzack — June 4, 2011 @ 10:17 am

    • Hi Larry,
      I like to think I would be like you.
      About the photos: There is a link to them on the same post today. Look further down for Lee Friedlander.
      Happy viewing.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 4, 2011 @ 11:41 am

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