The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is she or isn’t she retiring from opera? Here is everything you want to know about superstar soprano Renée Fleming and the confusion over her future plans

April 8, 2017
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Three recent stories tell you just about everything you could want to know about superstar soprano Renée Fleming (below), now 58, as she prepares to retire — at least partly retire — from the opera stage but still devote herself to music on and off the concert stage.

The first story came in The New York Times in a preview profile before her upcoming appearance as the aging Marschallin in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier.” (You can hear some of her singing in that role in the YouTube link at the bottom.)

Here is a link to that story:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/arts/music/the-diva-departs-renee-flemings-farewell-to-opera.html?_r=0

But just to eliminate any doubt about her leaving music altogether when she retires from singing and acting opera, Fleming also gave a long interview to Vanity Fair magazine in which she discusses her plans to still pursue music full-time as a recitalist, recording artist  and someone working offstage to benefit opera and music, much as the famed Beverly Sills once did.

Here is a link to that story:

http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/04/opera-legend-renee-fleming

And then Fleming also clarified some confusion in the Times story about her future plans in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR):

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/04/06/522876028/hold-up-ren-e-fleming-is-not-retiring-from-opera


Classical music: Van Cliburn biopic is in the works with young star Ansel Elgort to play the late, great American pianist. Plus, Madison maestro John DeMain remembers opera maestro Julius Rudel.

July 6, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear sees that something for both the ears and the eyes is coming down the pike.

Hollywood sources have confirmed that a biographical film –- yes, a biopic -– about the American pianist Van Cliburn (below) , who died last year at 78 of bone cancer, is in the works.

Cliburn's hands

That is as it should be, despite what some classical musicians see as shortcomings in Cliburn’s artistry.

Here is a post The Ear did before about the opinions that members of the public and musicians have concerning Cliburn:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

van cliburn ill

Cliburn was the first classical artist to make a million-selling record -– he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 — on the RCA label (below and at the bottom). It was the same work with which, at age 23, he unexpectedly won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.

His victory during the height of The Cold War was an event that led to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City (bel0w) and a meteoric career, then to premature burn-out and an early retirement from the concert stage. (You can see an archival historic footage at the bottom in a YouTube video. Complete performances by Van Cliburn of the same concerto are also on YouTube.)

Van Cliburn ticker tape parade in 1958

And, if The Ear recalls correctly, Van Cliburn became a phenom or superstar who sold out houses, and was the first classical artist to get paid a fee of $10,000 for a one-night performance.

Cliburn Tchaikovsky LP

Not many classical musicians have the stuff to become the subject of a biopic.

Some composers, especially Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin, have lent themselves to such a treatment, several times in the latter case. (We will overlook the case of the mentally ill performer David Helfgott in “Shine,” which seemed more a pathology than a biography.)

But The Ear can’t think of another individual performer, although he remembers more general subjects like “The Competition.”

The young actor Ansel Elgort (below), who The Ear thinks resembles the young Cliburn (who resembles fellow Texan Lyle Lovett), has been cast in the leading role, which focuses on Cliburn’s early years and his victory in Moscow. Apparently, Elgort himself also plays the piano quite well -– but my guess is that he does not play well enough to play it the way that the Juilliard School-trained Cliburn did.

But Elgort’s star is on the ascent, given his performance in the much praised and popular current release (“The Fault In Our Stars,” about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.

Ansel Elgort

Anyway here are some links to stories about Van Cliburn, Ansel Elgort and the forthcoming movie:

To CBS News:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ansel-elgort-to-star-in-van-cliburn-biopic/

To the Dallas Morning News, in Cliburn’s hometown:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20140623-ansel-elgort-tapped-to-play-van-cliburn-in-movie.ece

To TIME magazine with a good video accompanying it:

http://time.com/2917530/ansel-elgort-van-cliburn/

To another video with good comparison photos of Cliburn and Elgort:

http://www.hitfix.com/news/ansel-elgort-playing-van-cliburn-in-new-biopic

To Norman Lebrecht’s tweet-like comment on his popular blog Slipped Disc:

http://slippedisc.com/2014/06/ansel-is-picked-to-play-van-cliburn-in-biopic/

What other classical music performers would you like to see treated on a biopic?

I nominate the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a closeted gay man who led a dramatic life including encounters and confrontations with Soviet leaders and his American tour plus his eccentric late-life habits that included touring around Europe in a van playing in schools and old churches and using out-of-tune pianos. And perhaps also the legendary operatic  soprano Maria Callas, who was known for being tempestuous and temperamental as well as supremely gifted in both singing and acting. (There was a Broadway play about her, “Master Class” by Terrence McNally, the same writer who did the “Dead Man Walking,” the opera by Jake Heggie.)

richterwithcross1

Medea Maria Callas

Your nominations?

The Ear wants to hear.

JOHN DeMAIN ON JULIUS RUDEL

And speaking of celebrities, John DeMain (below, in photo by Prasad), the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, sent in his remembrance of the late, great opera conductor Julius Rudel, who led the now-defunct City Opera of New York and who died a week ago at 93:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Here is a link to the Rudel posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/classical-music-conductor-julius-rudel-longtime-director-of-the-defunct-new-york-city-opera-has-died-at-93/

And here is John DeMain’s remembrance:

“It was my great honor to be chosen for the Julius Rudel Award at the New York City Opera in 1971. The purpose of the stipend was to allow an American conductor to work closely with Maestro Rudel to learn how to become an artistic director of an opera company.

Rudel (below) was far and away the best conductor in the house. His performances were vital, theatrical, and intensely musically expressive. His “Marriage of Figaro” was an unforgettable experience for me. I prepared the auditions of singers for the company, and got to sit in on the casting conversations, and learned the criterion for casting a singer in an opera.

Julius Rudel at home in 2010 NY Times

Rudel was extremely demanding musically, and, of course, expanded the repertoire of the company in all directions. He had great flair for American opera and musical theater.

The bottom line for me, however, was he delivered totally engrossing performances night after night. He also was a mentor to me, and provided counsel and advice as new career opportunities presented themselves to me.

I consider Julius Rudel’s time at the City Opera as the “golden age” of that company. It was during that time that Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, and many other greats were singing on that stage.

I’m grateful to have had him in my life.

Julius Rudel middle age conducting NPR

 


Classical music: Conductor Julius Rudel, longtime director of the defunct New York City Opera, has died at 93.

June 29, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Julius Rudel (below, in a 2010 photo from The New York Times), the longtime artistic director of the now defunct New York City Opera, has died at 93.

Julius Rudel at home in 2010 NY Times

By all accounts, Rudel was a knowledgeable, impeccable and insightful musician, and a generous man and instructive role model. And that is how he comes across in an interview for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) you can listen to at the bottom in a YouTube video.

An unassuming man and a populist for the arts, Rudel, who was a native Austrian and a refugee from Adolf Hilter’s Nazi Germany at 17 in 1938, had the misfortune to outlive the opera company that he so nourished but which went bankrupt and defunct eight months ago.

He had a local tie in that, early on, he recognized and encouraged the talent of a young piano and conducting graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City who was also a student at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s famed Tanglewood Festival.

Julius Rudel middle age conducting NPR

That man was John DeMain (below), who is the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera. Before coming to Madison, DeMain led the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Huston Grand Opera.

Here is a link to the story where John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) talked briefly about his link and debt to Rudel.

https://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

Rudel lived a long and productive life, filled with nurturing many famous opera singers, including Beverly Sills who is seen below, at left, in 1976 talking to Rudel) and Placido Domingo, and with guest stints around the world conducting all kinds of music.

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

Here is a great story from the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/06/26/325809149/julius-rudel-longtime-director-of-new-york-city-opera-dies-at-93

And here is an impressively comprehensive obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/arts/music/julius-rudel-longtime-city-opera-impresario-dies-at-93.html?_r=0

And here is the NEA interview on YouTube:

 


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:

https://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:

https://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: NPR reports how City Opera — the “People’s Opera” — in New York is on the brink of bankruptcy and ruin.

September 14, 2013
1 Comment

REMINDERS:  Edgewood College mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson (below top) performs her recital at 2:30 p.m. on SUNDAY — NOT Saturday, as The Ear mistakenly posted originally.

Here is more about her program:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/classical-music-edgewood-college-mezzo-soprano-kathleen-otterson-will-perform-a-recital-of-songs-by-gustav-and-alma-mahler-berlioz-rossini-and-andre-previn-this-coming-saturday-afternoon/

I apologize for the above error and inaccuracy.

ALSO: This week’s installment of the live broadcast “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen,” on Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 to 2 p.m., features duo-pianists Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro  (below bottom) in a program of Igor Stravinsky‘s “The Rite of Spring” (which is marking its 100th anniversary this year) plus music by George Gershwin and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Kathleen Otterson 2

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

By Jacob Stockinger

The story of the dire financial predicament of City Opera (below) – – the so-called “People’s Opera” — in New York City, which reads just like an opera plot, with lots of dramatic twists and turns, and reversals of fortune.

And now everyone is anxiously awaiting to see the story’s climax -– to see whether the famous opera company meets its fundraising needs or ends up going under after it left its permanent” home at the New York State Theater (below) in LIncoln Center.

City Opera at the New York State Theater in Licoln Center

The story of City Opera has bigger local importance than some might think.

John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra has along history with the City Opera, which included excerpts from his production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” there for its PBS TV celebration on “Live From Lincoln Center.”

When he was a student at the Juilliard School, DeMain was the second student to receive the Julius Rudel Award from the City Opera.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Since then he has directed other operas at City Opera including, Puccini’s “Tosca” and Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha.”

Here is a link to Coty Opera where you can find out about its history, its calendar of productions and its current fundraising campaign:

http://www.nycopera.com

Anyway, nobody has done a better job than NPR of explaining the predicament that the City Opera finds itself it.

It is the so-called people’s opera that was set up as a populist and affordable alternative to the posher and more famous Metropolitan Opera. One of its biggest stars was the famed Beverly Sills (below  in f New york Times photo from the 1970s and in a YouTube video at the bottom). It recently moved from its permanent home at Lincoln Center to using different alternating venues.

beverly sills nytimes

What is the City Opera’s history? What are its financial circumstances? What is being done to save the company? Can you help?

Use this link to find out:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/09/10/221085176/new-york-citys-peoples-opera-may-face-its-final-curtain

And then be sure to leave a COMMENT if you have an opinion about the City Opera and an experience you had with it that the rest of us should hear about.

The Ear wants to hear.


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