The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A critic “unwraps” the holiday gift of Tchaikovsky’s music and other mysteries in “The Nutcracker.” The production by the Madison Ballet and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opens this Friday and runs through Dec. 27.

December 6, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps it is because it is so popular, especially at holiday time when it has become an annual tradition almost everywhere.

Perhaps it is because it is basically a story about children and the holidays, especially Christmas.

Whatever the reason, the ballet “The Nutcracker” by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is usually seen as a largely naïve work, an innocent fairy tale or fantasy with some darker undertones.

Madison Ballet The Nutcracker title screen

But the truth is that, if you dig into it, “The Nutcracker” is far more complex than most people usually think.

Of course it was meant to be more about dance — classical ballet — than about the music.

Yet it is the beautiful music by one of history’s greatest melody writers that draws so many people to the work.

Madison Ballet Nutcracker WCO playing

And according to one writer for The New York Times, of the many mysteries layered in “The Nutcracker,” the music remains one of the biggest mysteries. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a 2012 performance by conductor Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky Theatre in St, Petersburg, Russia.)

It is always especially relevant at this time of the year.

So The Ear is posting about the production by the Madison Ballet and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which opens this coming Friday night for nine performances in Overture Hall of the Overture Center.

It features the choreography of Madison Ballet’s artistic director W. Earle Smith (below top) and the live music by the WCO under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below bottom).

w. earle smith

AndrewSewellnew

Here are performance dates:

December 12  |  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

December 13  |  2 p.m. Sunday

December 19  |  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

December 20  |  2 p.m. Sunday

December 24  |  1 p.m. Thursday

December 26  |  2 p.m. Saturday

December 27  |  2 p.m. Sunday

Here are links with detail of the performances and the production, including tickets, which start at $14:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/nutcracker/

http://www.madisonballet.org/nutcracker/

Madison Ballet The Nutcracker

And here is a link to a story in The New York Times with some excellent background about various productions and their interpretations:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/arts/dance/the-nutcracker-and-its-many-mysteries.html?_r=0

If you go see and hear “The Nutcracker,” enjoy — and solve or at least appreciate — some of the mysteries in this evergreen holiday work!

 

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Classical music: Here are the winners of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition. You can stream the winners’ concerts LIVE tonight and Friday night for FREE with a link that is here.

July 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The  major event in the world of classical music for the past several weeks has been the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition that was held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. (Below is American pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first competition and made history.)

Van Cliburn

The winners – in the categories of piano, violin, cello and voice — were announced yesterday.

Here they are, along with a link to a way for you to stream the winners’ concerts, under competition head and conductor Valery Gergiev (below), live TONIGHT and Friday and for FREE.

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/tchaikovsky-competition-2015-winners-announced?pmtx=recommended&utm_expid=32540977-5.-DEFmKXoQdmXwfDwHzJRUQ.2&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Gergievin NY

 


Classical music: The 15th International Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow will be streamed LIVE and for FREE starting this Tuesday on medici.tv

June 14, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following press release – with a lot of important information and excellent background – that he wants to share. He notes that Moscow is 8 hours ahead of Madison in time difference.

The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition and medici.tv Launch Tch15.medici.tv This Week – the Dedicated Website for Free Live Webcasts, Competition News, Interviews and More 

The new relationship between the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition and medici.tv will produce 19 days of nonstop free live webcasts from Russia, June 15 to July 3, 2015. These webcasts will present the performances of 120 candidates from around the globe, available to a worldwide audience live from Moscow (piano and violin) and St. Petersburg (cello and voice). Below is a portrait of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky 1

The dedicated online platform for these competition webcasts – tch15.medici.tv – went live with scene-setting content this Wednesday, June 10. The eight hosts for the live tch15.medici.tv presentations – in both English and Russian – include Gramophone magazine editor-in-chief and BBC broadcaster James Jolly, longtime Libération critic Eric Dahan, violinist Sascha Maisky, and Radio Orpheus broadcaster Irina Tushintseva, among other European journalists and music personalities.

Five medici.tv Daily Journal video teams will be on hand to create exclusive content from Russia for tch15.medici.tv, which will feature the latest news from the competition and much more – including interviews with the prestigious jurors, many of whom are past winners of the Tchaikovsky Competition, such as Deborah Voigt (below) and Denis Matsuev (with complete jury listing below).

Deborah  Voigt

A brand name/hash tag for this year’s events – #TCH15 – will help galvanize the passionate social-media communities that follow this preeminent international classical music event in this 175th anniversary year of Tchaikovsky’s birth. The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition and medici.tv also have key partners, including TV Kanal Kultura, The Mariinsky Foundation of America, iTunes, WQXR, euronews, and Ross Telecom, among others to be announced.

The appointment of Valery Gergiev (below) as chairman in 2011 and the presence of exceptional jury members have resulted in the rebirth of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. This event’s unique international influence was underscored by the rocketing ascent of pianist Daniil Trifonov, winner of the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition, a feat reminiscent of Van Cliburn’s dazzling success at the inaugural contest in 1958.

Gergievin NY

On June 15 at 7 p.m. Moscow time is the live webcast of the Opening Gala concert from Moscow. The complete competition rounds will be presented from June 16 to June 30, with the climactic Award Ceremony on July 1. Winners will then perform at Gala Concerts on July 2 in Moscow and July 3 in St. Petersburg, where a Grand Prix Winner may be declared.

The 120 candidates for the three rounds of this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition – in piano, violin, cello and voice – will be narrowed from 236 young musicians from 37 countries who made it to the preliminary auditions (after 623 initial applications from 45 countries). The list of competitors selected for the preliminary auditions has been published on the official site of the XV Tchaikovsky Competition: http://tchaikovskycompetition.com/en/contestants.

The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition will remain available for free on all devices on tch15.medici.tv until the next competition.

Held once every four years, the International Tchaikovsky Competition has helped launch the careers of an all-time who’s who of classical music, including such artists as pianists Van Cliburn (below), Vladimir Ashkenazy, Grigory Sokolov, Mikhail Pletnev, Boris Berezovsky, Nikolai Lugansky, Denis Matsuev and Daniil Trifonov; violinists Viktor Tretiakov, Gidon Kremer, Viktoria Mullova and Akiko Suwanai; cellists Natalia Gutman, Mischa Maisky, David Geringas, Boris Pergamenschikov, Antônio Meneses, Ivan Monighetti and Alexander Kniazev; and singers Deborah Voigt, Paata Burchuladze, Evgeny Nikitin, Mikhail Kazakov and Jong Min Park, among others.

Van Cliburn

“The International Tchaikovsky Competition is 57 years old – it’s a significant age with a remarkable history of introducing so many exceptional talents to the world – but we live in the Internet era,” says Valery Gergiev, artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre and co-chair of the organizing committee of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition. “Now, both amateurs and professionals of classical music are ready to join us via the Internet, TV broadcasts or any other form of media communication that one might only imagine – this truly international audience wishes to be part of our great musical adventure. We aim to expand this audience, to offer music lovers the world over the chance to become part of the digitally engaged virtual audience of the Tchaikovsky Competition. Our partners from medici.tv share this passion with us.”

Schedule and Jury members of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition

June 15: Opening Concert of the Competition at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory

June 16 to June 30: Competition rounds (see details below)

July 1: Awards Ceremony at the Moscow Philharmonic’s Tchaikovsky Concert Hall

July 2: Winners Concert at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory

July 3: Winners Concert at Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg

Piano Rounds

Round I: June 16-20, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory

Round II: June 21-25, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory

Round III (Finals): June 28-30, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory

Jury members: Dmitri Bashkirov, Michel Béroff, Boris Berezovsky, Peter Donohoe, Sergei Dorensky, Barry Douglas, Vladimir Feltsman, Klaus Hellwig, Denis Matsuev, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Alexander Toradze; and Martin T. Son Engström.

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

Violin Rounds

Round I: June 17-20, Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory

Round II: June 21-25, Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory

Round III (Finals): June 28-30, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall of Moscow Philharmonic

Jury members: Salvatore Accardo, Yuri Bashmet, James Ehnes, Maxim Fedotov, Liana Isakadze, Ilya Kaler, Leonidas Kavakos, Boris Kuschnir, Vera Tsu Wei Ling, Mihaela Martin, Vadim Repin, Roman Simovic, Viktor Tretyakov, Maxim Vengerov, Nikolaj Znaider, and Michael Haefliger.

House music 2 violin

Cello Rounds

Round I: June 17-20,Small Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic

Round II: June 21-25, Small Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic

Round III (Finals): June 28-30, Great Hall of St. Petersburg Philharmonic

Jury members: Wolfgang Boettcher, Mario Brunello, Myung-wha Chung, David Geringas, Lynn Harrell, Alexander Kniazev, Mischa Maisky, Ivan Monighetti, Sergei Roldugin, Martti Rousi, Jan Vogler, Jian Wang, and Clive Gillinson.

cello choir 2

Voice Rounds

Round I: June 23-25, Mussorgsky Chamber Hall at Mariinsky II, St. Petersburg

Round II: June 27-28,Mussorgsky Chamber Hall at Mariinsky II, St. Petersburg

Round III (Finals): June 30, Mariinsky Concert Hall, St. Petersburg

Jury members: Olga Borodina, Mikhail Kazakov, Dennis O’Neill, Mikhail Petrenko, Thomas Quasthoff, Deborah Voigt, Chen-Ye Yuan, Sarah Billinghurst, John Fisher, Larisa Gergieva, Tobias Richter, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier.

accompanying singer and piano

About the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition

June 15 to July 3, 2015 – Moscow (piano, violin), St. Petersburg (cello, voice)

This year’s competition attracted 623 applications from 45 countries: Russia, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. In the qualifying round, the competition jury accepted a total of 236 musicians: 61 pianists, 48 violinists, 48 cellists and 79 vocalists (40 male, 39 female).

In addition, the selection commission may invite applicants directly to Round I who have won First Prize in competitions of the World Federation of Music Competitions, the Alink-Argerich Foundation and the All-Russian Music Competition. For Round I, the XV Competition has accepted two pianists, one violinist, three cellists and two vocalists (one male, one female). After the preliminary auditions, the total number of contestants accepted by the competition will be 30 pianists, 25 violinists, 25 cellists and 40 vocalists (20 male, 20 female).

Of course, the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition welcomes musicians from any country in the world.  The contestants in the piano, violin and cello competitions must be between 16 and 32 years old as of the June 15 opening of the competition. The voice contestants must be between 19 and 32 years old. Prior to the preliminary auditions, for which a schedule will be announced separately, the judges will arrive at a shortlist of applicants based on the video recordings submitted.

The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition will award six prizes for pianists, six for violinists, six for cellists, four for male singers and four for female singers. From among the First Prize winners, one will be singled out to receive the Grand Prix, a prize of $100,000 in addition to the winner’s First Prize. The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition will offer the following prizes in each category: First Prize of $30,000 USD and a Gold Medal, Second Prize of $20,000 and a Silver Medal; Third Prize of $10,000 and a Bronze Medal; Fourth Prize of $5,000 and a Diploma; Fifth Prize of $3,000 and a Diploma; Sixth Prize of $2,000 and a Diploma. There will be additional prizes of $2,000 and a Diploma for the best concerto performance with a chamber orchestra in Round II – one prize each for a pianist, a violinist and a cellist. The two best musicians in each category from Round II that are eliminated from Round III will receive a Diploma and a runner-up prize of $1,000. Depending on the outcomes of the competition and within the limits on the number of prizes, the judges may choose not to award all prizes or to divide them among the contestants (except for the Grand Prix).  In addition, the jury may award Diplomas and a prize of $1,000 to the best accompanists in the Competition (no more than two awards in each category).

Follow the International Tchaikovsky Competition:

http://tch15.medici.tv/en/

www.tchaikovskycompetition.com

www.facebook.com/InternationalTchaikovskyCompetition/timeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform music by Rossini, Wieniawski and Tchaikovsky this Tuesday night in Edgerton.

November 15, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a few years since the acclaimed and impressive Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below) –- still in the news (a link to a story on NPR, or National Public Radio, is below) because of the attempted theft of concertmaster Frank Almond’s $3-million Stradivarius violin — played an annual concert at the Wisconsin Union Theater. The Ear always looked forward to the top-flight playing and fine programs that the Milwaukee group brought to Madison.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/10/12/355623871/the-case-of-the-stolen-stradivarius

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra 2

But this week, the MSO, playing under an assistant conductor, will perform in nearby Edgerton at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center.

Edgerton PAC

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra – without its music director Edo de Waart — will perform at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center on this coming Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door.

Here is some information from a press release: “The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Edo de Waart, has embarked upon a new era of artistic excellence and critical acclaim. Now in his fifth season with the MSO, Maestro de Waart has led sold-out concerts, elicited rave reviews, and conducted an acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has four purposes: to comfort, educate, entertain and exhilarate the human soul.” For more information, visit www.mso.org

The concert will feature conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and violin soloist Jeanyi Kim.

The program will include the Overture to the opera “Semiramide” by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (below top); the Concerto for Violin No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22, by the well-traveled Polish violin virtuoso and composer Henryk Wieniawski (below middle); and the popular Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Opus 64, by the Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (below bottom). You can hear the tuneful and melancholy Tchaikovsky symphony, played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein,  in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.

Rossini photo

Henryk Wieniawski

young tchaikovsky

Jeanyi Kim (below) is the associate concertmaster (third chair) of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. In 2007, she served as a guest assistant concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev.

As an orchestral musician, the Toronto native has performed in illustrious venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre, Salle Pleyel, and the Concertgebouw.  In addition to maintaining a private studio, she has served on the faculties at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, University of New Haven, and Neighborhood Music School, to name a few.

She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale University, from which she also earned her BA, MM, and MMA degrees.

Jeanyi Kim

Francesco Lecce-Chong (below), currently associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has worked with the Atlanta, Indianapolis, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Hong Kong, Pitesti (Romania), and Ruse (Bulgaria) philharmonic orchestras. Equally at ease in the opera house, Maestro Lecce-Chong has served as principal conductor for the Brooklyn Repertory Opera and as staff conductor for the Santa Fe Opera.

He has earned national distinction, including the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award. In summer 2014, he served as the associate conductor at the Grand Tetons Music Festival and had guest appearances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Breckenridge Music Festival.

He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting.  Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Francesco Lecce-Chong

Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. They are available at the Edgerton Pharmacy and Edgerton Piggly Wiggly; and in Janesville at Knapton Musik Knotes and Voigt Music Center, and by calling (608) 561-6093.  Online, go to at iTickets.com

All performances funded by the William and Joyce Wartmann Endowment for the Performing Arts. An additional sponsor is the Edgerton Piggly Wiggly.

 

 


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
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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: Here are the new 56th annual Grammy Award nominees for Classical Music as a guide for holiday gifts.

December 14, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

As I usually offer readers for the holiday season, here is the list of the 56th annual Grammy nominations for classical music. It can serve as a good guide for giving holiday gifts, and readers have said they like it and find it both interesting and useful.

grammy award BIG

Don’t forget: The list of categories has been pared back from what it used to be – a sign of the transcendence of other forms of music.

After all, these are industry awards.

Some of the latest trends seem to continue to hold up. The nominations reflect several things: a fostering of lesser known groups and labels; more new and contemporary music; a couple of superstars thrown in.

I am somewhat surprised that certain recording are not in the running, especially pianist Jeremy Denk’s CD and DVD set of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations and violinist Hilary Hahn’s CD of the 27 encores she herself commissioned and performed.

jeremy denk bach golbergs cd

Hilary Hahn Encores CD cover

Well, we all have our own preferences. And maybe they were released too late. O r maybe they are too mainstream, whatever that means these days.

So what does the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences think of this year’s classical crop?

The Ear’s sentimental favorite is “Winter Morning Walks” (below) since all of the main parties involved — American poet Ted Kooser, American soprano Dawn Upshaw and American composer Maria Schneider – are cancer survivors, and their album speaks quietly but eloquently of their ordeals. They do what too much music doesn’t do any longer in an irony-drenched, postmodern age: Speak directly to the heart. “Winter Morning Walks” is Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” updated for our time. (You can hear samples in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

winter morning walks

Here is a link to the general Grammy Awards home page.

They make it hard to find, despite the gimmicky hype of a countdown clock, but the Grammy Awards will be given out live on Sunday, January 26,2014, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS starting at 7 p.m. CST.

http://www.grammy.com

And here is a list to the complete list of classical nominees in all categories:

http://www.grammy.com/nominees

71. BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL

Hymn To The Virgin, Morten Lindberg, engineer (Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl & Schola Cantorum) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

La Voie Triomphale, Morten Lindberg, engineer (Ole Kristian Ruud & Staff Band Of The Norwegian Armed Forces) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

Roomful Of Teeth, Mark Donahue & Jesse Lewis, engineers (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth) Label: New Amsterdam Records

Vinci: Artaserse, Hans-Martin Renz, Wolfgang Rixius & Ulrich Ruscher, engineers (Diego Fasolis, Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, Daniel Behle, Franco Fagioli, Valer Barna-Sabadus, Yuriy Mynenko & Concerto Köln) Label: Virgin Classics

Winter Morning Walks, David Frost, Brian Losch & Tim Martyn, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare

72. PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL

Manfred Eicher • Beethoven: Diabelli-Variationen (András Schiff) • Canto Oscuro (Anna Gourari) • Pärt: Adam’s Lament (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis, Sinfonietta Riga, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra) • Tabakova: String Paths (Maxim Rysanov)

David Frost • Andres: Home Stretch (Timo Andres, Andrew Cyr & Metropolis Ensemble) • Angel Heart, A Music Storybook (Matt Haimovitz & Uccello) • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Jonathan Biss) • Ben-Haim: Chamber Works (ARC Ensemble) • Celebrating The American Spirit (Judith Clurman & Essential Voices USA) • Elgar: Enigma Variations; Vaughan Williams: The Wasps; Greensleeves (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony) • Guilty Pleasures (Renée Fleming, Sebastian Lang-Lessing & Philharmonia Orchestra) • Verdi: Otello (Riccardo Muti, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Krassimira Stoyanova, Carlo Guelfi, Chicago Symphony Chorus & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) • Winter Morning Walks (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin • Bizet: Symphony In C; Jeux D’Enfants; Variations Chromatiques (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) • Traveling Sonata – European Music For Flute & Guitar (Viviana Guzmán & Jérémy Jouve) • Voyages (Conrad Tao) • Zia (Del Sol String Quartet)

James Mallinson • Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts (Colin Davis, London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Orchestra) • Bloch: Symphony In C-Sharp Minor & Poems Of The Sea (Dalia Atlas & London Symphony Orchestra) • Fauré: Requiem; Bach: Partita, Chorales & Ciaccona (Nigel Short, Tenebrae & London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble) • Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (Colin Davis & London Symphony Orchestra) • Wagner: Das Rheingold (Valery Gergiev, René Pape, Stephan Rügamer, Nikolai Putilin & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Wagner: Die Walküre (Valery Gergiev, Anja Kampe, Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Nina Stemme & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Weber: Der Freischütz (Colin Davis, Christine Brewer, Sally Matthews, Simon O’Neill, London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra)

Jay David Saks (below) • Adams: Nixon In China (John Adams, Russell Braun, Ginger Costa-Jackson, James Maddalena, Janis Kelly, Richard Paul Fink, Robert Brubaker, Kathleen Kim, The Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • Adès: The Tempest (Thomas Adès, Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Alan Oke, Simon Keenlyside, Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • The Enchanted Island (William Christie, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle De Niese, Luca Pisaroni, Lisette Oropesa, Plácido Domingo, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus) • Handel: Rodelinda (Harry Bicket, Renée Fleming, Andreas Scholl, Joseph Kaiser, Stephanie Blythe, Iestyn Davies, Shenyang & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Live At Carnegie Hall (James Levine, Evgeny Kissin & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Verdi: Rigoletto (Michele Mariotti, Željko Lu_i_, Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala, Oksana Volkova, Štefan Kocán, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus)

Jay David Saks

73. BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE

Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1, Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) Label: Chandos

Lutosławski: Symphony No. 1, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Track from: Lutoslawski: The Symphonies, Label: Sony Classical

Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva, Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart), Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra) Label: BIS Records

Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps, Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker) Label: EMI Classics

simon rattle stravinsky rite

74. BEST OPERA RECORDING

Adès: The Tempest, Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Luisa Bricetti & Victoria Warivonchick, producers (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia, Oliver Knussen, conductor; Ian Bostridge, Peter Coleman-Wright, Susan Gritton & Angelika Kirchschlager; John Fraser, producer (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble) Label: Virgin Classics

Kleiberg: David & Bathsheba, Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Anna Einarsson & Johannes Weisser; Morten Lindberg, producer (Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Vocal Ensemble) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

Vinci: Artaserse, Diego Fasolis, conductor; Valer Barna-Sabadus, Daniel Behle, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli & Philippe Jaroussky; Ulrich Ruscher, producer (Concerto Köln; Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano) Label: Virgin Classics

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Christian Thielemann, conductor (below); Katarina Dalayman, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson & Linda Watson; Othmar Eichinger, producer (Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper; Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Christian Thielemann Wagner Ring CD

75. BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts, Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus) Label: LSO Live

Palestrina: Volume 3, Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen) Label: Coro

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales) Label: Chandos

Pärt (below): Adam’s Lament, Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis) Label: ECM New Series

Whitbourn: Annelies, James Jordan, conductor (Ariana Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices) Label: Naxos

Composer Arvo Pärt

76. BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace Label: Decca

Cage: The 10,000 Things, Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters, Label: MicroFest Records

Duo, Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta, Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Roomful Of Teeth, Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth, Label: New Amsterdam Records

Times Go By Turns, New York Polyphony, Label: BIS Records

leonidas kavakos beethoven sonatas

77. BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti, Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) Label: Naïve

Corigliano: Conjurer – Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra, Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony) Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise Label: Naxos

The Edge Of Light, Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet) Label: Harmonia Mundi

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2, Yefim Bronfman (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta); Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic) Track from: Magnus Lindberg, Label: Dacapo Records

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx, Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960, Maria João Pires Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Yefim Bronfman by Dario Acosta

78. BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO

Drama Queens, Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco) Label: Virgin Classics

Mission, Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti) Label: Decca

Schubert: Winterreise, Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees), Label: Challenge

Wagner, Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin) Label: Decca

Winter Morning Walks, Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare

Kaufmann Wagner CD

79. BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM

Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik, Christoph Eschenbach, conductor Label: Ondine

Holmboe: Concertos, Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer Label: Dacapo Records

Tabakova: String Paths, Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer Label: ECM New Series

80. BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2, Magnus Lindberg, composer, (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic) Track from: Magnus Lindberg Label: Dacapo Records

Pärt, Arvo: Adam’s Lament, Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga) Track from: Arvo Pärt: Adam’s Lament Label: ECM New Series

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto, Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer and conductor, below (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) Track from: Out Of Nowhere Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks, Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra) Track from: Winter Morning Walks Label: ArtistShare

Shaw, Caroline: Partita For 8 Voices, Caroline Shaw, composer (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth) Track from: Roomful Of Teeth Label: New Amsterdam Records

Esa Pekka Salonen


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: 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:

https://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/

https://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:

https://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.


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