By Jacob Stockinger
World-famous avant-garde stage director Peter Sellars (below, in a photo by Christian Carisius for the European Press Photo Agency) is known for his unorthodox recasting of operas and Bach cantatas.
But one of his productions, done almost 30 years ago, has proven especially prescient.
The plot centers on the medieval “droit du seigneur” that allowed a nobleman to be entitled by law to have sex with a servant on her wedding night before the husband did. (In the YouTube video at bottom is the famous and so breathtakingly beautiful Forgiveness scene, featured in the Oscar-winning film “Amadeus,” with the faithful Countess and the philandering Count that ends the masterpiece opera.)
In 1988 Sellars set the opera on the 52nd floor of the luxurious Trump Tower (below), as the equivalent of an aristocratic estate, of net-feudalistic excess and wealth.
With great insight and articulateness, Sellars recently discussed with The New York Times the inspired settings in light of the past history, campaign and recent election of President-elect Donald Trump.
The Ear found the interview both enlightening and entertaining, and he hopes you do too.
Here is a link:
It makes you wonder: How will other forms of art deal with the new administration?
Could it be that we are in for more activist protest art, something of a return to the 1960s and such efforts as Barbara Garson’s 1967 “MacBird,” which recast Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” as a theatrical satire of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, or LBJ, and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson as the Macbeths following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or JFK?
What do you think?
Can you think of other works that lend themselves to such an approach to contemporary affairs?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, it has happened again.
As of July 1, the official name of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is now the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
That’s an ungainly mouthful to say and write.
But The Ear doesn’t blame the School of Music and its directors for having to take such steps.
To The Ear, the renaming means that the state legislators and the state government have once again been negligent in preserving and bettering this great institution that generations of ordinary Wisconsin citizens supported through taxes, and then benefitted from through “The Wisconsin Idea” that the university serves the public that supports it.
Underfunding goes along with the Republicans’ anti-education and anti-intellectual agenda of imposing steep budget cuts, undermining tenure, alienating faculty who then leave and implementing other measures that hurt this great state university.
So, The Ear objects to the move, much as he did with the selling of the Law School; with the renaming of the Elvehjem Museum of Art to the Chazen Museum of Art; and with the Wisconsin Union Theater, which was renamed Shannon Hall (below top).
Plus, there is the new music building and performance center (below bottom), which sees a groundbreaking in late October, named — not renamed — for the Hamel family.
Such naming and renaming by big private money blurs the distinction between a donation or a gift and a purchase. Call it branding, naming, PR, advertising, whatever – The Ear doesn’t like it. What is public should remain public.
Do the egos of the wealthy really know no bounds, especially during these days when the political talk is of wealth inequality and income distribution?
So The Ear says a deep and hearty thank you to the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids for its help.
But he sure wishes its corporate ego had been satisfied with a hall or a building being named after it, and with perhaps a big bronze bas-relief plaque containing a history about its fortune in the paper industry and an appreciation of its generous philanthropy.
But to rename an entire school that has more than a century of history behind it?
Sorry. That’s over the top.
It is overkill and seems downright tacky.
To The Ear it will always be the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, just as it has for the past century-plus.
If you want more background and details, here are three official UW links, with the most recent ones coming first
What do readers and the tax-paying public think and say?
Do you agree or disagree with The Ear?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Memorial Day holiday is over and now we start winding down the academic year in public and private K-12 schools.
That makes it a great time to catch up with news that reminds us how important music education and education in the arts, humanities and liberal arts, can be to the development of the whole child or young person and to lifelong learning.
It helps us to realize that, despite what many legislators say, education should never be a trade school that provides vocational education or career preparation, and that education is not always all about the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – deemed so useful to business, industry and individual wealth accumulation. (You can hear educator Richard Gill give a popular TED Talk about the value of music education in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
So here is open important reminder via a press release:
The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Ward-Brodt Music have awarded their 2016 Award for Excellence in Music Education to Whitewater music teacher Christine Hayes of Lincoln/LINCS Elementary School at a choir concert for grades 2-5.
The presentation was held on Tuesday, May 17, in the Whitewater High School Auditorium.
This annual award celebrates an educator who displays leadership, passion, dedication, and innovation within the music classroom, positively affecting the lives of his or her students and the community at large, and is designated for one outstanding music educator in southern Wisconsin.
The MSO and Ward-Brodt developed the award to recognize that cultivating the artistic growth of young students is one of the unique and challenging jobs for teachers in Wisconsin.
Christine Hayes (below) has dedicated her life to enriching young people and the communities around her through music education. In her 29 years of working in the Whitewater Unified School District and by contributing to music in her community in a variety of ways, she’s changed the lives of many students and her colleagues. She believes that “inspiring and challenging children today will lead to their embracing music for their lifetime.”
In the nominations by parents, teaching colleagues, church members, and school administrators, Hayes was described as “a power house of creative energy” who “encourages children to express their feelings through music.”
Her students at Lincoln/LINCS Elementary School, where she has spent the last 19 years, can take part in diverse musical experiences including world drumming, playing guitar and recorder, composing music, and singing in many languages. All of these experiences for children make her classroom “an exciting, musical adventure.”
She has also taught elementary and middle school band, middle school guitar, keyboards and general music.
A former colleague who nominated her wrote, “Mrs. Hayes leads by example by continuing to find ways to improve as an educator by constantly pursuing her own education. She recently completed a trip to Ghana in order to learn about their musical culture.”
In her own words, Hayes said, “My goal is for each student to imagine themselves in musical experiences, provide them authentic learning situations where they create, respond, perform and connect, then collaborate with those students to apply their knowledge and skills to discover their personal musical path.”
Outside the classroom, she founded an after-school orchestra where she volunteers her time as coordinator allowing children to enrich their music education. Currently in its eighth year, the Whitewater Unified School District Strings Program has touched the lives of many school children, with 72 students participating this past year, ranging from fourth grade to high school.
She is also a music leader in her community. Hayes has been serving as the Choir Director for the First United Methodist Church in Whitewater for the past 20 years and served on the board of directors of the Whitewater Arts Alliance for five years.
In her free time she plays clarinet with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Community Band.
Hayes has also been deeply involved with developing Wisconsin state standards for music education by serving on the writing committee for the National Common Core Music Standards from 2012 to 2014.
In 2015, she was asked to join the Steering Committee for the Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA), continuing her work to improve music education in Wisconsin. Hayes has served as the Chair of the NAfME National Council for General Music Education and as a President of the WMEA.
In 2007 she won the Wal-Mart Wisconsin Teacher of the Year award and in 2008 the Herb Kohl Fellowship Award.
Hayes will be awarded a commemorative plaque and a $500 prize. These prizes have been made possible through the generosity of Ward-Brodt Music of Madison, Wisconsin. To be qualified for the award, a nominee must have taught within a 75-mile radius of Madison in a public or private K-12 school and instructed a band, orchestra, choir or general music course.
Colleagues, current or former students, parents of students, or friends were eligible to nominate a music educator for the award.
The review panel consisted of representatives from public and private school administration, veteran teachers, university staff and knowledgeable community members. (For the sake of full disclosure, The Ear sat on the committee that reviewed the many impressive nominations and decided the winner of the award.)
For more information regarding the Award for Excellence in Music Education, visit http://madisonsymphony.org/award.