Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Heartening News from the Ojai Festival

This morning's email brings the great news that Chad Smith, chief operating officer of the LAPhil, will succeed Thomas Morris as the artistic director of the Ojai Festival. Great news because Smith has been one of the forces behind the diverse and forward-looking programming at the LA Phil, and was considered a strong candidate to succeed Deborah Borda after her surprise departure. He will continue with the LA Phil, which is good news for them as well.

Press release after the cut.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Museum Mondays

Greek goddess as she would have been
Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, CA
December, 2017

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Opera de Paris

If you were attending the opera in Paris, with shows at both the Palais Garnier and Opéra Bastille, where would you sit for good sound and sightlines in each theater? And how comfortable are the seats? (I am broad-beamed.)

Asking for a friend.

Compare & Contrast 34: From the House of the Dead, ROH

Two views of Krzysztof Warlikowski's Royal Opera production of Janacek's From the House of the Dead, with the kind of contract that makes me want to see this bring-up:

NCCO Hires Daniel Hope

Daniel Hope will be New Century Chamber Orchestra's next Music Director, starting in the 2018-19 season, supplanting a previous agreement appointing him to a three-year term as Artistic Partner. He has a five-year contract as Music Director.

The full press release is after the cut.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Popcorn and Lawn Chair Time

Lincoln Center Fountain
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
February 28, 2018

Let me all encourage you to read Kalimac's excellent posting about James Levine, which he published earlier today. He took Johanna Fiedler's Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera out of the library and reports on what she had to say about Levine back in 2001. I will say no more; just read his post.

You might have thought that the Met's firing of Levine on Monday was the end of the story. Terry Teachout disagrees with this, as his column in the WSJ said. (I am not a subscriber and haven't read it yet.)

And today, well: James Levine is suing the Met, and that's the reason for my post title. The link is to Michael Cooper's article on the lawsuit.

First off, the lawsuit is for breach of contract and defamation. Items of note: As music director emeritus, Levine was to be paid $400,000/year for ten years, plus $27,000 for every performance he conducts. Usually, you can only get this sort of thing from an institution's 990 form, an IRS form filed by nonprofits that is available to the public. 

Second, the lawsuit states that Levine's contract contains no provision for the Met to fire or suspend him. Well, I'd love to see that contract! It's common for contracts of this type to contain morals clauses, which lay out behaviors for which one party can be fired. If I were the Met, and I had a good lawyer (and you bet they do), and I had heard the rumors about Levine, well, any contracts I had with him would contain such a clause.

Third, of course Levine is denying everything, as he has from the start. 

Fourth, there's this:
The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, states that Mr. Levine “has clearly and unequivocally denied any wrongdoing in connection with those allegations,” and paints his firing as a result of an effort by the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, “to oust Levine from the Met and completely erase his legacy from the organization.”
Let's stipulate that it just isn't possible to erase Levine's legacy from the organization. What could the Met do? Delete 2500 performances from the archive database? Round up every copy of every recording and video Levine made with the company and toss them in the Hudson?  Demand that the Times get rid of every review ever published of his performances?

UPDATE: A friend advises that the Met appears to have updated their website to remove Levine's name from the company history page and administration page. Okay, so he's no longer an administrator, but removing hims from the history page? However much they'd like to wash their hands of him, there he was, for 40+ years.[end update]

Seriously, they can remove his name from plaques and take down any portraits of him, but that's about it. The man's influence on the institution, for better and for worse, cannot be denied or erased.

As far as efforts to oust Levine from the Met: wow, that's going to be a tough one. I mean, it's entirely possible that Gelb wanted to remove Levine long ago. Levine's health problems would have been sufficient reason to move him out of the music directorship, and they have been evident for many years. The truth is that the Met kept him around long past the point when he should have been removed (or gently eased out....although my guess is that Levine fought, or would have fought, any attempts to ease him out).

Really, I hope this goes to trial. I can only imagine what will be turned up in discovery. Because Levine's suit discusses details of his contract with the Met, we might actually get to see the whole thing, and these contracts are super hush-hush. And one can imagine who might be deposed: Levine's victims? His long-time housemate / best friend Suzanne Thompson, a former oboist? 

Lastly, I'm waiting to see Levine file a defamation suit against the Boston Globe, over their story the other week. It sure looked well-sourced and well-reported to me, not like "vague and unsubstantiated accusations in the press."

Pamela Rosenberg was Wrong About This (In a Good Way)

Found in email from the Merola Opera program, in an interview with baritone Lucas Meachem:
Secondly, I’ll never forget walking up to the War Memorial Opera House for the first time. I remember looking up at it, and thinking for the first time in my life, “I’ve made it.” 
However, my bubble quickly burst in our first meeting, where Pamela Rosenberg said to us singers that only one or two of us would make it in this career. Rather than taking that advice negatively, I took it as a personal challenge to succeed. In that moment, I began to work even harder. I thought, “I have to be that one, or that one or two.” I wanted to be that minority of singers who made it. Her talk inspired me not just that summer at Merola, but beyond.
Only one or two? Meachem was in the 2003 summer program, which apparently had 29 singers, stage directors, and coaches. At the very least, the following singers from that year went on to solid professional careers:
  • Jane Archibald
  • Meredith Arwady
  • Joshua Bloom
  • Arturo Chacon-Cruz
  • Nikki Einfeld
  • Thomas Glenn
  • Joseph Kaiser (then a baritone, now a tenor)
  • Lucas Meachem
  • Elza van den Heever
Some of these singers are bigger stars than others, and there may well be other singers with solid local careers, but that's way more than one or two. Perhaps the Merola program was especially good at talent-spotting that year, or perhaps as a group they just worked harder, but that's a pretty impressive group of singers.

Louisville Orchestra 2018-19 Season

Louisville is where SFS/MTT prodigy Teddy Abrams has been music director for a few years. He is a super-talented young man, clarinetist, composer, conductor. And his programming takes after MTT's, except that the two works composed by women are on a much shorter season.

AND one of the two, Cindy McTee's Double Play, is conducted by Mr. McTee, more commonly known as Leonard Slatkin. I liked this piece a lot when I heard it at Cabrillo last year. The other of the two is Bacewicz's Polish Overture, so we know it is a curtain-raiser.

There's one work by Abrams himself and MTT's Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, which is also being done this season or next at SFS.  There are a couple of additional recent works and commissions, plus some standards.

I'm not going to summarize the rest of the season, which includes two bleeding-chunks programs, one of odd ends of Bernstein, for the obvious reason, and one called Art + Music that looks like an hour or more of bits and pieces, followed by the whole of Pictures at an Exhibition.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How to Construct a Press Release

I have in my hot little hands a press release that is making me slightly crazy. It's got the usual copy about how fabulous the organization is, plus various bios and a fair amount of information about the works to be performed.

But - and this is a pretty big but - I had to scroll through about four and a half screens of text to get to the most critical information in the press release: dates and locations of the performances.

Put that stuff at the top! I read performer bios in programs! A mere listing of the performers at the top of the press release is sufficient, with maybe two lines of bio at most! The more I had to scroll, the more I wondered how far I'd have to scroll until I found what I was looking for.

Noting in passing that this is the second time I've blind-itemed this org in the last year, and there was a third post I never wrote, when a press release of theirs let slip information that I hope they had permission to let slip.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Met Fires Levine

Michael Cooper has the story: James Levine's Final Act at the Met Ends in Disgrace.

What a surprise!

Yes, after 40 years of rumors, the Met was able to determine, in just three and a half months, that there's credible evidence that Levine abused young musicians over whom he had authority. They found evidence that this happened both before and during his employment at the Met. "During" is especially interesting, because the published reports are mostly from the late 60s and early 70s, before he joined the Met.

The Met is not releasing any details beyond saying that their investigation included interviews with more than 70 people. This part of the Times article is....interesting:
But some questions arose early on about how the company had handled the case, including the fact that it began its investigation more than a year after Peter Gelb, its general manager, was first told that the police in Illinois were investigating an accusation that Mr. Levine had sexually abused a teenage boy there in the 1980s.
Mr. Gelb has said he briefed the leadership of the Met’s board about the police investigation and spoke with Mr. Levine, who denied the accusations. But Mr. Gelb said that the company took no further action, waiting to see what the police found.
The Met said that its investigation, which was led by Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm who was previously a United States attorney in New Jersey and Illinois, had determined that “any claims or rumors that members of the Met’s management or its board of directors engaged in a cover-up of information relating to these issues are completely unsubstantiated.”
Well, Anthony Bliss knew about the rumors, because of an anonymous letter, and he has to have passed the information along to his immediate successors (Bruce Crawford and Hugh Southern, then Joe Volpe). It's certainly curious that the Met was able to obtain enough information now to declare the accusations credible, but could not back in the day.