Elektra

Elektra

Friday, June 23, 2017

Borda Return Media Round-Up

For reference. Am I missing anything? (Yes, so I have updated the post. And updated it again on June 23. First published in March, 2017.)

Orchestra Executive Merry-Go-Round

Yesterday, Drew McManus had an article at Adaptistration about current vacancies, and recently-filled vacancies, in the executive suites of various American orchestras.
  1. Brent Assink's departure from the San Francisco Symphony after many successful years of financial and (mostly) labor stability. 
  2. Rita Shapiro's departure from the NSO in Washington, DC. She has been replaced by Gary Ginstling, formerly an executive at SFS, a good hire.
  3. Matthew VanBesien left the NY Philharmonic, which then managed the fantastic coup of luring Deborah Borda back to NY from the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
  4. Of course, this leaves a huge gap at the LA Phil, but they've got two excellent internal candidates in Gail Samuel and Chad Smith, and the orchestra should just promote one of them.
  5. Most recently, Allison Vulgamore is out at the Philadelphia Orchestra at the end of this year. It's about time: she was terrible for the Atlanta Symphony (and so was her successor there) and she happily led the Philly into bankruptcy.
My current nightmare: LA or SF hires Allison Vulgamore. Please, no. You had really good things going with Assink and Borda. Keep the streak going.

Gilbert to Hamburg

Alan Gilbert, whose tenure as the music director of the NY Philharmonic just ended, has a new appointment: he will be the music director of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, starting in the fall of 2019. He was their principal guest conductor from 2004 to 2015 and evidently it's a love-fest all around.

Here's what he has to say about this:
As I wrap up my time at the New York Philharmonic, very little would have tempted me to take on the challenge of a new position so soon. But the perfect confluence of circumstances seems to have come together with the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. First of all, this is a group of musicians that I already know so well and love dearly. The musicians and I have shared a very special rapport and musical chemistry for many years. Furthermore, the environment surrounding the orchestra is uniquely exciting. The Elbphilharmonie is the perfect and already iconic physical space in which to play and present music, and the management team, headed by Achim Dobschall and Sonja Epping of the orchestra and Christoph Lieben-Seutter at the Elbphilharmonie, is the most inspired, ambitious, and forward-looking in the world of music. How rare it is to find a situation in which it is not only possible to imagine pushing the paradigm of orchestras in the 21st century forward, but one in which all constituent groups are demanding that this progress happen. I’m thrilled to have found such a place.
How rare, indeed. Congratulations to Maestro Gilbert, and thank you for giving me one more reason to visit Hamburg one of these days.

Here's Michael Cooper's NY Times article about Gilbert's new gig. Leaving a fixer-upper for a  brand-new house, yep.

Updated list of known openings:
  • Seattle Symphony when Ludovic Morlot leaves
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony
  • Orchestra Nationale de France
  • Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Brno Philharmonic: open since 2015
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Vienna RSO: 2018 departure for Cornelius Meister
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Czech Philharmonic, following death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Hamburg Symphony, following death of Sir Jeffrey Tate
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • * Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Bavarian State Opera: with Kirill Petrenko going to Berlin and KP's Munich contract through 2021, it's sort of implied that he'll give up Munich
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD

And closed:

  • St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève to succeed David Robertson
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic; Jaap van Zweden's contract extended through summer of 2022
  • City of Birmingham SO; Mirga Grazintye-Tyla appointed 2/4/2016, succeeding Andris Nelsons
  • New York Philharmonic; Jaap Van Zweden appointed, 1/27/16, succeeding Alan Gilbert
  • National Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda appointed, 1/4/2016, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach.
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus: Andris Nelsons appointed, 9/9/2015
  • LSO: Simon Rattle appointed, 3/2/2015
  • Orchestra de Paris: Daniel Harding, 6/11/2015
  • Berlin Philharmonic: Kirill Petrenko appointed, 6/22/2015
  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard succeeds Donald Runnicles in September, 2016
  • NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Hamburg; Alan Gilbert appointed starting in 2019.

Oakland Friday Photo


Avocado toasts
May, 2017
Caused a sensation on Twitter. Good thing I already have a house. Of course, they are homemade avocado toasts and didn't cost $19.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vacanies

A reader was kind enough to provide me with MANY additions to my list of open music director jobs. Here are the current openings:

Updated list of known openings:
  • Seattle Symphony when Ludovic Morlot leaves
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (when Jaap van Zweden takes up his new post at the NYPO)
  • Milwaukee Symphony
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony
  • Orchestra Nationale de France
  • Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)
  • Dresden Philharmonic: 2019 departure for Michael Sanderling
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre National de Lyon: open now, with Leonard Slatkin's departure
  • Brno Philharmonic: open since 2015
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Vienna RSO: 2018 departure for Cornelius Meister
  • Toronto SO: 2018 departure for Peter Oundjian
  • Winnipeg SO: 2018 departure for Alexander Mickelthwate
  • Czech Philharmonic, following death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Hamburg Symphony, following death of Sir Jeffrey Tate
  • Washington National Opera, departure of Philippe Auguin at conclusion of 2017-18 
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Bavarian State Opera: with Kirill Petrenko going to Berlin and KP's Munich contract through 2021, it's sort of implied that he'll give up Munich
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 is Stephen Lord's final season as MD
I am curious about all of these, but of course the San Francisco Opera opening is closest to home.

Friday, June 16, 2017

San Francisco Opera and Nicola Luisotti on KQED-TV

Upcoming TV broadcasts of SFO productions:

Attila – Giuseppe Verdi
Thursday, August 3 at 9 pm
KQED 9
In popular culture, Attila the Hun was a ruthless barbarian, but to Verdi, he was a far more complex and compelling figure: a brave, ambitious warrior tormented by fierce internal doubts. This San Francisco Opera/Teatro alla Scala co-production features a distinguished cast, including legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role and Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey as the Roman general Ezio. The cast also features Lucrecia Garcia (Odabella), Diego Torre (Foresto), Samuel Ramey (Leone) and Nathaniel Peake(Uldino). Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The performance was recorded in June 2012.


Mefistofele – Arrigo Boito
Thursday, August 24 at 9 pm
KQED 9
This monumental work of “choral grandeur and melodic richness” (The New York Times), a reimagining of Goethe’s Faust, is one of the most impressive productions ever seen at the War Memorial Opera House. The title role of Mefistofele is sung by Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov in his staged role debut. The cast also features Ramón Vargas (Faust),Patricia Racette (Margherita/Elena), Chuanyue Wang (Wagner/Nereo), Erin Johnson(Marta), Renee Rapier (Pantalis), Luke Lazzaro (Adam) and Brook Broughton (Eve).Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in the bold San Francisco Opera production by director Robert CarsenThe performance was recorded in September 2013.

As It Was Foretold

From the Met:
Sonya Yoncheva will make her role debut in the Met’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca next season replacing Kristine Opolais, who has withdrawn for personal reasons. The Met looks forward to welcoming Ms. Opolais back in future seasons. The company is grateful to the Vienna State Opera for releasing Ms. Yoncheva from a previous commitment.
Ailyn Pérez, who most recently sang Mimì in the Met’s production of Puccini’s La Bohème, will replace Yoncheva as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in performances from December 29 through January 13.
 The new staging of Tosca opens on December 31 and will be directed by Sir David McVicar and conducted by Andris Nelsons. The premiere performances will also star Vittorio Grigolo as Cavaradossi and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. On January 12, Jennifer Rowley will sing the title role ofTosca. The January 27 matinee will be transmitted live as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 71 countries around the world.
The performances of Le Nozze di Figaro with Ailyn Pérez open on December 29, with Nadine Sierra as Susanna, Isabel Leonard as Cherubino, Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count, and Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro. The conductor is Harry Bicket.
Foretold by Parterre Box not long after the Met season announcement.

Hawaii Friday Photo


Westernmost Bookstore in the United States
Kauai, March, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Guest Post: The Exterminating Angel

Review by Burst of Beaden

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
April 24, 2017

Music by Thomas Ades
Libretto by Tom Cairns
Conducted by Thomas Ades
Directed by Tom Cairns
Royal Opera Orchestra & Chorus

For anyone who has seen Luis Bunuel's 1962 surrealist film, "The Exterminating Angel", the idea of writing a theatrical version might seem like a very bad idea The film depicts a dinner party where the guests are not able to call it a night and leave. They remain in the same room for weeks, with disturbing results. This situation is inherently static and claustrophobic. The main events are psychological rather than actual.

Despite this basis, two important composers, Thomas Ades and Stephen Sondhiem, have decided to set this piece to music. Sondheim is adapting 2 Bunuel films "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie" (1972) and "The Exterminating Angel" as a two-act musical entitled "Bunuel," which had a workshop performance in November 2016. A New York opening is planned for the near future.

Ades's opera, also entitled "The Exterminating Angel," premiered in Salzburg at the relatively intimate Haus fur Mozart in August 2016. The U.K. premiere took place in London at The Royal Opera House on April 24 ,2017, with (as far as I can tell) the same cast, Ades conducting. (The opera will be performed at the Met next fall with mostly the same cast and conductor). I was able to get a ticket for the sold-out London premiere by visiting the box office and getting a returned ticket.

I'm not a music critic or a trained musicologist, so I will not try to describe this huge, overwhelming, but ultimately rewarding score. For that I refer you to Alex Ross's excellent critique of the Salzburg opening in the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/thomas-ades-the-exterminating-angel). 

Ades (the composer) does not ease the audience into the opera's dense and complex sound world. For example, the entrance of the party guests is accompanied by loud blasts from the orchestra that are not comfortingly diatonic or chromatic. We are immediately adrift in a Berg-like vortex of sound. 

As told repeatedly in the program notes, the music is a "musical collage" that includes parodies of late romantic, 12 tone, baroque, folk, bel canto, symphonic, … I must say that I didn't discern any rock, hip-hop, or rap (doesn't mean it wasn't included, though). I could discern recitative, trios, duets, arias, songs, choruses, and orchestral interludes. But in the end, I just let the music wash over me without trying to analyze it, which is an approach that I recommend.

The cast includes the expected array of S-MS-T-B-B parts. This being Ades, the cast also includes the unexpected. There is a brilliantly applied use of the counter-tenor voice for a highly agitated young man, who at one point complains that he cannot drink coffee with a tea spoon. The "diva" character sings in a high tessitura like that of Ariel in Ades "The Tempest." In other words, maybe only dogs can actually hear every note. 

It's an opera with a very large cast of characters. (At one point, I counted 11 characters onstage, but there are more.)   How to tell them apart?  Who are the principal characters? Who are the minor characters? Where's the exposition that tells us right away who the host and hostess are? Who is the diva of the piece?  Why are there sheep onstage before the opera begins and are they principal characters? Needless to say, I was perplexed, but by the second act, I got my bearings.

There are several starry singers in the cast, including Anne Sofie Von Otter (a neurotic woman), John Tomlinson (her doctor), Thomas Allen (a conductor), Christina Rice (his wife, a pianist), Charles Workman (host), Amanda Echalaz (hostess), Sally Matthews (a widowed mother), Iestyn Davies (her highly agitated brother), and  Audrey Luna (a diva). The singers were all excellent and comfortable in their roles. I must say it was fun to see Sir Thomas Allen running around in his boxer shorts, compete with garters, in the second and third acts. 

I would like to give shout-outs to a few musical passages where Ades extends a perhaps patronizing had to the less-musically sophisticated of us in the audience: 
  • The interlude between acts 1 and 2. It was wonderful and Ades (the conductor) and the orchestra played the heck out of it. (It is as brilliant as interludes in "Peter Grimes" or "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.") 
  • Christina Rices's poignant singing of a song-within-the-opera in Act 1.
  • The diva's final virtuoso aria in act 3, in which Audrey Luna makes the opera her own. 
So, what of the opera itself? Does it succeed? I think it does succeed, on its own terms.
Just like the characters in the opera, we, the audience, are guests who are transfixed by an invisible force. For us, the invisible force is the opera; our Exterminating Angel is Ades himself.  (I'm not making this up, the clues are in the libretto.) What the opera does, what Ades accomplishes, is to hold up a brilliant, unflattering mirror to us, the audience. We must look back. Bravo, Ades, for that!




Monday, June 12, 2017

It's Possible to Overthink These Things.

Sometimes people go to concerts because they just want to hear the music, but if you're an executive with a major musical organization, especially the musical organization across the street from the current venue, then people who overthink things (that would be me) might wonder about spotting the SF Opera general director and director of communications & public affairs at Susanna Mälkki's bang-up Stravinsky and Beethoven program the other day. Even when she knows that the director of communications loves double reeds and there were lots of them on the program.

That was a long sentence! But the fact is that every US musical organization should have Mälkki on their list of "people we'd like to have as a guest conductor some day." She is terrific, with proven abilities in new music (she was MD of the mighty Ensemble Intercontemporain, for heaven's sake), the classics, and opera (it's not a secret that Matthew Shilvock was in the house last fall for Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin at the Met, conducted by Mälkki).