Around The Classical Internet: December 9, 2011

Milan's La Scala on opening night: December 7, 2011. i i

hide captionMilan's La Scala on opening night: December 7, 2011.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Milan's La Scala on opening night: December 7, 2011.

Milan's La Scala on opening night: December 7, 2011.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
  • One difference between Silvio Berlusconi and Italy's new prime minister, Mario Monti? He's a regular attendee at La Scala, and was in the house on opening night earlier this month to hear Daniel Barenboim conduct Peter Mattei, Bryn Terfel, Barbara Frittoli and Anna Netrebko in Don Giovanni. (Monti's wife is a season ticket holder.)
  • James Levine has just announced this afternoon that he is withdrawing from all Metropolitan Opera conducting engagements through the end of next season (2012-13). In a press statement, he said: "Since the Met must plan its seasons far in advance, I am now in the position of having to predict when I will again be ready to conduct. I have met at length with Peter Gelb and other members of the Met family to discuss this. We have come to the conclusion that it would be profoundly unfair to the public and the Met company to announce a conducting schedule for me that may have to be altered at a later date. I do not want to risk having to withdraw from performances after the season has been announced and tickets sold."
  • Speaking of the Met, here's an interview with its head, Peter Gelb: "I, as the general manager, have to have the sole artistic voice. That even if some donor who has $20 million likes a particular opera, that doesn't mean that opera is going to be produced." (And Gelb on managing Vladimir Horowitz: "Horowitz was concerned about his physical well-being to a degree that bordered on psychotic.")
  • The two labor unions involved in the New York City Opera imbroglio have voted to authorize strikes. The national executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists says: if a strike happens, "the goal will be to put City Opera out of business."
  • A federal mediator has been appointed to help reach the two sides reach agreement.
  • Well, this is a frank admission from Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, one of the most competitive conservatories in the world: "The reality is that a lot of our students are not going to waltz out of here into solo or orchestral careers, and we have an obligation to help them invent careers for what we know of the 21st century as it is evolving."
  • Speaking of conservatories: Did you know that Tori Amos went to – and got kicked out of – the Peabody Institute of Music's prep program? "I wanted to be a composer – I knew that – and they let me know back then that female composers in the classical world didn't do very well."
  • The Leeds Symphony Orchestra had to cancel a concert for the first time in 40 years – because more than $30,000 worth of instruments were stolen.
  • Meanwhile, composer James Matheson has been awarded the Charles Ives Living award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The honor carries a $200,000 honorarium and the stipulation that he must dedicate the next two years exclusively to composing. (The jury is as impressive as the prize: John Corigliano, John Harbison, Martin Bresnick, Tania León and Steven Stucky.)
  • The Orchestra of St. Luke's is opening a new chapter of its history with the appointment of the very talented young Spanish conductor Pablos Heras-Casado.
  • Looks like St. Paul will be getting a new concert hall, by way of a $75 million expansion of the Ordway Center that will provide a new home for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
  • After a six-month strike, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra ran a $1.8 million deficit in 2011, which is just about where DSO management said they'd be once the orchestra resumed playing.
  • Bookslut's Jessa Crispin realizes that she looks just like Cosima Wagner, and fascination ensues: "She remade her religion with her husband as God and she his high priestess. She was kind of nuts."
  • It's not your father's Alexander Technique class: "At ROC Boxing & Fitness Center, a no-frills gym, about 20 music students are subjects of an experiment by Eastman professor James VanDemark, a double bassist who believes boxing breeds better musicians. To test that theory, students are spending about an hour a week this semester with longtime trainer Dom Arioli, who has them work the heavy bag, hone their jabs and bang out push-ups."
  • Bundle up for the Ice Music Festival taking place in early February in Norway. All the instruments – including trumpets, horns, guitars and harps — are made out of frozen H2O.
  • Speaking of unusual gear, you can make a fully functional cello bow out of bicycle spokes. The BBC Concert Orchestra gave a concert with instruments entirely, and quite literally, comprised of scraps, including trombones fashioned out of "cutlery, lampshade, trowel, [and] something from a blender."
  • A breathless report from the Telegraph: "I went to the trendiest club I've ever been to on Friday evening. As we approached the hidden location, I thought we weren't going to get in, the queues were so long. Snaking around beside the railway tunnel walls and a ceiling writhing with fluorescent, intense graffiti, the crowd was beautiful: international chic with an arty, but impeccable, slant. Lots of razor sharp cheekbones, nose rings, ironic novelty jumpers and top hats ... it was a classical music club night."
  • Classical music is perhaps ancillary to this whole thing, but we can't resist sharing this lengthy, cringe-inducing email that's gone viral online. Back story of this rant: it was was allegedly written to "Lauren" by "Mike," a spurned investment banker, after a failed first date. The two originally met at a New York Philharmonic concert.
  • Allow us to quote just a bit: "I wouldn't be seriously involved with a woman if she didn't like classical music. You said that you're planning to go the NY Philharmonic more often in the future. As I said, I go to the NY Philharmonic often. You're very busy. It would be very convenient for you to date me because we have the same interests. We already go to classical music performances by ourselves. If we go to classical music performances together, it wouldn't take any significant additional time on your part."

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