The contentious Russian presidential election is fast approaching on March 4th, and both Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev appear on a list of 499 celebrities endorsing Vladimir Putin (link in German). Though Netrebko has rejected Russian tabloid claims that she is Putin's former lover, she said in a Newsweek interview published last fall that she wishes she'd had the chance: "I'd have loved to have been ... he's a very attractive man. Such a strong, male energy."
Tenor Charles Anthony died this week at age 82; he sang an astonishing 2,928 times at the Metropolitan Opera over 57 seasons. Born Calogero Antonio Caruso in New Orleans, he was told in 1952 by Met head Rudolf Bing to choose a stage name: "Caruso, it goes without saying, was taken."
A beautiful account from the Los Angeles Times' Mark Swed of Mahlermania in Caracas as Gustavo Dudamel arrives with the LA Philharmonic: "The very diverse audience included students and parents, rich and poor, children as young as 5. Attire could be anything: jeans and T-shirts, suits and mini-skirts. Kids carried musical instruments. Teenagers danced and necked on the plaza. Vendors sold delicious local chocolate wrapped with portraits of Gustav Mahler ... All tickets to the Mahler concerts were about $8 and sold out in less than two hours, with some people arriving in the middle of the night to wait in the ticket line."
Also datelined Caracas: the New York Times' Dan Wakin, who went for a first-hand visit to one of the barrios in which El Sistema operates. "All instruction and instruments are free. No child is turned away, teaching is done in groups, and many of the instructors have passed through El Sistema themselves (and are thus committed to the movement). Public performance is ingrained from the beginning. The núcleo (teaching location) is within walking distance of the students' homes." (Be sure to look at the accompanying slideshow.)
Score one for some early spring cleaning! In clearing out a storage room, staff of a town council in Leicestershire, England, stumbled upon a manuscript by Edward Elgar. It's a short piece called Carillon Chimes that was commissioned for the 1923 opening of the town's bell tower.
How well are those HD cinema broadcasts of operas, orchestral concerts, and ballets doing? "The HD broadcasts are the most successful single element of [Met chief Peter] Gelb's tenure, and have proved truly visionary. They have raised the profile of opera, created excitement where there was none, and rather than bankrupting the company, as many predicted, they have made money. In 2010-11 they netted an impressive $11 million ... and opera does offer an audience of aficionados willing to go to movie theaters to see performances at times the theaters might otherwise be nearly empty."
Just in case you think that American kids are the only ones losing access to the arts, consider these new stats from Britain: According to 2,000 parents of 5-to-12 year-olds, "four in 10 children have never seen the inside of an art gallery, while 17 percent haven't visited a museum with their parents ... a quarter of children haven't been to the theater, while six in 10 have never heard or been to a classical music concert."
A few months ago, Kentucky Opera staged a Marriage of Figaro with three keyboards rather than a pit band amidst the ongoing labor issues with the Louisville Orchestra. The opera company stirred up new controversy by hiring non-union players for its upcoming performance of The Merry Widow – and now conductor Joe Mechavich has resigned rather than cross the picket line. On Thursday, the musicians rejected the board's offer to settle their nearly year-long contract dispute.
Since Mechavich now happens to be free this weekend, he's headed to San Diego to conduct the West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick. The conductor is stepping in for San Diego Opera's Karen Keltner, who's fallen ill. And hear some Heggie for President's Day here.
Now that the U.S. has finally passed legislation standardizing treatment of musical instruments on airplanes, British musicians are calling for the same. Says the Musicians' Union: "Musicians regularly have problems taking their instruments on planes due to inconsistent policies from airlines and extortionate fees."
This does my heart grievous wrong on so many levels: Crossover fiddler David Garrett has signed on to play Paganini in a biopic called The Devil's Violinist. (Was Oscar-winning Pag lookalike Adrien Brody unavailable?)