New York Philharmonic Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur, 85, has announced that he has been living with Parkinson's disease for several years: "I have had the fortune of receiving great medical care since the diagnosis, enabling me to continue my conducting activities. These recent events have served as a good opportunity to make a return to the podium with a greater sense of purpose and awareness."
And after a two-year absence, James Levine plans to return to the Met to conduct a May 2013 performance by the orchestra at Carnegie Hall and then three productions at the Met Opera in 2013-14, saying: "It's miraculous for me." The New York Times reports, "He remains unable to walk because of ... spinal damage and acknowledged what many had suspected for a while: He has a nonprogressive condition related to Parkinson's disease that causes hand tremors, which his doctors called 'benign Parkinsonism.' Mr. Levine said he would conduct from a motorized wheelchair that he uses. Met technicians are devising a podium that mechanically rises and falls, like an elevator, for Carnegie Hall and the Met pit."
Here's a nice profile of English opera director Netia Jones, who has mounted an imaginative production of Oliver Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are, adapted from Maurice Sendak's classic tale. In her version, the singers stand in front of a wall of Sendak's projected images, which she animates in real time. How did she get the famous curmudgeon's blessing? "I told [Sendak] about my intentions and my work and what I liked and disliked and an awful lot of my private life, which he just pulled out of me," she said, laughing. "And in the end he said amazing words. He said: 'I like you. I trust you. Go where your imagination takes you.'"
Noah Stewart is the first person of color to have an album land at No. 1 on the U.K. classical chart, but he says there's still a long way to go: "I was working in a restaurant once and I would often sing "Happy Birthday" if someone had a birthday, or at a New Year's Eve concert or Mother's Day. One night I sang an aria from Carmen, and a French workmate said, 'Oh, you have such a beautiful voice and your French is good.' Then she asked, 'But what are you going to do?' I said, 'What do you mean?' And she said, 'Well, you can't sing Don José because you're black." I just kind of froze and thought, holy cow. I was pretty discouraged — it was like a knife through my heart."
Back once again to the labor beat: the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra musicians are holding their own concert at Minneapolis' Convention Center on Oct. 18 — led by their former conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski: "The news that Skrowaczewski will lead the Oct. 18 concert is loaded with symbolism. The 89-year-old conductor laureate was here in mid-June for the triumphant season finale concerts, leading Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Host Brian Newhouse reminded us that the Bach was the first piece the orchestra played when Orchestra Hall opened in 1974. Skrowaczewski was 51 then, and the new hall was his dream. That the maestro is now siding with the musicians while his hall is being rebuilt cannot be ignored."
The strike may be over in Chicago, but the money problems remain: "The CSO is burdened with more debt than any other major symphony in the country, in large part thanks to a $110 million renovation of Symphony Center, completed in 1997 ... 'We are concerned that financial pressures or the perception of financial pressure is potentially damaging to the artistic quality and to the support of musicians,' said union member Stephen Lester, a CSO bass player and chairman of the negotiating committee. 'Can we attract the best talent? Can we keep the talent?'"
And those are the same sorts of questions being raised over in Philadelphia, even after the Philadelphia Orchestra has emerged from bankruptcy: "Serious challenges abound. The long-term artistic ramifications of salary cuts on the Fabulous Philadelphians, now the lowest paid among the top seven U.S. orchestras, remain unknown. The institution must raise $25 million by Aug. 31, 2013, to secure the next two seasons. Although agreements negotiated during the bankruptcy enabled symphony executives to whittle at least $4 million from annual operating expenses, that leaves a projected shortfall of nearly $10 million on a total operating budget of $44 million for fiscal 2013—high even in deficit-ridden symphony-land."
So the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has canceled yet another week of performances after its own labor negotiations have stalled: "As part of an agreement in principle, musicians would accept a 32 percent pay cut in the first year of the pact. Starting salaries would drop from $78,000 to $53,000. Pay then would increase every year, reaching $70,000 in year five. At issue is a management-proposed clause that would allow either side to cancel the contract after the third year."
Those LA Phil HD movie theater broadcasts are dead, at least for now: "Deborah Borda, president of the orchestra, said in a statement that the series 'was not able to garner the sponsorship required to move forward,' despite corporate support from Rolex, the luxury watchmaker that was the official sponsor of the cinema series."
Out of the financial quagmires now: Some folks are getting worked up over the English National Opera's new campaign for their revival production of one of Mozart's operas. Their ad features an open condom wrapper under the slogan "DON GIOVANNI. COMING SOON."
Speaking of opera: Stéphane Lissner, the current superintendent and artistic director at La Scala, is heading to France to take over the Opéra National de Paris as of the 2015-16 season.
An Englishman in Japan: The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra has announced that Jonathan Nott will be its next music director, starting in the 2014-15 season. He made his debut with the players earlier this week, and was offered the job on his way back to the airport.
Didn't they try this already in Georgia? Anyway, every newborn in Scotland is going to receive a disc of classical music from the Royal Scottish National orchestra in the coming year.
Police in the Philadelphia area are on the lookout for a shadow box of items that belonged to cellist and Naughty Marietta composer Victor Herbert, who died in 1924. It is valued at $80,000 and contains his baton and other memorabilia. It was stolen from a Lower Merion Township home, allegedly by a housekeeper, along with a $3 million bust of Benjamin Franklin. The sculpture was recovered in the now-jailed housekeeper's possession, but the burgled box is still missing.
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