Symphony returns in Indianapolis: Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians, who had been locked out since Sept. 10, came to a two-stage agreement with the Indianapolis Symphony Society, which runs the orchestra. The first of the new contracts is a bridge agreement that keeps the orchestra running until Feb. 3, 2013. Musicians settled for a pay cut, but succeeded in withdrawing a contract-termination option from the agreement. The orchestra performs Ravel and Debussy tonight and Saturday.
Symphony-less in Seattle? Contract negotiations between management and musicians of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera have ruptured. The players voted to authorize a strike after they were offered a 15 percent compensation cut Wednesday. Not such a great welcome for the Symphony's still-new music director, Ludovic Morlot, who's poised to begin his second season.
Orchestra Nova a no-go in San Diego: During a labor dispute, Jung-Ho Pak, conductor and artistic director of Orchestra Nova has resigned immediately, forcing the chamber orchestra to cancel its opening concerts. Orchestra officials want to "issue employment contracts on a concert by concert basis." The local musicians union insists on standard renewable contracts.
Philadelphia reboots: The world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, having just emerged from bankruptcy, is revitalized with the addition of 37-year-old music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Philly Orchestra's trombone altruism: What was poor little Aidan Milligan to do? The 9-year-old's trombone disappeared from the curb outside his home last week. His mother said it may have mistakenly made it to the garbage truck. When the Philadelphia Orchestra heard about the 4th grader's plight, they offered him a replacement instrument if his doesn't turn up. On the other hand, Aidan's brother and sister might not be so enthusiastic about the orchestra's generosity.
From Havana, with Mendelssohn: Don't we have an embargo going on against Cuba? In any case, the National Orchestra of Cuba is scheduled to play a gig in Allentown, Pa. on Tuesday. Founded in 1960, the Havana-based orchestra brings a program including Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony, Beethoven's Fifth and La Comparsa by Cuban composer Ernsto Lecuona.
What's a musician worth? That's one of the questions Ellen McSweeney asks at NewMusicBox. Why are orchestra musicians settling for less pay? And why have pop players signed on to make music with Amanda Palmer for precisely no wages at all? "When we let the divide-and-conquer logic work on us, we all lose," McSweeney says.
Levine returns with no cover? Last week, Metropolitan Opera conductor and artistic director James Levine, still recuperating from a variety of health issues, announced a return to the podium next year. But the New York Times reports that Fabio Luisi, who filled in for many of Levine's cancellations, may not be around: "Mr. Luisi made it clear that the Met might not be able to count on him to step in for Mr. Levine if the comeback does not go as planned." Luisi, the article says, "has had to walk a delicate line between taking up the slack at the Met and not appearing to be usurping the beloved Mr. Levine's role."
Opera's occupational hazards: Is it more dangerous these days to be an opera singer? WQXR's podcast Conducting Business gathers a roundtable of observers who note that, unlike the old days when singers where expected to simply "park and bark," today's divas must negotiate complicated set designs and staging that includes flying, climbing and crawling.
Villazon back at Deutsche Grammophon: Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon, after several rough years filled with severe vocal problems, has again signed a contract with the prestigious record label. His first solo album in three years, Villazon Verdi, is released Nov. 19. It picks up early on next year's Verdi bicentennial celebrations. Villazon had been one of the most exciting singers of his generation.
Dustin Hoffman, at the opera: The Oscar-winning actor's debut as a film director, Quartet, received its gala premiere this week at the BFI London Film Festival. The film centers on a group of elderly opera stars (Maggie Smith is one of them) who stage a comeback of sorts in their own retirement home. Dame Gwyneth Jones, a genuine opera diva, plays a supporting role. Watch the trailer.
24 hours in the life of Plácido Domingo: His motto is "If I rest, I rust." The LA Times' Reed Johnson tracts the intrepid tenor through stints at Dancing With the Stars, a playoff game at Dodger Stadium and the opera house.
Turkey to prosecute pianist for tweets: Internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist Fazil Say appeared in court this week. He has been accused of sending tweets that are deemed an insult to Islam. One of his tweets (which some reports say were actually retweets) was about a very short call to prayer: "Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?" (Raki is a Turkish brandy, forbidden by Islam.) Officials charge Say with "inciting hatred." He rejects the accusations. Others in Turkey are concerned over freedom of expression in the country.
A new Mozart? After British actor Stephen Fry tweeted about her, 7-year old Alma Deutscher has been in the spotlight. "Simply mind-blowing," he wrote, "Alma Deutscher playing her own compositions. A new Mozart?" The youngster plays piano and violin remarkably well for her age, plus she's written an opera and piano sonatas. "It takes a long time to write a sonata," says Alma, who wrote her first at age 5. Blogger Jessica Duchen is impressed, but not that impressed. Decide for yourself by watching YouTube.
A new Civil War symphony: If you're not from Missouri, you probably don't know the crucial role the state played in the Civil War. More than 1,000 battles were fought there. Some of that history has now made it into a new composition. A State Divided – Missouri Symphony by University of Missouri-St. Louis music professor Barbara Harbach, debuts Oct. 23 in a performance by the University Orchestra.
Meet Louis Andriessen: The Guardian classical music blogger Tom Service has been doing yeoman's work. His series of informative blog posts have introduced readers to today's top composers, including everyone from and Arvo Pärt and Wolfgang Rihm to Thomas Adès and Kaija Saariaho. This week the focus is on Dutchman Louis Andriessen and his piece De Staat. "For me," Service writes, "De Staat is the solar plexus — or at least one of the solar plexi — of Andriessen's output because it brings together the spectrum of his musical and political thinking, but also because of the sounds that it makes."
R.I.P. Melvin Ritter: The celebrated violinist and former concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has died at age 89. When he was an irreverent 6-year-old, his parents bribed him with movies and baseball games to practice his violin. Ritter made his debut at age 15 and, along with playing in the SLSO in the 1960s, toured successfully with his wife, pianist Jane Allen.
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