After a five-year search that encompassed some 50 contenders, the Houston Symphony has announced its new music director: Andrés Orozco-Estrada. The 35-year-old Colombian trained in Vienna and will take over from the retiring Hans Graf, who is departing at the end of this season. Orozco-Estrada will conduct four weeks in the 2013-14 season as music director designate before taking up his full post the following season. He will keep one of his other jobs as music director of Austria's Tonkünstler Orchestra, but will bow out of his post as principal conductor of the Basque National Orchestra in San Sebastian, Spain.
Horrifying: the director of the Bolshoi Ballet, Sergei Filin, was attacked with acid last night in front of his house in Moscow. The Arts Desk reports that the assault "is being linked to vicious internal theater politics, and it has left him at risk of losing his eyes as well as needing surgery for third-degree burns to his face." Since undergoing a 15-hour operation on his eyes in Moscow, he has been flown to a specialist military burns center in Brussels for further treatment, which will most likely entail extensive plastic surgery. Adds The Arts Desk, "The attack came after weeks of threats, including his tires being slashed and menacing phone calls to his home. Filin's email and Facebook page had been hacked and correspondence exposed in an apparent attempt to discredit him."
New research conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project surveying over 1200 performing arts organizations in the U.S. reveals some very interesting information about the crossroads of the arts and social media. "Technology use permeates these organizations, their marketing and education efforts, and even their performance offerings ... The internet and digital technologies have also disrupted much of the traditional art world, according to these organizations. It has changed audience expectations, put more pressure on arts groups to participate actively in social media and, in some circumstances, undercut organizations' missions and revenue streams."
If by chance you haven't yet heard about the Richard Dare debacle, steel yourself: He quit as president and chief executive of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra after a nine-day tenure. His departure was prompted in part by the emergence of a 1996 case in which he was charged with an "attempted lewd act upon" a 15-year-old girl — whom he married three years later. (Dare was 32 years old at the time of his arrest.) NJSO officials said Dare had made them aware of this history before he was hired. There's much more, though: "The development came as a New York Times investigation into Mr. Dare's background raised questions about aspects of his résumé and business accomplishments. Former associates have suggested that he exaggerated the extent of his business dealings, and evidence to support some of his claims — like his having testified frequently before Congress — could not immediately be found."
Just in case you were under the misapprehension that money woes are contained within these shores: The Guardian reports that Arts Council England is reconsidering how it funds opera after the English National Opera posted losses of nearly 2.2 million pounds ($3.5 million). "ENO's problems will intensify debate about how to share out increasingly scarce resources among the arts in England. Opera accounts for 11 percent of Arts Council England's total investment, a slice of the cake that its detractors see as unfairly large, though its defenders argue that opera is by its nature a large-scale art form, and concomitantly expensive."
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Remember last week when Riccardo Muti cancelled two weeks with the Chicago Symphony and flew to Italy to recuperate from the flu? There's more to the story: His doctors there discovered a more serious condition — an inguinal hernia that needs surgical repair as soon as possible. The Chicago Tribune reports that Muti has now had to bow out of the orchestra's entire winter tour of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Seoul, South Korea. "Maestro Muti has written a letter to the orchestra and is feeling very sad, frustrated and upset," said CSO Association president Deborah Rutter. Lorin Maazel will step in for most of the Asian dates; as of now Muti is scheduled to return to Chicago in April.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has twin updates this week about further cancellations at two locked-out orchestras: The Minnesota Orchestra canceled yet another weekend of concerts in mid-February and pushed another event off until the 2013-14 season. "If there is a silver lining in Monday's announcement, it is that the cancellations did not extend through the entire month of February. Bargainers for both sides met on Jan. 2 and have agreed to attempt a 'fresh start' in the negotiations." No such upside over in St. Paul, where management announced that concerts are cancelled through late March: "Management and musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra met twice at the beginning of January, but those talks appear to have gone nowhere."
Up in Rochester, N.Y., more than 1200 supporters of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra have signed a petition asking the group's board to reinstate conductor Arild Remmereit, whose four-year contract was terminated after only one year — and, according to the TV station WHEC, say that they're willing to take their fight to court. For their part, the RPO says that a "vast majority" of the current board agreed with the decision to fire Remmereit.
The LA Times' Mark Swed has a review of Peter Eötvös' 2004 operatic version of Angels in America, which had its West Coast premiere with the LA Phil's New Music Group this week. Swed pronounces the work and performance unsuccessful on many levels, but I found this analysis fascinating: "[Eötvös has] remained faithful, to a considerable fault, to both the original play's narrative and the poetry of Kushner's language. But he is utterly unfaithful to Kushner's irresistibly effusive and forthright context. Rather than American angels, Hungarian devils haunt the bleakly fascinating score. Bluebeard looks over everyone's shoulders ... Where Kushner shows that we are all in this together, Eötvös keeps us apart, zeroing in on the loneliness. The plot is so condensed that it would probably be best not to treat it as narrative. The alienated voices are isolated cries in the dark. In the end, not even Kushner's angels are good company. We die alone."
Speaking of new cross-cultural ventures: BBC 3 and BBC North have commissioned a Bollywood-style Carmen that will debut in June, with a score by Kuljit Bhamra. "Bollywood Live will include original music, pop songs and special arrangements of Bizet's themes for the work," the BBC says. The plot: "The event will follow the story of Karmen who is bored with her job and obsessed with dreams of film stardom. The Bradford girl hopes the arrival of an Indian film crew, to produce a film version of the opera Carmen, will be her big break." How meta! And not unlike the flamenco Carmen by Carlos Saura and Antonio Gades, a compelling 1983 film that blends art and life.
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