Short Attention Span

Lots of links today. I usually don’t spend most of a post sending readers elsewhere, but I’ve been accumulating quite a few worthwhile re-directs – from the sublime to the truly ridiculous.

You’ve probably seen this, but just in case: John Cage on I’ve Got a Secret. I used to watch this show with my grandmother, so just seeing Garry Moore made me nostalgic. There are many fascinating things about this clip, not the least of which is that a “classical music” composer gets to perform an entire work on network television. And yes, Cage is treated as a little bit of a freak. But he’s also taken more seriously than you might expect.

When warned that his performance might cause some tittering in the audience, the composer allows that he prefers laughter to tears. A mighty useful and sanguine approach. But my personal favorite part of the clip has to do with the restrictions and interpretation of the union contracts as regards the radios. Plus ça change…

I’m Sorry, But It Feels Better

This, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, reporting on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new “multicast” concert – streamed to various university communities using the ultrafast Internet2 network:

Sunday’s main mishap was at Penn, where the Internet2 connection wasn’t achieved until after the concert began. Sorgenti, who was there, was still impressed. “The one question I had is, ‘Does it feel as good as being in the concert hall?’ ” he said. “I’m sorry, but it feels better.”

Ouch. I know there’s more to this story than can be extrapolated from this brief quote, but there’s some kernel of truth there, especially since the gentleman quoted is on the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra…

Farewell, Slava

Over a week has passed since Rostropovich passed, and although I certainly didn’t know him well, I had the privilege of working with him about 20 years ago when he conducted a couple of Russian operas for the Washington (not-yet-National) Opera. It was inspiring to view this repertoire through his eyes, and his rehearsal-room “discussions” (in Russian, of course) with his wife/stage director Galina kept us all entertained.

I was assigned to conduct backstage during The Tsar’s Bride, and it was one of my first assistant conducting assignments. I was terrified, and he knew it. For those of you who don’t know, the job of the backstage conductor is to watch the conductor’s image on a TV screen and mirror it so that the performers who sing or play offstage are coordinated with one another and with the orchestra in the pit. The rub is that due to the delay in the backstage sound reaching the audience, you have to be about a second or so ahead of the real conductor. So you’re mirroring somewhat that is yet to happen. And Slava, bless his heart, wasn’t that easy to mirror anyway:)

Just so happens that most of the chorus I was conducting offstage was sung without accompaniment – it dovetailed with the orchestra, but the bulk of it was in the clear. During rehearsals I dutifully stared at the screen and pumped my arms in tempo. At the first performance, Slava got to the place in the score where the orchestra stopped, and he leaned back, folded his arms and smiled. Now, how hard could it be, you ask? All I had to do was continue keeping time in 2/4 so that the Oprichniks kept singing. But my brain had been turned off – I wasn’t thinking, just keeping time like a robot. My life flashed before my eyes, but of course, all went swimmingly. He saw me in the hallway and grinned – said he knew I could fly solo.

This Week at the Trap

Getting a Little Less Stupid: I’m still consumed with research on what I hope will be our upcoming recording of Volpone. I’m actually getting comfortable with some of the terminology and I’m beginning to trust my instincts a bit. We have to make a go/no-go decision about it very very soon, though.

Wordsmithing: Our copy deadline for the first program (Center Lines) of the summer is on Wednesday, and a lot of these last few days has been spent finalizing art bios, refining synopses and other program articles, and trying to make the whole season fit in 20 pages!

The New Media: Trying to figure out exactly how much time and energy we can afford to put into things like blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing (ooh, I love that as a verb…) this summer. It’s an exciting new world, but most of these efforts don’t pay off in the short run. And, like most organizations, we have no new employees we can send frolicking in this particular playground, so efforts can’t be frivolous. (Yes, frolicking. Isn’t that what YouTubing sounds like it is?)

And… We’re working on travel arrangements for our artists and staff, finishing up housing assignments for the summer, auditioning boys for the genii in Magic Flute, writing supertitles, watching box office reports, and crunching budget numbers.

Next week we welcome interns, seasonal administrative staff, music staff, stage managers, and the first wave of singers.

The Importance of Good Diction

If you’re in need of a good laugh, go here, courtesy of my colleague JoAnn from Peabody Conservatory.

(P.S. Here are the real words:
Blessed city, heavenly Salem, vision dear of peace and love
Who of living stones art builded in the height of heaven above
And, with angel hosts encircled, as a bride dost earthward move
From celestial realms descending, bridal glory round thee shed,
Meet for him whose love espoused thee, to thy Lord shalt thou be led
All thy streets and all thy bulwarks of pure gold are fashioned.)

One Comment


Thanks for your Slava story- he certainly had a mischievous sense of humor! As for Galina, though, well she is quite a woman to be reckoned with…

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