Weekly Digest – November 28


How NPR’s Intimate Concert Series Earned a Cult Following
Vox: Zachary Crockett
Over eight years, more than 550 musical acts have played one the show, which has attracted a cult following on the internet, partly thanks to its musical curation — a peculiar mix of indie rock, hip-hop, world music, and jazz — but more so because of its authenticity.


New York City to Dancers: Immigrants Welcome Here
Dance Magazine: Wendy Perron
Immigration has been a hot topic in this election, but in the dance world it’s a no-brainer. Perron recently participated in a panel titled “Cultural Identity and Creative Process,” that turned into a passionate discussion about immigration and shifting perceptions of whiteness during the recent election.

A Mental Makeover for Classical Music
Arts Professional: James Fleury
Tired of seeing classical music magazines filled with middle-aged white faces, James Fleury proposes four ‘mental makeovers’ that could help increase diversity in the sector.

What Are the Chances? Success in the Arts in the 21st Century
LA Review of Books: Alexis Clements
All signs point to a reality in which no artist, no matter how famous or successful, spends 100 percent of their time on their art, nor do they earn 100 percent of their income from their art alone over the course of their entire career.

Remember When ‘Figaro’ Was Set in Trump Tower? NY Times: Michael Cooper Peter Sellars’s 1988 staging of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” happened to be set on the 52nd floor of Trump Tower, a symbol of wealth and excess and power in an opera about inequality.

‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Matter Again
NY Times: Manohla Dargisnov
In “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s has a shot at something that has eluded auteurist titans like Peter Bogdanovich and Francis Ford Coppola: to make musicals matter again.


The Strike’s Over! Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Musicians Reach 5-Year Contract Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Bob Batz
The musicians, who went on strike Sept. 30, on Wednesday ratified a new five-year contract that includes a 10.5 percent pay cut in the first year, but thanks to a contribution from an anonymous donor, the actual pay cut will be 7.5 percent. Wages will be restored to pre-strike levels in the fifth year.

Composer Louis Andriessen Receives Major NY Phil Prize
NY Times: Michael Cooper
The award comes with $200,000 and a commission to write a new work for the Philharmonic, which Mr. van Zweden will conduct during his inaugural season.

Judge allows “We Shall Overcome” Lawsuit to Move Forward
Daniel Adrian Sanchez, Digital Music News
Earlier this year, We Shall Overcome Foundation filed a lawsuit against Warner/Chappell to free the song We Shall Overcome. This song is actually a 19th century spiritual, according to the foundation. Pete Seeger’s version copyrighted in 1960 and 1963 includes only minor alterations.

Your Guide to a Met Opera Milestone
NY Times: Zachary Lewis
Consider this a primer on everything you need to know about one of the most important events of the fall season: the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin” on Thursday, Dec. 1.

Star Couple Leaves Miami’s Top Ballet Troupe and Starts Their Own
Miami Herald: C.M. Guerrerio
Carlos Guerra and Jennifer Kronenberg, popular leading dancers at Miami City Ballet for 15 years, retired from the company last spring. Now they hope to turn their experience and reputation, their connections in Miami and the dance world and their appeal as a culturally mixed, loving married couple whose relationship lit up their performances in “Giselle” and “Romeo and Juliet” to make their new group, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, a success.

Top Rolling Stone editor quits after 20 years to join Amazon Music
Tim Ingham, Music Business Worldwide
The transfer of talented ‘old media’ creatives to streaming services continues. Rolling Stone Executive Editor Nathan Brackett has this month joined Amazon Music as Head Of Editorial.

Manager Tries to Raise Songwriter Royalties, Gets Sued by 10,000 Radio Stations
Digital Music News: Paul Resnikoff
Irving Azoff thinks that songwriters are getting forced to accept sub-standard royalties from radio stations.  Now, he’s getting sued by 10,000 of them.

Letter from Chicago: The City is Second to None for New Music
San Francisco Classical Voice: Wynne Delacoma
Chicago doesn’t usually underestimate its own importance. Sometimes, however, the city has benefitted mightily from residents willing to fly below the radar. Something equally dramatic is happening right now in classical music. But bubbling persistently below the surface is one of the most vibrant communities for contemporary music in the country, driven by hundreds of young composers, performers and presenters of wildly varying aesthetic persuasions.


Huge Drop in Funding for UK Arts as Lottery Plummets
Arts Professional
Any decline in Lottery revenues will be of serious concern to Arts Council England (ACE), which in 2014 announced it would start using Lottery funds to provide core funding for some of its National Portfolio Organizations.

Lost Work by Stravinsky Restored
Classical Music: Elinor Cooper
Stravinsky’s Funeral Song receives its first performance in 107 years. The 12-minute work for symphony orchestra was written when Stravinsky was just 26, in memory of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov.

Is there a Lost Mozart Flute Concerto?
Huttiyet Daily News
The seventh International Şefika Kutluer Festival, organized under the name of Turkish flutist Şefika Kutluer, claims to be presenting Mozart’s “Wendling Flute Concerto,” which had been kept concealed for 239 years.

The Woman Who Has Transformed English National Ballet
NY Times: Roslyn Sulcas
Artistic director, star ballerina, lobbyist, wrangler, psychologist, spokeswoman. Tamara Rojo, the artistic director of English National Ballet, is one busy woman.

Kick-Ass Beats from Korea’s Countryside Ozy Magazine: Carl Pettit Samulnori could be described as the pulse of the Korean people. Over the years, this drumming art form has evolved from humble agrarian roots into a modern — and increasingly global — expression of natural movement and rhythms.


Ticket Giveaways for Teens Might Do the Trick
The Stage: James Doeser
Countless initiatives (and millions of pounds) have been spent trying to shift the demographic profile of arts audiences and workers in the sector. They have remained stubbornly white and well-off. A new program in Italy might just do the trick.

11 Skills that Differentiate Successful Entrepreneurs from Organizational Leaders Quartz A new study out of Harvard Business School (HBS), however, suggests we may be incorrectly assessing the qualities of entrepreneurs.

Your live show is the best music marketing tool – just follow the numbers
Wade Sutton, Disc Makers Blog
Live shows are underdeveloped as a music marketing tool by most artists. You need to track numbers to understand what’s working from a marketing perspective.

SoundExchange paid out $264M in Q3 – its biggest quarter in two years
Music Business Worldwide: Tim Ingham
SoundExchange just paid out more than quarter of a billion dollars to recorded music rights holders – its biggest three-month distribution in two years.


A Mozart Meltdown
Studio Muzik2m
Enjoy this wonderful rendition of Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, performed by Yuja Wang as an encore (and can you confirm that the concertmaster is none other than JSoM alumnus, Noah Bendix-Balgley?)

Weekly Digest – November 21


US Orchestras Are Too Important to Fail
USA Today: Jonathan Kaledin
Taking American orchestra “exceptionalism” into the 21st century now requires a complete rethinking of the role our federal government plays in providing financial support for these institutions.

It’s Official: Many Orchestras Are Now Charities
NY Times: Michael Cooper
There is a stark reality increasingly facing American orchestras: They are now charities, relying more, on average, on philanthropy than on the ticket sales that used to buttress them.

Read additional news on US Orchestras in the NATIONAL section below.


A small selections of responses from the music and arts world about the impact of the recent presidential elections:


Why Our Brains Respond Differently to Classical Music
Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard
Chinese researchers report even a few moments of opera produce a thoughtful, empathetic response.

Why it’s Time to Completely, Totally, Finally Give Up on Economic Impact Studies in the Arts
Michael Rushton, For What It’s Worth/an ArtsJournal Blog
Economic impact studies reduce the arts to the level of every other sector in the economy: one that hires people, sells things, earns people income. There is no argument for public support anywhere in those ordinary facts of life.

There is No Such Thing as Western Civilization
The Guardian: Kwame Anthony Appiah
The values of liberty, tolerance and rational inquiry are not the birthright of a single culture. In fact, the very notion of something called ‘western culture’ is a modern invention

Arts Education…Saved My Life
WFMT: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda has impacted many lives through his Pulitzer Prize-winning work Hamilton: An American Musical. Recently, Miranda revealed how the arts have impacted him, saying that arts education, “saved my life.”

Decolonizing Our Music
NewMusicBox: Gary Ingle
This essay was presented, in a slightly different form, as the final keynote address at the “Decolonizing Music” conference presented by the Music Council of the Three Americas (Consejo de la música de las Tres Americas – COMTA) at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico in San Juan.

Is Rock ’n’ Roll Dead, or Just Old?
NY Times: Bill Flanagan
Rock is now where jazz was in the early 1980s. Its form is mostly fixed. From Louis Armstrong in the 1920s to Duke Ellington in the ’30s to Charlie Parker in the ’50s to Miles Davis in the ’60s, jazz evolved at superspeed and never looked over its shoulder.


Women in the Arts Get Paid Less Too
Pacific Standard: Tom Jacobs
But they have one advantage over their counterparts in other fields: no motherhood penalty.

South Dakota Symphony Receives Major Award for Community Engagement
The highly-coveted Bush Prize for Community Innovation amounts to a quarter of the orchestra’s annual budget!

St. Louis Symphony Sees Total Revenue Rise
St. Louis Business Journal
The St. Louis Symphony saw its total operating revenue for fiscal 2016, ended Aug. 31, rise to $28.4 million, officials said Monday. That’s up from $26.6 million in fiscal 2015.

Pittsburgh Symphony Continues it’s Fundraising Amid the Strike
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Elizabeth Bloom
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s work stoppage is now more than six weeks old, and even as seats at Heinz Hall remain empty, the orchestra’s administration is trying to fill the coffers

Debora L. Spar, Barnard President, to Lead Lincoln Center
New York Times: Michael Cooper
Lincoln Center, which went through a messy shake-up at the top last spring just as its long-delayed project to renovate David Geffen Hall was beginning to take shape, is turning to academia for its next leader.

Things Get Worse at the Boston Globe and Elsewhere — More Arts Criticism Bites the Dust
The Arts Fuse: Bill Marx
In his November 9th piece for Deadline Hollywood, Jeremy Gerard reports that the bottom is falling out for serious arts criticism at The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

New York Philharmonic’s Next Leader Gives a Taste of Things to Come
NY Times: Anthony Tommasini
Great anticipation hovered over Thursday evening’s New York Philharmonic concert at David Geffen Hall. It was the first program to be led by the Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden since the announcement in January that he would succeed Alan Gilbert as music director.

Jeremy Denk and His Piano Take a 600-Year Tour
NY Times: Anthony Tommasini
“Medieval to Modern,” a program he presented at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, included 80 minutes of music, with no breaks: 23 works spanning 600 years, from a lament by the 14th-century French composer Guillaume de Machaut to an obsessive 1985 étude by Gyorgy Ligeti.

Music Composer For ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Sues Australian Who Created “A Trumpwork Orange’ Parody Trailer
Timothy Geigner, TechDirt
One of the tests for fair use as it pertains to copyright is the impact that the use of a work has upon the original. While this is but one of four tests used, it is arguably the most important when it comes to advising a rights holder.


Making Opera Relevant to Our Times, Beyond Pure Entertainment
The Irish Times: Lara Marlowe
Stéphane Lissner, the director of the French national opera, is going all out to recruit new opera-lovers.

The Woman Who Has Transformed English National Ballet
NY Times: Roslyn Sulcas
Ms. Rojo, 42, a Spanish-born former Royal Ballet principal dancer, has been in her current job for four years, and she has made a startling difference to English National Ballet.

‘Digital dance’ World First for Scottish Ballet
The National: Kirsteen Paterson
The inaugural digital season – said to be the first time a ballet company has curated a month-long program of projects made for the format – aims to explore “a new way to present dance” and features “pioneering” projects.

How Did South Korea Become a Classical Music Powerhouse?
KQED: Elijah Ho
On San Francisco Symphony’s First Trip to Korea, a Family Legacy Comes Full Circle.

Connecting The UK Arts With Industry
Anna Scott, Arts Professional
A consortium of Scotland’s universities and art schools place researchers within arts and cultural organizations.

International Activity Financially ‘Worth It’ for UK Arts Organizations
Liz Hill, Arts Professional
Over half of Arts Council England’s NPOs are reaping rewards working internationally, but larger organizations and those based in London tend to benefit most financially.


Sofar Sounds’ Intimate Shows Feature Local Musicians in Cities Around the Globe
Hannah Huynh, The Observer (video)
Sofar Sounds hosts intimate, stripped-down concerts, and each performance showcases local musicians in cities around the world. Whether it’s been live in New York or streamed on their website, the site has featured incredible musicians.

Social Media Content Management for Musicians
Music Think Tank
You’ve decided how you want to brand yourself online. You’ve created your band’s social media pages. You’re posting regularly, and still, you’re not seeing results. The solution: content planning.

How to Set an Achievable Crowdfunding Goal
Nathan Zebedeo, Fractured Atlas
When you’re setting up a crowdfunding campaign, one of the first decisions that you’ll make is setting your goal, the amount of money that you want to raise. This decision can have far-reaching consequences and is often where the campaign lives or dies.

Opera Drops Its Scruples, Allows Millennials to Tweet During the Show
The Wall Street Journal: Jennifer Levitz
Theaters create ‘tweet seats’ for the itchy fingered; ‘this orchestration is DOPE’


A Musical Response to The Election: Bach Suites
TED Fellow, Joshua Roman (video)
Principle cellist of the Seattle Symphony offered all six Bach suites for solo cello – and received a million views before the week was out.

Canadian Guitarists Take Top Spots in Indiana Competition


The 7th Indiana International Guitar Festival and competition was held on October 22nd and 23rd on the campus of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, and once again it proved to be a resounding success, with the competitions particularly impressive this year. The three divisions featured a total of 37 competitors—the Open Division had 24 contestants from numerous countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and China, as well as guitarists from ten different U.S. states. The Youth and Senior Youth divisions featured 13 talented young players.The first prize of the Open Division was shared by two Canadian guitarists, Steve Cowan and Stephen Lochbaum; both received a cash prize and a record deal with Spain’s prominent record label EMEC Discos label. Both guitarists are already quite well-established: Cowan recently released a fine CD, Pour Guitare, devoted entirely to compositions by contemporary Canadian composers. And the versatile Lochbaum is a multiple competition winner who is pursuing his doctorate at the University of North Texas. The third prize in Indiana went to Austin Wahl and the fourth prize to Henry Johnston.

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Judges and Open division winners (from left to right): Atanas Tzvetkov, Elzbieta Szmyt, Luke Gillespie, Elizabeth Wright, Henry Johnston, Austin Wahl, Steve Cowan, Stephen Lochbaum, Ernesto Bitetti, and Agustin Maruri.

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Open Division Winners: Stephen Lochbaum (top) and Steve Cowan 

The Youth Division featured guitarists between the ages of 14 and 18, and the first prize went to Aytahn Benavi, second to Nolan Harvel, third to Catherine Elmer, and fourth to Liam Hedrick. The winner of the Junior Youth Division was Gwenyth Aggeler, while the second prize was offered to Ian Tubbs, the third and fourth prizes went respectively to Nick Bonn and Alexander Elko.

Parallel to the competitions, the two-day event also presented two popular guest artists, Isaac Bustos from Nicaragua (currently head of the Texas A&M Guitar department), and Rovshan Mamedkuliev from Azerbaijan/Russia. Both virtuosos held master classes and outstanding recitals.  Guitar aficionados filled most of the 400 seats of Auer Hall, where Bustos and Mamedkuliev each received standing ovations. On Saturday, Bustos performed an eclectic repertoire that impressively showcased his musicality and technical precision. And the atmosphere of Mamedkuliev’s outstanding concert was captured by the local media, including Peter Jacobi from the Bloomington Herald Times, who stated that the “audience roared in approval, roared like a hungry soccer crowd.”

Below: Rovshan Mamedkuliev

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For the original post and s a bonus video: Mamedkuliev performing Tárrega’s ‘Gran Jota’ in Portland, Oregon, in 2014, please visit: http://bit.ly/2f4XXWQ

©Classical Guitar Magazine



Yamaha Honors Two Legendary Artist-Educators at PASIC16 With Prestigious Legacy in Education Awards

Yamaha presented the company’s Legacy in Education Awards to Steve Houghton and Bret Kuhn during this week’s annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC16) being held in Indianapolis. The annual award recognizes distinguished Yamaha Artists and music educators for their extraordinary service to and impact on the field of music education.

“Steve Houghton and Bret Kuhn have each contributed immeasurably to the field of percussion as music educators and clinicians, and have influenced the careers of thousands of aspiring percussionists,” said John Wittmann, director, Artist Relations and Education, Yamaha Artist Services Indianapolis. “During a lifetime of commitment to music education, they have earned respect from their peers as well as from the students who will become the artists and music educators of the future.”

Houghton currently serves as professor of percussion and jazz at Indiana University’s Jacobs School and Music and enjoys a demanding career as an internationally renowned clinician, jazz drummer, percussionist, author and educator. He is a skilled classical percussionist who performs with the Boston and Philadelphia Pops Orchestras and as a soloist around the globe. Houghton drew early acclaim at age 20 as the drummer with Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd, and has since performed with Freddie Hubbard, Gary Burton, Christian McBride, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joe Henderson, Ray Brown and many other jazz artists. He is a prolific author with a bibliography of more than 30 educational books, videos and DVDs, and a former president of the Percussive Arts Society.

Kuhn is a nationally prominent clinician, arranger and performing artist who is the percussion coordinator for the Prospect High School music program in Mt. Prospect, Illinois; an adjunct faculty member with Northern Illinois Marching Band; and a consultant with Arizona State’s Sun Devil Marching Band. He is active as a percussion arranger/clinician for numerous U.S. colleges and high schools and arranges for two of Japan’s top marching groups, Amachi from Nagoya and Vivace from Tokyo. Kuhn performed with the Disneyland Resort All-American College Band and marched with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps. During his tenure as instructor for the Cavaliers, they won six World Championships and five High Percussion Awards. He has published numerous articles for Percussive Notes magazine and served on the Percussive Arts Society’s board of directors.

Each year PASIC, the world’s largest percussion convention, features the top names in drumming and percussion and draws more than 5,000 attendees from around the globe. Previous luminaries who have received the Yamaha Legacy in Education Awards at PASIC include James Campbell, Dave Samuels, Dave Weckl, Jim Petercsak and Bob Breithaupt, among many others.

For more information about Yamaha at PASIC visit http://4wrd.it/PASIC2016.

For original story and site visit  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/11/prweb13845891.htm


Weekly Digest – November 14


It’s too early to tell how the election of Donald Trump as President will impact the arts. Here are two responses and an article on what might become huuuge: protest music.

Donald Trump, Taste and the Cultural Elite
Anne Midgette: The Washington Post
Trump not only has bad taste, but prides himself on it. Beauty, to him, appears to be a commodity measured in terms of beauty-pageant qualifications and chrome fixtures and size.

How President Trump Could Be a Boon for the Music Industry
The Tennessean: Nate Rau
Reforming the country’s antiquated music copyright laws was a non-issue during the campaign, but there is now new hope that President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Congress could finally accomplish the long-debated reforms sought by the industry.

Donald Trump is Terrific Protest-Music Inspiration
The Atlantic: Spencer Kornhaber
Some very lovely music about Donald Trump has been released this week. That’s thanks to the launch of the “30 Songs, 30 Days” project in which the author Dave Eggers has gotten medium-to-big names in rock to record songs advocating for a “Trump-free America.”


Killing Aida: A Mortal Threat to Art
National Review: Jay Nordlinger
Identity politics, capitulation in the face of ignorance and zealotry can kill art. Certain people will kill art, and civilization along with it, if we let them.

(Eng)aging With The Arts Has Its Benefits
Createquity: Salem Tsegaye, et al
A robust set of research suggests that participatory arts activities are effective mechanisms for increasing the health and quality of life of aging individuals.


Lyric Opera of Chicago Calls FY2016 Breakeven, Though Financial Report Shows Sea of Red
Chicago Business Journal
Lyric reported $61.9 million in total revenue for the year, down substantially from $86.8 million the previous year. Total expenses for the year climbed to $84.1 million, up from $79 million the previous year.

New York Times & Wall Street Journal Prepare To Slash Entertainment Coverage And Staff As Print Ads Vanish
Deadline Holywood: Jeremy Gerard
As print advertising revenues continue to fall off the cliff, reviews and features related to film, theater and the rest of the arts are being cut at New York’s two prominent broadsheets, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

How Newark Became One of the Greatest Jazz Cities in the World
The Guardian: Tammy La Gorce
In 2016, Newark is one nonstop, ongoing, jazz parade: Wynton Marsalis, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Dianne Reeves, Phil Perry, David Sanborn and Anjelique Kidjo have been in and out town for shows.

Demonstrators Protest L.A. Opera Over Casting of White Singer as an Egyptian Pharaoh
Los Angeles Times: Catherine Womack
Ticket holders to Los Angeles Opera’s opening night of Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” on Saturday were greeted by about 25 peaceful demonstrators who voiced their frustration over a white actor singing the title role of an Egyptian pharaoh.


Leonard Cohen, Singer-Songwriter of Love, Death and Philosophical Longing, Dies at 82
The Washington Post: Matt Schudel
The Canadian-born poet, songwriter and singer, whose intensely personal lyrics exploring themes of love, faith, death and philosophical longing made him the ultimate cult artist, and whose enigmatic song “Hallelujah” became a celebratory anthem recorded by hundreds of artists, died Nov. 7. He was 82.

Sting Reopens Bataclan With ‘Fragile,’ Tribute to David Bowie and Prince
Billboard: Rhonda Richford
A day shy of the anniversary of the Paris attacks, Sting reopened Paris’ Bataclan theater with a minute of silence for the 90 killed and dedicated the song “50,000” to David Bowie and Prince, among others.

Fiddling with the Past: The Secrets of Scottish Music
New York Times: Craig Smith
On Cape Breton, an isolated island in Nova Scotia, musicians have developed an upbeat, distinctive style that moves.

Cape Town City Ballet Evicted from Its HQ Because It’s ‘Eurocentric And Colonial’
Cape Times: Tanya Farber
After 82 years of partnership, Cape Town City Ballet has been booted out of its University of Cape Town premises because ballet is “Eurocentric and colonial”. Company members said they had to rush to clear their lockers and were warned it had become “unsafe” for them to be on UCT property owing to student protest action.

London’s New Concert Hall Project Has Stalled – and It’s No Great Loss
The Guardian: Andrew Clements
Arguments in favor left many unconvinced, and with his Barbican concerts Simon Rattle has already showed the difference he can make to a venue’s sound.


Streaming Revenue Has Already Topped $1bn at Universal this Year
Music Business Wordwide
Streaming revenues from recorded music comfortably surpassed $1bn at Universal Music Group in the first nine months of 2016. From January-September, UMG’s recorded sales from streaming and subscription services reached €1.03bn ($1.1bn) – up 64.3% on the same period in 2015 (at constant currency and perimeter).


Identifying the Musical Tastes of Birds Hyperallergic: Claire Voon Do birds prefer classical music, opera, or heavy metal? As with humans, it’s likely a matter of personal preference, and one art project is offering our feathered friends a chance to communicate their preferences to us.









IU’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ worth drive to Butler to see

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“Madama Butterfly” is one of those operas for which you must have the right talent to portray the central character. If you don’t, it shouldn’t be done.

Fortunately, the current new production of Giacomo Puccini’s heartrending masterwork, as staged by the Indiana University Opera Theater, is twice fortunate: both sopranos portraying Butterfly or Cio-Cio-San have been carefully and successfully cast.

On opening night in the Musical Arts Center, last Friday, Marlen Nahhas offered us a soprano both powerful enough and dramatically intense to fulfill the demands of Puccini’s music and what the music imparts theatrically.

One heard faith in her voice, the faith of a very young bride staunch in the belief, even after three years of waiting, that her B.F. Pinkerton, her American naval lieutenant of a cad husband, will return to her. One heard maturation in her voice, of a 15-year-old becoming a woman and a mother faced with what will become mounting consequences. One heard tragedy in her voice, for a heroine Puccini considered brave as could be but victimized by her world and by the courage of her convictions.

On Saturday evening, Mathilda Edge took over the role. And the same needs to be said about her satisfying work. Again, musically, Edge turned into that unfortunate and admirable heroine. The faith was there. And the maturation. And the tragedy.

That was so even though their voices differed. In Marlen Nahhas’s soprano, one heard strains of silk, a rugged yet soft, pliant element that rounded out the mellifluous nature of her native instrument. In Mathilda Edge’s soprano, that noticeable extra element was steel, a band of the metallic that seemed to symbolize strength and determination.

Undoubtedly helped along dramatically by the counsel of guest stage director Lesley Koenig, they turned into Cio-Cio-Sans, despite the fact that, physically speaking, neither approximated the very young, delicate geisha Puccini had in mind. Singers that look so are not easy to find. Hard work and musical strength made the difference work in this staging.

All that said, there is no workable production of “Madama Butterfly” without several other requirements:

• Although Pinkerton’s part is not long (he appears only in the first act and briefly in the third), the tenor who sings that role must be very good, with a voice both lyrically tender and large enough to be heard above orchestral rises of sound, which Puccini supplies in abundance. We’ve been fortunate here with tenors of late, and are again in this “Butterfly” production. Justin Stolz on opening night and Trey Smagur on the next both proved to be singers with voices of excellent quality and sufficient scope. Dramatically, they had sufficient swagger. More importantly, each gave his Cio-Cio-San a well-matched partner in the gorgeous love duet that ends Act 1, probably the most beautiful such scene that Puccini ever wrote and one requiring two impassioned, radiantly-voiced singers. Stolz and Smagur supplied the goods.

• Orchestrally speaking, Puccini’s “Butterfly” score is a wonder of touches that give the music its pungent and poignant flavors. The orchestral score is bulging with technical difficulties; thus, a qualified pit orchestra is a must. The IU Philharmonic fulfills that must, with quality to spare.

• To make the orchestra accomplish what it must accomplish, a conductor of experience and lofty talent needs to be wielding the baton. In the resident Arthur Fagen, IU Opera Theater has such a conductor. Maestro Fagen contributed the appropriate leadership to both the pit musicians and the singers on stage. He was the stabilizer and the inspirer for everything musical.

• The women’s choir that musically introduces Cio-Cio-San to the stage in Act 1 must be able to convey dream and cream with their voices, in one of the most haunting such moments in all of opera. Chorus master Walter Huff’s young ladies did their job stunningly.

Now, I happen to be a traditionalist when it comes to “Madama Butterfly.” Most of Leslie Koenig’s directing was to the point and effective. However, in Act 1, I expected the chorus portraying Japanese women to introduce Butterfly to the stage, not the opposite, for some strange reason. And in the closing scene, when our brutally scarred and betrayed heroine chooses suicide to other possible options, I prefer to see most attention given to her and less to her young son, despite the fact that this production’s Sorrow, the son, is portrayed dutifully and obediently by Mira Vamos. Mira is also far older than Sorrow should be, but then, I cannot remember ever seeing a Sorrow of the right age; it wouldn’t be possible to keep a 2- or 3-year-old in line on stage. Puccini failed to take care of that issue.

In matters of scenery, again as a traditionalist, I prefer to see a house of some sort on stage. IU’s new production has no house save little toy-sized ones that hang above as a sort of roof. There are platforms instead of rooms and other spaces. But, admittedly, the set by Steven Kemp, a much-admired designer, offers a fluency of motion and a picture worth looking at. Also worth looking at are the beautiful costumes designed by Linda Pisano. As usual, Patrick Mero’s lighting adds to the looks when and wherever they are needed.

Were you to see both casts, you’d probably come up with choices, but most every singer is more than adequate, including the two baritones playing the hapless American consul Sharpless, Jonathan Bryan and Eric Smedsrud. Far stronger than adequate are the two mezzos who portray Butterfly’s faithful and worried servant Suzuki with formidable fervor, Kaitlyn McMonigle and Liz Culpepper. Tenors Darian Clonts and Bradley Bickhardt give personality to Goro, the busybody marriage broker, and two other baritones, Ji Lu and Adam Walton, display fury in abundance as Butterfly’s fanatical uncle, The Bonze.

Next weekend’s performances are in Indianapolis at Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus. If you haven’t seen this production, I’d suggest you go, despite the distance.

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer © HTO 2016 | pjacobi@heraldt.com

Weekly Digest – November 6


With the Wall Street Journal announcing a scale back, and the Boston Globe’s decision to partner with a foundation to cover the arts, traditions of newspaper journalism continue to morph. At the same time, a Jacobs alumnus has launched his own TV station!


Arts Diversity: To Shame, or Not to Shame
Arts Professional (UK): Christy Romber
In the fourth of a series of articles, Christy Romer says it’s time for data about workforce, programming and casting to be published openly.

Just Why Does New Music Need Champions?
NY Times: Anthony Tommasini
The implication is that new music is a specialty, some kind of cerebral sideline in danger of languishing but for the efforts of advocates.

When Foreign Artists Can’t Afford a US Travel Visa, We All Lose
The Observer: Justin Joffe
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced last week that it would raise the fees associated with immigration applications and petitions for the first time in six years, which becomes effective in late December. This means that the cost for touring groups from went up from $325 to $460 per act, which adds up to a lot when you’re barely breaking even.

The Soulful Business of Managing a Small-Town Symphony
San Francisco Classical Source: Patrick MacNamara
The Eureka Symphony is a 25-year-old startup in a town that is itself a perpetual startup, and perhaps surprisingly, longtime bedrock for the arts.

Is it Time to Save Music?
Music Think Tank: Nissim Elias
When music became just another track out of million others —  that’s when it lost its artistic value.


Philadelphia Orchestra On Demand: Late to the Game, but Improving
Philly.com: David Patrick Stearns
This time, the Philadelphia Orchestra is opening its archives for love, not money – and the results are so much better. Although the orchestra has had a fitful digital presence in the past, 30 of its WRTI-FM broadcasts, plus older concerts dating back to the Wolfgang Sawallisch era, are newly available for a mere click of the On-Demand tab – for a reasonable charge.

Cleveland Orchestra Strings Plays World Series Game 7 National Anthem
YouTube video

The Philharmonic to Stream Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts
New York Times: Michael Cooper
The New York Philharmonic recently announced that it was putting videos of Young People’s Concerts, and additional educational materials and interactive games, online for schools and families to stream for free.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Completes Critical $25 Million Campaign for New Musicians … Two Years Early
Arts Atlanta: Scott Freeman
The ASO’s Musicians Endowment Campaign will permanently endow 11 musician positions in the orchestra, bringing the total number to 88 by the end of next season.

Portland Symphony Orchestra and Its Musicians Reach Four-Year Contract Agreement
Portland Press Herald
The Portland Symphony Orchestra and the union representing its musicians have reached a four-year contract that includes a pay increase of 8 percent over the contract’s first two years, the orchestra’s executive director announced in a press release Monday. The contract was accepted unanimously.

With No End in Sight, Fort Worth Symphony Strike Continues to Divide Labor and Management
Dallas News: Michael Granberry
For the first time in its history, the orchestra went on strike Sept. 8, with no negotiations planned and no end in sight.

Beyoncé’s True Political Statement This Week? It Wasn’t at a Clinton Rally
NY Times: Wesley Morris
Anyone who caught the star’s appearance on Wednesday at the 50th annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville knew that while Friday might have been, for Mrs. Clinton, strategically necessary, it was also politically anticlimactic.

Philip Glass, Winner of 2016 Tribune Literary Award, Reflects on a Life Well Composed
Chicago Tribune: John von Rhein
Philip Glass finds it a nifty coincidence that both he and Bob Dylan won major literary prizes this year — remarkable, considering that neither American music icon considers himself a writer.

Simon Rattle: The Maestro With the Busy Baton
NY Times: Michael Cooper
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What Julie Kent’s Washington Ballet Looks Like
Dance Magazine: Jennifer Stahl
The magazine produces its first feminist issue and it’s cover story is about how the ballet icon is changing forever the personality of one of the country’s most important institutions for dance.

Juilliard Students ‘Rickroll’ Hateful Protesters From Westboro Baptist Church
Upper West Side Patch: Brendan Krisel
Some of New York City’s brightest young musicians had a message for the Westboro Baptist Church: “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Top 10 Music Industry News Stories This Week
Digital Media News
A look back at the top music industry news this week: October 29 to November 4, 2016.


A Rare Glimpse Into the World of North Korea’s Classical Musicians
Aeon video – Directed by Nils Clauss and produced by Reimer Volker
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the North, a video documentary on an extraordinary event arranged by the Goethe Institut. Members of the Munich Chamber Orchestra visit the Pyongyang Kim Won Gyun Conservatory to give lessons to North Korean students, and ultimately perform a concert alongside local musicians.

A New Opera Star Emerges From the ‘Vocal Breadbasket’ of South Africa
PRI: Kim Cloete
In recent years, South Africa’s rich choral tradition has produced a wave of talented opera singers who are making their mark on the world stage. Soprano Pretty Yende wowed opera enthusiasts in 2013, when she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, while bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana will open next year’s Glimmerglass Festival as Porgy in the American classic, “Porgy and Bess.” Now, South Africa is pinning its hopes on another rising opera star — 25-year-old Noluvuyiso Mpofu.

How a Saudi-born Singer Found her Voice and Her Freedom in Pakistan
PRI: Andrea Crossan
It’s not a country known for gender equality, but for this singer, Pakistan is where she’s able to pursue her dream to be a recording artist. Rutaba Yaqub moved from her home in Saudi Arabia to Pakistan six years ag. For her, it meant freedom from Saudi Arabia’s stricter Islamic laws.

Seven Out of 10 UK Musicians Report Mental Health Problems
The Stage: Georgia Snow
Professionals working in the music industry, including those in theatre, may also be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general public, according to the Help Musicians UK survey results.

The National Ballet of Canada Posts Surplus for Seventh Consecutive Season
Ballet News
The company had 2,277 performances and outreach events in the 2015/16 season with a total attendance of 918,131. There were 77 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with 141,146 in attendance and 2,190 community events reaching 760,413 young people and their families.


Why You Can’t Get That One Song Out of Your Head: The Science of Earworms
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Edinburgh Theatre to Host UK’s First Dementia-Friendly Opera Performance
Arts Professional: Bill Cooper
Sound and lighting will be adjusted and movement between the auditorium and the foyer will be encouraged to welcome people living with dementia to the theatre.

YouTube Strikes Deal to Host Music Videos in Germany
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In the Key of ZZZ: The Concerts Intended to Send You to Sleep
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An increasing number of concerts are being performed in the dark, with the aim of encouraging audiences to listen to music in a new way … or drift off.

The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle
NY Times: Amisha Padnani
In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma, said Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic.



IU Opera Theatre presents Puccini classic

By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist

When the curtain rises in the Musical Arts Center on Friday evening for what will be the 11th Indiana University Opera Theater’s presentation of Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” you will benefit not only from the beauties the composer poured into the score but from Puccini’s always persistent search for stories he deemed right for him to explore, stories that begged for his music to enhance their appeal.

One could write far more about the literary origin of “Madama Butterfly” than there is room for, full length, in this column. And the whole of such a discussion would not be out of place because Giacomo Puccini’s compositional career featured long bouts of seeking the right story content, so to produce the strongest possible theatrical package.

Three times, he made decisions based on what other composers had already done or were planning to do. Jules Massenet had already written his opera “Manon” when its success led Puccini to create his own version, “Manon Lescaut.” Ruggiero Leoncavallo had started to write his “La Boheme,” about those love-driven and impecunious Parisian Bohemians, when he chanced to tell Puccini what he was doing, only to have his “friend” Puccini steal the idea and brilliantly mine it, leaving his fellow composer in the lurch. To set “Tosca” into an opera, Puccini had to talk Alberto Franchetti out of doing this Victorian Sardou drama with arguments that the story was really too sordid to be used for an operatic libretto.

Having finished “Tosca” and sweetly tasted its triumph, Puccini faced the repeated dilemma: what to choose as the subject for his next opera. Among the possibilities were Maurice Maeterlinck’s “Pelleas et Melisande,” already promised to Debussy, Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “House of the Dead,” projects with Emile Zola and Gabriele d’Annunzio, and about a dozen more.

While engaged in the search, Puccini was invited — during a visit to London — to attend a theater performance of a one-act play by the American playwright and director David Belasco. It was called “Madam Butterfly.” It was performed in English, very little or anything of which Puccini could understand. But the composer was smitten. He sought out Belasco and came away with a deal. Belasco later explained the transaction: that he told Puccini, “He could do anything he liked with the play and make any sort of contract he chose, for it was impossible to discuss business arrangements with an impulsive Italian with tears in his eyes and both arms around my neck.”

Belasco’s theatrical package originated as a short story by an American lawyer and sometime writer John Luther Long, published in Century Magazine, a well-read journalistic entity at the time. Now, actually, origins came earlier because what Long did was to take other literary sources that rose out of history, the 1854 treaty that naval commander Matthew Perry arranged to open Japan to the West and that encouraged tourism to a country of prior mystery and intrigue. But let’s leave the story’s background to that.

Anyway, the very practical producer Belasco and the very practical composer Puccini and the agreeable short story writer Long and the literary and historical sources that led Long to his story and two of Puccini’s always hungry-for-work librettists, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, and who knows what and who else merged across space and time to make possible the opera that so many so deeply love, “Madama Butterfly.” And that we get to see starting Friday night.

For that, the folks at IU Opera Theater have gathered a team of cooperating talents, all of whom express love for the opera and for the producing team of which they are a part:

• Conductor Arthur Fagen, the Jacobs School’s professor of orchestral conducting, who has a distinguished and lengthy career in the worlds of opera and the symphony that includes, at present, the musical directorship of the Atlanta Opera.

• Visiting stage director Lesley Koenig, managing director of the Weston Playhouse in Vermont who also brings experience, as forged during a 35-year career as opera director.

• Visiting designer Steven Kemp, a widely sought-after and much praised scenic designer for operas, musicals and plays nationwide.

• Costume designer Linda Pisano, professor of costume design and head of design and technology for IU Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.

Each and all express enthusiasm for the state of things backstage, lauding not only each other but the students — on stage, behind the stage, and in the orchestra pit — that are involved in this “Butterfly” production. In response to my questions, they had this to say:

Maestro Fagen: “I’ve done three productions of ‘Butterfly.’ I love it. The melodies are exquisite. The orchestral score is one of the most beautiful ever written, with that slightly exotic element hinting at Japan. We have the Philharmonic to do it, which is good, and we’ve been working very hard to honor the music, in all of its details. The orchestration is thick. That means we’re dealing with balances, and that’s tricky work, but we’re getting there. The casts selected are contributing some remarkable singing, with two Butterflies handling a long and very difficult role. I’m satisfied with the progress we’re making.”

Stage director Koenig: “The rehearsals have been delightful with two extremely strong casts, working hard, and laughing equally hard. I believe that creating strong ensembles is the key to successful productions, and here are two casts fully supportive of one another. It’s a magical process. … ‘Madama Butterfly’ is a big sing. No problems whatsoever. And we found a terrific child to play Trouble. … This is my first ‘Butterfly’ and is a piece that has always been on a short list I have been craving to do, so I am thrilled.

“I’ve seen different productions,” Koenig continues, “and Pinkerton always arrives in a crisp white suit, acting as if he were a highly ethical, well-mannered officer. But read what he says; three times in the first 20 minutes, he boasts that though he has bought a house and family, he can get out of the deal any day he decides. He speaks of taking women in every port and, finally, just as Butterfly enters, he toasts his future American wife. We are playing him as he is, not a bad guy but a bit of a cad.who thinks only of himself.”

Scenic designer Kemp: “The opera is one of my favorites, and I loved every second of designing it for the first time. I love Puccini and, especially, ‘Butterfly,’ for the haunting melodies that get embedded deep in your soul, entrenched for days even after just a short casual listen. … For the set, we wanted to create a strikingly simple environment that is in tension between the poetically ethereal and the viscerally elemental. Transitioning the audience to the performers is a full stage strip of an illusion of water, where we find our most realistic visual: the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln lurking in the harbor of Nagasaki.

“There are punches of Japanese heritage and tradition,” adds Kemp, “such as the fragmented sand pits inspired by traditional kitchens and Zen gardens as well as the cherry tree that grows in age with Butterfly’s child throughout the opera. All of this is enveloped in layers of a translucent series of mountains that simultaneously conjure the ocean and the clouds to evoke a beautiful hazy existence in which Butterfly is trapped.”

Costumer Pisano: “I’m excited by the opportunity. We’re stressing clean lines, elegance, the simple and yet with quite a bit of the ornamental to enrich the lines. … The project is daunting because there is so much tradition with this opera, and audiences have strong expectations. We have to be aware of what’s acceptable for those familiar with the opera. Lesley has been particularly helpful by sharing with me her thoughts about each of the characters. They’ve become three-dimensional people for whom I’ve designed appropriate clothing.”

Lesley Koenig, when asked what she hopes to accomplish for those of us who attend “Butterfly,” responded: “I want you to leave the performance with sufficient Kleenex, well used. I want you to feel you have truly seen the opera and have been thoroughly caught up in the story, awash with wonderful, touching music.”

I’m pumped.

Contact Peter Jacobi at pjacobi@heraldt.com.

If you go

This Indiana University Opera Theater production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” will be performed three times here in Bloomington and twice in Indianapolis.

If you attend here: The performances are in the Musical Arts Center on the IU Bloomington campus. Dates: Next Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and next Sunday afternoon at 2. Tickets: Available at the MAC box office or at music.indiana.edu/opera or by phoning 812-855-7433. For adults: From $16 up. For students: $10 and up.

If you attend in Indianapolis: performances are in Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus. Dates: Nov. 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets: Available at the Clowes Memorial Hall box office or through Ticketmaster outlets or via email at cloweshall.org or by phone at 800-982-2787. For adults: From $22 up. For students: From $10 up.

Weekly Digest!


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Mamedkuliev brings out magic in classical guitar

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer


Heading into Sunday evening, I pondered. No, I argued with myself. It had been a very busy past few weeks, with lots of events to cover.

There was a concert scheduled for that evening. Should I go or should I not? That was the argument.

I really yearned to stay home to relax and came close to that easier decision: to stay and not go. But something got in the way of following through. Something was telling me to go. And go I went: to Auer Hall for a recital by a guest guitarist, Rovshan Mamedkuliev.

As usual, I arrived early, took my seat, and read through the program notes. Heading my way was Ernesto Bitetti , chair of the Jacobs School of Music’s guitar department and very much involved with putting together the Seventh Indiana International Guitar Festival and Competition, a two-day affair of all things guitar-wise that was to close with Mamedkuliev’s concert.

“I’m so glad you came,” said Ernesto. “Rovshan is something special. He’s the best. You’re going to hear a wonderful recital, perhaps like nothing you’ve ever heard.” The sales pitch was turning into a rave.

“I’m glad I came, too,” I said, partially probably to be polite and partially because I was already there and, as reward, likely to hear some pleasurable guitar music.

And then, the Azerbaijan-born guitarist stepped upon the stage, bowed, took his seat at stage center, and began to play Miguel Llobet’s Variations on a Theme by Sor. The Sor theme was familiar; the variations were not. But, oh my goodness! Ernesto Bitetti’s rave was totally deserved. This Mamedkuliev fellow was remarkable; he is remarkable.

Not at all in a showy manner, he made acrobatic fingers play fancy games with his lovingly-held guitar and perform wonders, producing sounds one does not believe can possibly come from the instrument. But that he continued to do: reveal the ways a virtuoso can bring out the magic in a classical guitar. He had vistas of rural Granada to visit in Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Junto al Generalife,” a musical description of a countryside surrounding an elegant home for the kings of Granada, in relaxing territory away from their most-of-the-time normal palace life.

Born in Azerbaijan and growing up in Russia, Mamedkuliev honored those years in his life by selecting works from composers of those lands. He selected six of “Twelve Miniatures for Piano” written by Fikret Amirov that he transcribed for guitar. The tonal colors differed sharply from the Latin influence of much else that he had chosen for the program. But, as everything selected, these pieces allowed the recitalist to add important performance lessons that only an experienced and gifted guitarist can provide. He did that also with “The Old Lime Tree,” composed by the Russian Sergei Rudnev as reminiscence of his childhood, a ballad that adoringly describes a favored object from the past.

A more contemporary composition, the Sonata Number 2 for Guitar by Nikita Koshkin, dating to 2011, gave Mamedkuliev more thorny themes and developments to deal with, which he did astonishingly.

To close the concert, Mamedkuliev turned to a brilliant showpiece, “Gran jota de concierto” by Francisco Tarrega. The outflow of melodies and embellishments was stunning, indeed something to remember.

The audience roared in approval, roared like a hungry soccer crowd. And I am happy I came.