Archive for the ‘Wagner’ Category

The Night They Drove Old Tosca Down…

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Barring a miracle, it appears the New York City Opera will file for bankruptcy next week and begin winding down operations.

The NYCO has been trying to raise $7 million before the end of September. So far, according to the NYT, they’ve managed to raise $1.5 million. They even have a Kickstarter: the goal is $1 million, but they’ve raised $194,549 (at this writing) with three days to go.

How did they get to this point? And how can New York City not be able to support two major opera companies?

…the company began running sizable deficits in 2003, and went dark for the 2008-9 season while its longtime home, the New York State Theater, was given a major renovation and renamed for its benefactor, David H. Koch. In doing so, it lost a year’s worth of ticket sales. Then the company raided its endowment, withdrawing $24 million to pay off loans and cover expenses.

The company cut back from “115 performances of 17 different operas” a decade ago to “16 performances of 4 operas” last year. The smaller number of performances has, in turn, resulted in a smaller number of patrons, and a smaller number of potential donors.

Apparently, the NYCO was in Lincoln Center up until 2011; then they moved out, and are now “an itinerant troupe at theaters across the city”. This may also have something to do with their problems. (I was confused about why NYCO was in Lincoln Center if the NYST was their home; if I understand Wikipedia correctly, NYST is actually part of Lincoln Center.)

And because they raided the endowment, the annual income from that source is now less than $200,000 a year – “less than City Opera makes from its Thrift Shop on East 23rd Street in Manhattan”. (If you try going to the Thrift Shop website, you’re confronted with an uncloseable fundraising appeal that completely obscures the rest of the content. Oh, wait; I hit the back button a couple of times and managed to close the fundraising appeal. Would you like to buy a piano? That’s a trick question: nobody wants to buy a piano.)

(O.M.G. Okay, I have to purchase this. If only as a gift.)

The back and forth in the NYT comments section is interesting, to the extent that any web comments section is interesting. Some folks complain about the unwillingness of the wealthy to step up and bail out the opera, others complain that of course the opera is failing because they present crap like “Anna Nicole” (while others point out that “Anna Nicole” is a critically acclaimed modern opera), and there’s a lot of blame for the management and board of NYCO.

There’s not really much more I can say about this, though I do find it interesting. I would be sad to see an opera company close down, in much the same way I’d be sad if a local restaurant that I liked closed their doors. On the other hand, it seems like the closure is the result of ten years of poor decision making, and there’s nobody to blame but NYCO itself.

Quote of the day.

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Tannhauser asks for her intercession with God, and dies of opera.

–Ken @ Popehat

Runner-up, also from Ken:

Note: I have not used umlauts, because Hitler.

Art, damn it, art! watch (#36 in a series)

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

BERLIN — A Nazi-themed production of the Wagner opera “Tannhaeuser,” which featured scenes of gas chambers and the execution of a family, has been canceled in Germany after some audience members had to receive medical treatment for shock.


At the opening of the opera Saturday evening, naked performers could be seen falling to the floor in glass cubes filled with white fog. The production showed a family having their heads shaved and then being shot. The character of Venus, goddess of love, was depicted dressed in a Nazi uniform and accompanied by SS thugs, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. The production was booed by audience members, German media reports said.

Class acts.

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Friday’s XKCD started me thinking.

Here’s Randall Munroe, who’s established a pretty significant business providing content for free. He’s facing a tough family situation, so what does he do? He explains what’s going on to folks, providing as much detail as he’s comfortable with, thanks people for their support, and basically promises to keep on as best as he can.

Randall Munroe is a class act. Randall Munroe makes me want to buy stuff from his store.  (And today’s XKCD is pretty funny. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Wagner references.)

When Ryan North goes on vacation, or on his honeymoon, he recruits guest artists for his comic. And a lot of them are pretty darn good. Ryan North is a class act. Ryan North makes me want to buy stuff from his store.

The Penny Arcade guys would probably be embarrassed by someone describing them as a class act, but look at what they do when they need time, or are busy at a con; or heck, look at what they do during the holidays.

There’s another web comic I read. It used to run five days a week. Then it started drifting down to four days a week. Then the artist had some personal issues and posted reruns for a while. Then he came back. It started drifting down to three days a week. Then two. Then once a week while he worked on other projects. Right now, it was last updated over a week ago. Two weeks elapsed between that update and the previous one, and a little more than two weeks between updates before that.

“He does it for free! How dare you complain?” Well, maybe. But right now he’s running a fund drive. In addition, part of his business model is providing premium content as an adjunct to the free webcomic. When he goes radio silent for weeks on end, what motivation do I have to pay for premium content, or donate money? Or even to keep reading his webcomic?

I feel like I’m coming perilously close to crossing a line. I don’t think artists have an obligation to keep providing stuff for free, forever. I can understand people becoming overwhelmed. But there’s a good way to handle that; the Randall Munroe way.


Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The LAT has an interesting comparison of various recordings of the Ring cycle. (The article is slugged May 16th, but I did not see it on the LAT web site until it hit the front page today.)

One reason I find this article noteworthy is that it was written by Ethan Mordden, noted Broadway historian (among other accomplishments).

Catastrophe theory.

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

LAT subhead: “Pulling off the climax of Richard Wagner’s ‘Götterdämmerung’ will be a technical feat at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”

Apparently, they don’t mean it will be a technical feat if they manage to avoid killing the singers who play Siegfried and Brünnhilde, as you might have expected. Instead, the LAT piece concentrates on the mechanics involved in staging the climax of “Götterdämmerung”.

For L.A., director Achim Freyer conceived the opera’s final sequence as a Brechtian peeling away of stage artifice to reveal the inner workings of the production.

Competing for stage space amid the Brechtian swirl are the Rhine Maidens, the villainous Hagen, the corpse of Siegfried and a chorus of Gibichungs waving their lightsabers.

Is it just me, or does someone seem to have a Brecht obsession? And lightsabers? WTF?

Note to self: next time I put together a DVD order, I need to make sure to add Sing Faster – The Stagehands’ Ring Cycle.


Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’ve been following the L.A. Opera’s staging of the Ring Cycle, and the associated “Ring Festival L.A.”, avidly. I’m excited by the idea of someone other than the usual suspects doing complete stagings of the operas, and I love the various events that have been arranged to go along with the staging.

But I wasn’t expecting Siegfried and Brunnhilde to openly revolt.

In separate interviews, British tenor John Treleaven, who plays the hero Siegfried, and American soprano Linda Watson, who plays Brunnhilde, said German director Achim Freyer’s avant-garde staging — which features a steeply tilted stage, bulky costumes and oversized masks — interferes with their acting and singing and poses excruciating physical burdens.

Watson called the set “the most dangerous stage I’ve been on in my entire career.…Your whole neck is tipped wrong. It’s very painful to do it for hours.”

As the LAT notes, this kind of public criticism during a production is rare. I’ve never heard of any performer claiming that a staging is actually physically dangerous, as Watson and Treleaven are. This makes me wish I had money and time to fly out to L.A.

Watson currently is the reigning Brunnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival

That must be a fun fact to drop at parties. “What do you do for a living, dear?” “Oh, I’m the reigning Brunnhilde at Bayreuth.”