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Monday notes

Norman Lebrecht is hosting a discussion on his blog (and Twitter, and Facebook) about which now-living composers are most likely to be played in 50 years. The debate is intriguing though the parameters are unclear (played, for example, by whom? Orchestras are unlikely to play Steve Reich, because he hasn’t written much for orchestra). Anyway, voting is open on Lebrecht’s blog until 6 pm EST today. Have at it.

On Saturday, the Minnesota Opera revived “Casanova’s Homecoming” by Dominick Argento, a composer once at the center of American opera, now less-often performed. Everybody likes the idea; the first actual review is a little equivocal.

A postscript to the NEA Opera Honors: opera-lovers are encouraged to watch the tribute videos on the NEA’s website. Frank Corsaro, on his, makes a pithy observation about how singers with vocal problems are often actually having acting problems; it bore out something Gidon Saks said to me last week about a production in which he didn’t feel comfortable with the staging, and consequently became unable to sing well. I would guess this only applies to singers who are good enough actors to begin with that a difficult staging represents to them a violation of their own artistry.
It was also notable that Lotfi Mansouri at 80 looks better than he did in photos 20 years ago: trim and dapper and urbane. His memoirs are coming out next year from Northeastern University Press; the coauthor is Donald Arthur, who worked on the fine memoirs of Astrid Varnay and Hans Hotter. This should be a fun and juicy book, though Mansouri regretted that sections of it had to be cut because the publisher found them actionable. Bring it on.

Edited to add: I was badly negligent in failing, in the abovementioned NEA Opera Honors write-up, to mention Chris Pedro Trakas's fine performance of one of Nixon's arias from Adams's "Nixon in China." It was a first-rate piece of singing acting -- the diction so perfect you understood every word, Nixon's mannerisms even brought across -- and it deserved better from me than neglect.

By Anne Midgette  |  November 16, 2009; 9:34 AM ET
Categories:  news , opera  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: In performance: weekend roundup
Next: Schonberg and Beethoven


Here's another note, this one related to the Michael Kaiser article that's about to disappear from view. The salary of the orchestra. According to this article ( the rank-and file musicians of the Concertgebouw Orchestra made as little as £1,300; then Jansons fought for a 16 percent increase. So let's say that they earn around $50,000 a year. That's Concertgebouw, folks!

AFAIK, the orchestra receives both public and private funding. As I said before, I favor public subsidies, but anybody who thinks that they are the Holy Grail can contact me since I offer a good price for the Brooklyn Bridge.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | November 17, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The spring 2009 article said that pay for a Royal Concertgebouw rank and file member was as low as 1,300 British pounds a month a few years back before a one-time boost of 16% secured by Mariss Jansons from the management. Using today’s pound/dollar exchange rate, this would imply a former base of about $2,200 a month that was boosted to $2,550 a month a few years back. Assuming two more years of 4% increases, that would bring the base to about $2,760 a month – or about $33,000 a year.

I don’t know how you estimated a current rank and file salary level of about $50,000 a year.

Posted by: snaketime1 | November 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I tried to be generous. It is difficult to give an exact amount because at the time of the article the pound was stronger aginst the dollar, though I don't know its then value against the euro.

But the major point is: this is the orchestra who was ranked in a much publicized article as "the best orchestra in the world" (I don't care about such rankings, but that's a different story.) This orchestra has some public subsidies, yet its rank-and-file members earn significantly less than their counterparts in a mid-sized city American orchestra such as the Baltimore Symphony.

In fact regional American orchestras members earn wages comparable with those of the rank-and-file Concertgebouw musicians.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | November 17, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Since you mention the NEA Opera honors, you might like to know that both Frank Corsaro and Julius Rudel, white-haired and smiling, were in the audience at Thursday's New York City Opera performance and got a lovely tribute from George Steele and a big ovation from the audience.

Posted by: nbmandel | November 22, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of composers who'll still be performed in 50 years, I'm nominating John Adams. I do so after hearing that fabulous Nixon aria by Mr. Trakas you covered in your addendum above. I found that to be the most compelling musical performance of the evening. Having not heard it since I was in the audience at the KC in the 80's, I found myself loving the music, and looking it up on YouTube. Maybe I'll even buy the DVD. OK, that's more than 20 years, less than 30 to go.

Posted by: c-clef | November 23, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

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