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Wolfgang Wagner, the stage director, grandson of Richard Wagner, and long-time autocrat of the Bayreuth festival, has died, age 90 (Bloomberg reports). It's a symbolic passing. Wagner was present for one of the company's golden ages when he shared the directorship with his gifted younger brother Wieland; opened productions up to outside stage directors for the first time after Wieland's death; then presided over a slow decline in the quality both of singing and productions (sometimes his own). But his role had diminished even before he stepped down from control two years ago, no longer able to run the festival after the unexpected death of his wife Gudrun and his own poor health. Bayreuth has already started to chart a new course under the joint leadership of his two daughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner.

Edited to add: In Tuesday's Washington Post: Wolfgang Wagner obituary, by Anne Midgette.

And the Vienna [EDITED TO ADD State Opera Orchestra, made up of members of the Vienna] Philharmonic has given tenure to Albena Danailova, its female concertmaster. The orchestra has been notorious for its long-standing resistance to admitting women, and even since the first woman was hired in 1997, the pace of change has been glacially slow. According to a recent article in The Independent, and information on the website of William Osborne (a composer and writer who has been a leading figure in collecting accurate data and raising awareness about the situation in the Vienna Philharmonic), there are seven women in the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra -- four with tenure, now that Danailova has passed her probation period, and three more still in their probation period. It's not good or fast enough, but certainly having a woman in this position is the best sign there's been yet that the orchestra is actually willing to change.

Though the final quote from the Independent article left a bad taste in my mouth. A spokeswoman for the orchestra told the writer, explaining the discrepancy in the number of women, “Perhaps women are just not as ambitious as men.” Clearly this orchestra still has a long way to go.

Edited to add: Careless reading on my part: Danailova has been named concertmaster in the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, not the Vienna Philharmonic. The Vienna State Opera orchestra has the same players as the Vienna Philharmonic, but they don't hold the same positions. Danailova is now a full-fledged member of the Vienna Philharmonic; but she isn't the concertmaster.

By Anne Midgette  |  March 22, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  international , news  
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One way to check the number of women in the VPO and in the State Opera Orchestra is to go directly to their web pages:

Unfortunately, they are not always updated, especially the VPO one. In fact, there is no announcement about Ms. Danailova yet.

As a curiousity, the concermaster of another top orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw, was also born in Bulgaria; Vesko Eschkenazy (the linked article mentions that this is where Ms. Danailova is born.)

I suppose this is a good time to explore the music of Vladigerov (hint: his chamber music is better than the orchestral) and Goleminov...

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | March 22, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Hey, and why not try the living classical composers Victor Kissine and Aleksandra Vrebalov, both of whose music will be featured at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts and the Library of Congress over the next four weeks of 2010? (The last San Francisco Symphony world premiere of a piece by Victor Kissine was his very well received violin concerto "Aftersight", performed by SFO concertmaster Sasha Barantschik.)

Or living composer Olli Kortekangas, who was featured at the Phillips Collection last week, and who has recently been commissioned to write his seventh opera, as well as by Washington's own Choral Arts Society to write a new work for adult and childrens voices and orchestra?

Any chance the historically fading Bayreuth Festival will commission a 21st century music drama from one of these three living composers? (I can recommend Olli Kortekangas's 21st century opera "Messenius and Lucia".)

Posted by: snaketime1 | March 22, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Sure, why not, but I was trying to link the threads of world-class Bulgarian musicians with that of little known but worthy Bulgarian composers. After all, Goleminov died only a few years ago (in 2000 to be more precise.)

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | March 22, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Hi, and the late Marin Goleminov’s son, Michail Goleminov, is also a living classical composer, residing -- like Victor Kissine and Olli Kortekangas -- in the European Union.

Perhaps he, too, could be commissioned by the Bayreuth Festival to write a 21st century music drama.

It is a sign of decadence when a lot of money and luxury is expended on something that is no longer living.

Let us hope that the reduced Washington National Opera doesn’t fall into the Bayreuth Festival decadence-trap.

Posted by: snaketime1 | March 22, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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