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Season opening news from all over

Many people were at the Metropolitan Opera last night for the opening-night production of "Das Rheingold."

Manuela Hoelterhoff was there for Bloomberg News.
Anthony Tommasini was there for The New York Times.
Mike Silverman was there for the AP.
The Guardian sent Ed Pilkington.
And The Wall Street Journal took note of a technical malfunction in the final scene.
Edited to add: Let's not forget James Jorden in the New York Post.
Edited to add: Or Martin Bernheimer in the Financial Times. Sorry, Martin.

Even James Levine was there to conduct, which had been a subject of much speculation beforehand.
Me, I was unavoidably detained at the last minute to work on something else, so I will have to weigh in at a later date.
To judge from the above, the consensus so far is modified rapture.

The other big opening I missed recently (again compelled to choose between Plácido Domingo and something else), was Riccardo Muti's debut as music director of the Chicago Symphony last Thursday. All the critics seemed extremely excited about that. Here's word from the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Classical Review.
(read more after the jump)

The New York Philharmonic's season-opening news is less celebratory -- or maybe it is. First, there was the announcement that the Republic of Georgia had cancelled the two planned concerts of the orchestra's upcoming tour at the last minute for lack of money. Seems there wasn't a signed contract. Within a few days, it was announced that the orchestra's president, Zarin Mehta, will leave at the end of the 2011-12 season. That is, he has two more years. (These "step down" announcements in the music world have a whiff of anticlimax when it emerges that the person who has "resigned" is actually sticking around for months and months to come.)

One opening I did see, while I was in California, was the first program of the Pacific Symphony's season (actually, I saw it on Friday, the second night). The Pacific Symphony is a still-new orchestra (this is its 32nd season), and pays its players by the service rather than an annual salary, so I was thinking "regional," but Friday's concert happily outstripped expectations (the elegant, still-new Segerstrom Concert hall didn't hurt). What I heard was a good, sound, bright orchestra with a lot of zip, thanks in part to the energetic conductor Carl St. Clair. Most striking: everyone appeared to be having fun. Jon Kimura Parker played a very respectable Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, and by the end he had actually risen from his seat as if carried away by the excitement, bounding up to the conductor with a huge grin on his face. There followed a rich, lovely Brahms Second, and though I had to drive back to L.A. to catch an early plane, I couldn't tear myself away. I left musing on whether being free of a long tradition and the weight of expectations helped confer a certain lightness on the performance; there was a quality of excitement about the whole evening, an idea that something really worthwhile had happened, that I don't always get at orchestral concerts. Brahms may not be "fun" per se, but there's something to be said for playing it as if you were excited about playing it. (My colleague Tim Mangan, in the Orange County Register, who of course knows the orchestra far better than I, was less thrilled.)

By Anne Midgette  | September 28, 2010; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  national, news  
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"The Pacific Symphony is a still-new orchestra (this is its 32nd season)"

Man, how long does it take to lose that new-orchestra smell?

Posted by: Lindemann777 | September 28, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I know its true to form and it was probably better to tell sooner than rather wait for a more agreeable schedule opening, but its still must be disappointing for the WNO to get the news over the phone rather than the courtesy of in-person.

Anne- I felt for you last night that this story happened to break hours before the Rheingold opening. Hope you at least managed to catch some of the broadcast, Owens was beyond fabulous.

Posted by: ianw2 | September 28, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Lindemann777: The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has been making a big deal about their new music director because he's so young, opens up the orchestra to new audiences, etc. And he is, drum roll... 47. In a world where a 47-year-old conductor is young, a 32-year-old orchestra is practically in the cradle. -- Joking aside, I was thinking when I wrote this of the much older orchestras that I most often have written about: Washington/NSO, BSO (either Boston or Baltimore), New York Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, etc.

ianw2: I caught the tail end of the broadcast, but I confess by that point I was a little distracted. My husband, who did go, was also really impressed with Owens.

Posted by: Anne Midgette | September 28, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Anne - are you now blogging in two places? If so, could you cross-post to both so the reader does not have to visit two places to read your contributions? Thanks, Fairfax Fan

Posted by: kashe | September 30, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

kashe/Fairfax Fan: Yes, it took me a few days to figure this out. In future, I will.

Posted by: Anne Midgette | October 4, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

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