Monday, April 27, 2009


Last week was a hellishly busy one around here (four concerts, three interview features, a handful of news stories) so I skipped Friday's Berkeley recital by Krystian Zimerman despite my unbridled awe at his artistry. Big mistake. Not only does it turn out that this was his final U.S. tour for the foreseeable future (who knew?) but evidently he had some weighty stuff on his mind, to judge from this report of Sunday's recital in L.A. Nothing so overtly dramatic happened up here — I checked — but it would've been good to witness that kind of passion in action.


The NEA is out with its second round of Opera Honors. This year's winners are John Adams, Frank Corsaro, Marilyn Horne, Lotfi Mansouri, and Julius Rudel, which seems like a pretty blue-chip lineup to me.

Anne Midgette, in a bit of either subtle derision or simply breeziness (I genuinely can't tell) refers to this slate as "more of the usual suspects." Is that so wrong?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Kiddies

I had a bit of a scare at the start of this afternoon's wonderful Berkeley concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. No sooner had I settled into my seat than a young family — mom, dad, and 4-year-old son — trooped down the aisle and settled into a pair of seats in the center section of Zellerbach Hall.

Uh-oh. In my experience, 4-year-olds aren't generally too great about concert etiquette, and not being on the aisle made any possibility of a hasty exit even more problematic. Plus, the kid was sitting directly in front of The Opera Tattler, who I knew — even if he didn't — would open up a can of tattle-ass on him if he got out of line.

Turned out the danger was somewhere else altogether — in the left-hand balcony, to be specific, where some chattering toddler, out of sight but perfectly within earshot of everyone on stage and in the house, began commenting as soon as the orchestra filed on stage. There were some cries of "ssh!", ignored by the cretinous custodial parent. Richard Tognetti, the orchestra's leader and artistic director, tried a little ironic reverse psychology but misjudged his target. Fortunately, though, he held off starting the performance, which gave the house manager enough time to remove both parent and child — evidently with a crowbar.

And what about the potential problem child across the aisle? Well, he sat through a Haydn symphony and a short piece by Australian composer Roger Smalley leaning forward on his mother's lap, his gaze as rapt and unblinking as that of a normal kid watching Saturday morning cartoons; he dozed off when Andreas Scholl sang Handel; and after intermission — his cultural thirst evidently slaked — he was gone. A perfect angel, with wise and praiseworthy parents.

Moral of the story: Know how much classical music your kid can take, and act accordingly. Which I suppose is yet another subset of the Unified Field Theory of Good Behavior, namely, don't be such an asshole.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Vaz has decided
To write complete paragraphs.
I'll pick up the slack.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the Money Front

This morning's New York Times brings news of Barrett Wissman's guilty plea last month on securities fraud charges in connection with some sort of shenanigans at the New York's state pension fund. He's reportedly on the hook for a $12 million fine.

To business reporter Danny Hakim, Mr. Wissman is a "hedge fund executive" and a "Dallas businessman," which I suppose is indeed his day gig. But here on the music beat, we know him better as the head of IMG Artists, which is to say that he manages — or rather, signs the paychecks of the managers of — hundreds of the classical music world's starriest conductors, singers and instrumentalists. He also — along with his wife, the cellist and composer Nina Kotova — runs a couple of sun-dappled music festivals in Tuscany and the Napa Valley, where those very musicians appear regularly.

It's like Balzac almost said: Behind every music festival lies a great crime.