Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Now, That's Retro

A package from Sony waltzed across my desk this afternoon, bringing with it the new recital disc by the strange and wonderful German soprano Simone Kermes. (I haven't spun it yet, but it goes right to the top of the pile; although I haven't reached the levels of Kermesomania that some inhabit, anything she does is automatically of interest.) The package included a couple of CDs in the familiar jewel case, a robust press release, and something else. Something big, flat, and shrink-wrapped.

Honest to God, I didn't know what it was.

My first guess was a wall calendar, my second a video laserdisc. It was my editor who sussed it out: "It's vinyl," she said, and she was right.

We opened it together and shared a little Proustian moment, savoring the gleaming black plastic, the perfect circular center, the broad bands offering visual cues to the different tracks. And it was 1978 all over again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I'm told that following Friday's season-opening Trovatore, the members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus have decreed that Sondra Radvanovsky should be the only singer ever again allowed to sing Verdi with the company. A little extreme, perhaps, but I take their point.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In Fond Memory

Kitty Carlisle Hart (1910-2007)

Because I never hear Trovatore without thinking of my first, and for many years only, Leonora. Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are We Post-Racial Yet?

There was one interesting nugget o' news out of last night's surprisingly enjoyable San Francisco Symphony season opener: Nicole Cash, the orchestra's recently appointed associate principal horn, is African-American.

In a perfect or even marginally rational universe, of course, this fact would not be worth remarking on. But in this fallen world, Ms. Cash is a rarity. The most recent survey by the League of American Orchestras, taken in 2007, found that just under 2 percent of orchestral musicians were black.

To bring it a little closer to home, Ms. Cash is the first African-American member of the SF Symphony since Basil Vendryes departed to become the principal violist of the Colorado Symphony in 1993. That's, um, a long time. Good to see a little progress on that front.