InsideOut

(InsideOut) — In January, Rebecca co-launched a bi-weekly podcast exploring stories behind classical music and media. For our first episode, the mandolinist Avi Avital spoke at his Berlin apartment about profiting from the time under lockdown while also reflecting on how his career built up to his latest album on Deutsche Grammophon. Upcoming installments will feature conversations with artists, managers, presenters, producers and other experts.

InsideOut

Musical Gems From Vienna’s ‘Golden Hall’

Celebrating 150 years at the Musikverein

(New York Times) —  When the Vienna Philharmonic resumed concerts at the Musikverein in June, after shutting down for three months, it emerged from its longest period of silence in history.

Even near the end of World War II, the orchestra returned to the stage within a month of Austria’s liberation by Soviet troops in April 1945 — albeit to another hall, the Wiener Konzerthaus. The Musikverein, which had been slightly damaged by bombing, reopened that September.

With surprisingly few interruptions over the past 150 years, it is in the Great or “Golden Hall” that the Philharmonic has made history, whether performing Johann Strauss or John Williams. Here are some highlights.  […]

Changing the Channels

(Symphony Magazine) — When the corona virus brought activities to a lurching halt last March, classical music organizations adapted rapidly by investing in online content in order to stay engaged with audiences. At the same time, the deluge of free material on the internet raised questions about how to maintain a sustainable business model for live performance. But with most traditional fall seasons cancelled and health protocols evolving, digital channels remain a lifeline not just for sharing live or archived performances but creating opportunities for education and fundraising. For some industry experts, this is in fact an overdue development against the backdrop of a digital revolution that has been underway for over two decades.  […]

Going Digital

150000 Dollar für den Sieger

Competition in China

(das Orchester) — In China wächst die Leidenschaft für die klassische Musik so schnell, dass neue internationale Wettbewerbe die Ressourcen westlicher Institutionen überholen. Im November, ein halbes Jahr später als ursprünglich geplant, soll der China International Music Competition zum zweiten Mal in Peking stattfinden, diesmal als Wettbewerb für junge Geiger. Bei der ersten Ausgabe des CIMC im Mai 2019 wetteiferten Pianisten um die schwindelerregend hohen Siegprämien. […]

(A report about the first China International Music Competition in Beijing – available in print)

Christoph Waltz brings a hopeful realism to Theater an der Wien’s Fidelio

(Financial Times) — The coronavirus could not bring down Beethoven’s only opera. When performing arts activities came to a lurching halt last month, the Theater an der Wien transformed into a film studio to document its new Christoph Waltz production of Fidelio six days before it was to take the stage as part of celebrations for the composer’s 250th anniversary.

The broadcast, first aired on Austrian television, reached an international audience through the web platform medici.tv on April 2. The opera about unjust imprisonment during the French Revolution premiered at this very theatre in 1805, although not to great success: Vienna was occupied by Napoleon’s troops, and the nobility — among them, Beethoven’s patrons — had fled the city. The conductor Manfred Honeck opts for the revised version which tightened the action and was unveiled the following year.

Waltz, an Oscar-winning actor in his third stint as opera director, creates a realist but understated dramatic tone that is well-suited to the camera. The imposing set of twisted, concrete stairwells designed by the German-American architects Barkow Leibinger has the potential to grow monotone but proves remarkably telegenic. […]

Vienna "Fidelio" triumphs over Lockdown

A Paris Opera Conductor Comes Full Circle

Catching up with Philippe Jordan

(New York Times) — After over a decade as music director of the Paris Opera, the conductor Philippe Jordan is preparing to enter a new phase of his career at the Vienna State Opera. He bids farewell with the same work that won over the French capital’s audience in 2010: Wagner’s “Ring.”

A new staging of the tetralogy by Calixto Bieito has been scheduled to begin this season and continue in the fall before it unfolds under Mr. Jordan’s baton as a mini-festival in November and December. It takes place despite a loss of over 16 million euros ($17 million) because of strikes over retirement reform that forced the company to withdraw two new productions next season.

[…]

Known as much for his versatility and rigor as an ability to balance the theatrical with musical considerations, the 45-year-old (son of the conductor Armin Jordan) is credited with raising standards in the pit during his Paris tenure. But it is with Wagner perhaps more than any other composer that the Swiss native has made his mark, from noted appearances at the Bayreuth Festival in 2012 to the Metropolitan Opera last year. […]

Unearthing the Links Between Beethoven and the Vienna Philharmonic

(New York Times) — When the Vienna Philharmonic goes on tour next year with a cycle of Beethoven Symphonies, the musicians will not just commemorate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Recent research is revealing previously undisclosed connections between the composer and the orchestra’s founding members that stretch back over two centuries.

…No less than 10 performers who took part in the world premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in 1824 would go on to become founding members. The first official concert of the Philharmonic, on March 28, 1842, also included Beethoven, opening with his Seventh Symphony.

Ms. Kargl said that the research reveals Beethoven as a kind of “spiritual founding father” for the orchestra. “In order to perform his symphonies in a suitable manner, the first professional symphony orchestra in Vienna was founded,” she said. “And that was the Vienna Philharmonic.” […]

The Vienna Philharmonic's “spiritual Founding Father"

 

The Salzburg Festival’s Oedipe is both illuminating and distracting

'Oedipe' in Salzburg

(Financial Times) — Outfitted with boxing gloves, Oedipus sets out to vanquish fate. He may have killed his father and married his mother. In this version of the myth, he is still innocent, disappearing Jesus-like in a flash of light.

Enescu’s Oedipe traces the title character from his birth in Corinth, to his victory over the Theban Sphinx, to the downfall of his dynasty. Synthesising the monumentality of Wagner with the atmospheric textures of Debussy, neoclassical structures of Stravinsky and colours of Romanian folklore, the score is a 20th-century masterpiece in its own right.

In Salzburg, the Mount Olympus of summer festivals follows a modest revival of the opera over the past three decades with a production by Achim Freyer, whose signature cartoonish aesthetic is by turns illuminating and distracting. The veteran German director — who presides over his own stage and costume designs — deftly exploits the wide dimensions and stone-walled balconies of the Felsenreitschule to create a dreamscape where giant insects, ghouls and saintly creatures appear from the shadows. […]

La Scala’s Director Thinks, and Works, Globally

Catching up with Alexandra Pereira

(New York Times) —  Alexander Pereira has gone through his share of trials as artistic director of La Scala. He was nearly blocked from starting his job in 2014 when the Italian authorities questioned the legality of purchasing four productions from the Salzburg Festival. More recently, in March, he inflamed the theater’s advisory board and local politicians by courting the Saudi culture minister as a sponsor.

The minister, Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, had pledged a total of 15 million euros, about $17 million, with the promise of becoming a board member. La Scala’s administration rejected the deal and is to decide late this month whether to renew Mr. Pereira’s contract, which expires in the spring of 2020.

The house will continue with plans to collaborate with the government of Saudi Arabia on converting an all-girls’ school in Riyadh, the capital, into a coed music conservatory that will include ballet, instrumental teaching and a choir. The facilities, for 600 children, are scheduled to open in November.

At home in Milan, Mr. Pereira has increased private sponsorship for La Scala by €8 million since 2014 — relieving the house of a €6 million deficit when he arrived.  The company receives a third of its approximately €123 million budget from public funding (compared with more than half at the state operas of Vienna and Munich). […]

Opera Houses Find More Ways to Meet Fans Where They Are

(New York Times) — Since the Metropolitan Opera began broadcasting live to movie theaters, in 2006, companies from the Bolshoi to the Komische Oper Berlin have seen digital distribution as crucial to positioning themselves internationally. Only a handful of players have the standing and resources to create for cinema, and many organizations in Europe turn to free web streaming, but never before have opera houses had such freedom to produce their own content.

The Met broadcasts to cinemas in 70 countries. The Royal Opera House in London relays to cinemas in 51 countries, while the Paris Opera is present in movie theaters in 18 countries. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin recently transmitted a production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” to French cinemas and plans a live broadcast of one production next season (last year, the house also began streaming on its own website and in collaboration with broadcasting partners).  […]

The Latest in Opera Broadcasting