New Opera Premieres at Railroad Station
On October 19, 2013, L.A. Dance Project and a Los Angeles opera company called The Industry gave the world premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s headphone opera Invisible Cities. The shows, all of which were sold out, did not take place in a theater. Instead, the new opera was performed in the middle of the city’s Union Station railroad depot. At appointed times, audience members wearing wireless headphones traversed the station to see artists working in various areas. A mini orchestra of 11 accompanied eight singers and eight dancers as they performed among the travelers during the 70 minutes of this one-act work.
The composer and his collaborators made their libretto from the text of Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel, Invisible Cities. The Industry is an avant-garde opera company led by Yuval Sharon. L.A. Dance Project is an artist collective cofounded by choreographer-dancer Benjamin Millepied, Nico Muhly, Matthieu Humery, Charles Fabius, and Nicholas Britell.
South Carolina Musicians Vote to Leave Union
On October 24, trumpeter Michael Smith announced that a majority of the core musicians of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra voted to break with their union, Local 502 of the American Federation of Musicians. In doing so, they ended their affiliation with the organization that has represented them for many decades. Smith, chairman of the symphony’s negotiating committee, said that it was really important for the musicians to have a collaborative working relationship with their board of directors and management, something that had recently become impossible. Over the last few years, contract negotiations had threatened to close down the orchestra’s concert series.
Smith went on to say that it was essential to bolster the symphony’s social and economic standing in order to make the orchestra a better asset for the Charleston community. Board Chairwoman Cynthia Hartley said that the symphony’s operations would not be affected by the change. The season will proceed as planned, and existing rules will remain in place for now.
Bankrupt City Opera May Reappear at SUNY Purchase
The New York City Opera (NYCO) and Purchase College, a part of the State University of New York, are discussing a plan that would allow the bankrupt company to be reborn on the campus, according to Crain’s New York Business. The college, located 30 miles north of the city, might be able to offer NYCO a home for rehearsals and performances. Its campus is already a mecca for musicians and musical programs.
Conductor and Politics Don’t Mix Well
At the last Russian election, conductor Valery Gergiev publicly stated that he was voting for Vladimir Putin. His loyalty to the Russian president was rewarded with honors, awards, and multimillion-dollar state grants for his favorite project, the renovation of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, according to the Guardian. Now that Putin backs some widely condemned anti-gay legislation, Gergiev asserts, “I am an artist . . . . This is my focus as a conductor, musician, artist, and as artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.”
Unfortunately, artists and music lovers still remember him as an avid Putin
backer. Many think that the only reason Gergiev might now like to distance himself from the laws Putin advocates is the fact that there are sometimes protesters outside his concerts.
Is Streaming the Way We Get Our Music This Year?
Sales of both compact discs and downloads have decreased during 2013, according to the New York Times. A little over one billion single-track downloads have been sold in the United States during the first three quarters of the year. According to Nielsen SoundScan, that is a 4 percent decrease when compared with the same time period last year. Album downloads are up 2 percent—but when these results are combined using the industry’s standard yardstick of 10 tracks to an album, total digital sales are down almost 1 percent.
Many music executives and business analysts think that one reason for the decrease in downloading is the increase in popularity of streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube. Streaming services make millions of songs available for very little money.
New York Philharmonic Goes Underground
SubCulture is a small concert hall on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. The 150-seat underground venue, which opened officially in September, has already put itself on the map with a concert series called CONTACT!, a collaboration between the 92nd Street Y (92Y) and the New York Philharmonic.
Although most of the Philharmonic’s off-site concerts have taken place in well known spaces like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Symphony Space, the less renowned SubCulture has excellent acoustics and can be useful for concerts that attract smaller crowds. SubCulture affords both the orchestra and 92Y a venue that can attract a younger, less formal audience that wants to hear adventurous programming. A recent concert there featured works by composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen performed by Philharmonic musicians.