Metropolitan Opera Cuts Nine Percent of Nonunion Staff
On September 12, 2014, the Met laid off 22 administrative workers. The opera company made the first in a series of budget cuts thought necessary because of depressed ticket sales and increasing costs of production, according to the Wall Street Journal. After a difficult series of labor negotiations in which the unions agreed to immediate and deferred pay cuts, management promised to reduce administrative costs as well.
The company also announced that Diana Fortuna, the company’s finance chief, will become deputy general manager. She will have increased financial oversight and will prioritize the company’s commitment to controlling operating expenses, according to a company spokesman.
Get Me to the Opera on Time—or Else!
Retired physicist Peter Williamson hailed a taxicab in hopes of getting to a performance of Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West at Holland Park in west London on time, according to the British publication the Mirror. He asked driver Kevin Johnson to stop at a cash machine on the way. When the physicist seemed to be walking past the machine, Johnson got out to point him in the right direction.
Because their progress had been slow, Williamson thought he might already be late for the opera and became irate. He began to beat Johnson with the heavy handle of his ornate walking stick. In doing so, he opened a two-inch cut on the man’s head that required stitches.
Later, in court, District Judge Denis Brennan noted that defendant Williamson had shown good character in the past, but said that he might still receive a jail sentence for his transgression.
Study Shows Value of Music Education in Closing Achievement Gap
Results of a study at Northwestern University show that music education can help close the achievement gap between poor and affluent students. In looking at the impact of music education on at-risk children, researchers found that music lessons helped many of them develop better language and reading skills.
This study was the first to document the influence of after-school music education on the brains of disadvantaged children, according to the Huffington Post. Researchers from Northwestern spent two summers with children in Los Angeles who were receiving music lessons through Harmony Project, a nonprofit organization providing free music education to low-income students.
Dr. Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, found that important brain changes followed a minimum of two years of musical training. She said that it would be a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but when incorporated into children’s education, musical training can have a profound impact on learning.
Alagna Cancels Return to La Scala
La Scala intendant Alexander Pereira thought he had lured tenor Roberto Alagna back to the Milan opera house, according to Musical America. His performance of Werther in November was to be his first appearance there since he stormed off the stage during an Aida performance because of heckling from the theater’s gallery. Alagna, however, visited the theater in the meantime and found that every performance over a two-week period was marred by gallery catcalls.
The tenor concluded that nothing had changed and that he would again have to confront an enormous amount of tension if he were to sing there again. Asked for his opinion on the situation, Gino Vezzini, president of the Friends of the Gallery, called the tenor’s reaction infantile. But many understand Alagna’s reaction; Polish tenor Piotr Beczala was recently booed at La Scala and vowed to never sing in Italy again—and even beloved Italian Luciano Pavarotti was booed there in a performance of Don Carlo.
Russian Composer Attacked by Opponents of His Music
A recent personal attack on local composer Ilya Demutsky was just one of several incidents targeting his opera, New Jerusalem, which tells of hunting for pedophiles, reported the St. Petersburg Times. Two different venues have refused to stage the opera’s premiere because of threats of violence. Demutsky said he suspected that certain government officials were behind the attack rather than the grassroots Orthodox activists who have been accused of the attacks.
The composer alleges that he was scheduled for an interview with the Moscow-based liberal television channel Dozhd. On arrival, a man with a scarf wrapped around his face attacked and repeatedly attempted to taser him. When the two men clashed outside the Mariinsky Theatre, they broke a window, a shard from which cut Demutsky’s wrist. The attacker ran away when guards came out of the building to see what was causing the noise.
Welser-Möst Quits Post at Vienna State Opera
Well-known Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst resigned his post as musical director of the Wiener Staatsoper. He did so shortly after its 2014-15 season began because of his longstanding artistic differences with the opera’s director, Dominique Meyer.
“This is of course a great loss and the step also sorrows me personally because I very much value Franz Welser-Möst as an artist and director,” said Meyer. He added that his main concern was to find an adequate replacement for the 34 performances Welser-Möst was to have conducted during the coming season. The Austrian maestro was to have led productions of Rigoletto and Elektra.
Orchestra Changes Dress Code
The Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has asked its male members to exchange their tuxes and tails for black suits, according to Colorado Public Radio. Women players will have the choice of wearing black dresses or pants. These new rules signal the first change of dress for this orchestra since its founding in 1934.
The new CSO will also begin to feature groups that play other types of music, such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and the Chieftains. It will also now allow alcoholic drinks into the concert hall—albeit in plastic cups so there is no distracting clinking of glass.