PRODUCTION VALUES

“There was a time, little more than a hundred years ago, when operas, like plays, got themselves on without the help of a producer and there was, as yet, no distinction between the work and how it was put on. The reason is that throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century a large proportion of the repertoire consisted of works appearing for the first time, and since their staging was unconditionally determined by the theatrical conventions which the composer and librettist would have had in mind when they wrote the work, production as we now think of it wasn’t an issue.” – New York Review of Books

ORCHESTRA WOES

The St. Louis Symphony – which has become one of America’s best regional orchestras over the past 20 years – is in trouble. “The orchestra came up almost $1 million short in the fiscal year that ended in August 1999. This year, it stands to run a deficit of between $3.5 and $4 million on a total budget of $28.9 million. Those recent losses will likely add to the $6 million in long-term debt the Symphony already carries. And even if it manages to achieve an anticipated $1.5 million in cutbacks for the 2000-2001 season, managers will still be looking at $2 million less than they need.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FINAL DAYS

When an overlooked group is in trouble, one way to pretend it isn’t sick is to stage an awards ceremony. So this week the first Classical Brit awards for classical music. The gelled, egregious Kennedy will fiddle, Charlotte Church will weakly warble, Lesley Garrett will effervesce as usual like a shaken bottle of Babycham. The nominees are at best middlebrow, exposing the industry’s abject dependence on movie tie-ins. James Horner’s More Music From Braveheart, competes for Best Orchestral Album against John Williams’s latest brash, blatant marches from Star Wars, while Stephen Warbeck’s pastiched score for Shakespeare in Love has earned him a nomination as Male Artist of the Year. – The Observer (UK)

WHERE’S THE TV?

London’s concert halls are brimming over with music. But where is it on TV? “It is not just the quantity of classical-music programming on television that has declined, though the fall is real enough. A decade ago, say insiders, the BBC was broadcasting 100 hours per year. Now we are down to just half that number. The more serious collapse is of true commitment to the very idea of sustained coverage of classical music. A decade ago, a proposed Omnibus on Simon Rattle    today it is rejected because he is regarded by TV planners as of insufficient popular interest.” – The Telegraph (UK)

THE END OF TOP 40

Pop music used to move in discernible directions that had its mass-market appeal. Not the 1990s, which let a million flowers bloom. “The music world pays a price for diversity. Our new heroes are often only heroes to a few. The sheer volume of titles, more akin to books than to movies, means that many never claim public attention, so it’s difficult for average listeners to sift out the important ones.” – New York Times

CRITICAL RESENTMENT

How to explain the century-long currents of music atonalism and serialism? Bernard Holland thinks he’s figured it out. “Fascism starts with a charismatic leader and moves on to megalomania, fanaticism, factionalism and a new order aimed at sweeping all detritus from its path. Fascism attracts people looking for one answer to a lot of complex problems; it doesn’t have that answer, but the one it throws out is persuasive. Arnold Schoenberg waved the 12 commandments at a generation of composers bewildered by the tower of Babel they had been forced to live in. They were looking for an answer, and many were quick to follow.” – New York Times

PODIUM DANCING

The New York Philharmonic has decided it wants Riccardo Muti as its next music director. But even though the Philharmonic’s wishes have become public, it isn’t at all certain yet that the Italian maestro is sure he really wants, or needs, the podium that Kurt Masur plans to vacate in 2002. “Although orchestra officials deny that terms have even been discussed, rumors abound that Muti is holding out for a salary of $2 million and an annual residency of six weeks. “What [Muti] is doing, like the clever negotiator he is, is playing hardball,” says a highly placed executive in the music business who knows all parties in the negotiations.” – Chicago Tribune