“And you too, Brutus?”

Some school districts are now using “simplified” language versions of Shakespeare to teach the Bard. “It’s nice because all those ancient words aren’t there. It is a cool story — what with people making plans to kill one another. It can be difficult because everyone has strange names, but at least it isn’t using any of those old words anymore.”

L.A. Culture: No, It’s Not An Oxymoron

To hear most people tell it, you would think that Los Angeles is a sun-drenched wasteland of zombified Hollywood dunderheads, sipping mineral water while they sit in traffic on their way to yet another insipid premiere. As far as arts and culture go, most East Coasters would probably smirk at the mention of such things existing in L.A. But while the rest of North America looks down its nose, Los Angeles has quietly become one of the continent’s best arts towns, and other cities would do well to follow its example, says Martin Knelman.

Smart Is Boring. Let’s Kill It!

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is considering killing off Radio National, the ABC’s news and culture network, and ABC Radio director Sue Howard has been quoted as calling the intellectually-focused network “boring as batshit.” The proposed elimination of one of the company’s six radio networks comes as the ABC is being forced to cut budget, but there is likely to be stiff opposition to Howard’s desire to kill off what many view as an icon of Australian broadcasting excellence.

A Scourge Joins The Establishment

He may not fit the conventional mold for the job, but Peter Mazwell Davies is nonetheless about to be named “Master of the Queen’s Music, in a move likely to send shockwaves through royal, political and musical circles. Maxwell Davies describes himself as an old-fashioned socialist who passionately opposed the war on Iraq, and has previously been labelled ‘a scourge of the establishment’. He has criticised institutions including the Royal Opera House, loathes Tony Blair and has never made any secret of his homosexuality. But, while his music is an acquired taste, Maxwell Davies, 69, is also regarded as Britain’s greatest living composer and is thus believed to have been earmarked by Buckingham Palace for a vacant position described as the “musical equivalent of the Poet Laureate”.

They Couldn’t Have Fired The Costumer?

In one of the more bizarre stories to come out of the UK’s Royal Opera House in recent years, acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt has apparently been fired from an upcoming production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos for being too large to fit into the dress the costumer had designed for the role. There’s no denying that Voigt is a large woman, but she is also quite a well-known woman who has made Ariadne her signature role over the course of a very distinguished career. But the casting director at the Royal Opera insists that the producer’s vision for the production simply precluded Ms. Voigt’s participation, and further added that, in his opinion, many singers use their profession as “an excuse to eat too much.”

Jansons In Pittsburgh: The Exit Interview

Mariss Jansons’s tenure as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been an unqualified success by artistic standards, and as the maestro prepares for his final concerts in the Steel City, he still speaks of his musicians with great affection, praising their humility and work ethic as well as their talent and skill. But if Jansons has any regrets about his time at the PSO, the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of America’s political and cultural disinterest in great art. “What I can’t understand is having this orchestra in the city and not supporting it, or making it a treasure. This I don’t understand as politics. I lived in Soviet Union, the officials didn’t like classical music, but how they supported art and sport, you can’t imagine.”

Standards & Practices: The New Broadcast Puritanism

“After years of pushing limits and pocketing profits, broadcasters find themselves in a gathering storm over indecency. And it is not likely to blow over soon. Too much is at stake. The FCC, having been blasted as inattentive, is seeking congressional support for a tenfold increase in fines for objectionable content. Last week, a U.S. House committee said the proposed increase – from $27,500 to $275,000 – wasn’t steep enough, voting to raise penalties to $500,000. Commission member Michael Copps is saying it is high time the FCC, which has never pulled a station’s license for indecency, got the attention of broadcasters by holding revocation hearings.”

Dance Mecca Of The North

Other than New York, the most important and vital dance center in the U.S. is… Minnesota? So says former Dance Theater Workshop executive director David R. White, who moved to the Twin Cities last year. “In terms of the work that emanates from the Twin Cities, the receptivity of the community to dance and people’s perception of the area as a progressive place where dance can take root, the Twin Cities always have been perceived as a strong community for people in dance who also care about their living environment.”

Minnesota Tour – The Price Of Greatness

The Minnesota Orchestra picked up lots of critical praise on its recent three-week European tour. But was the cost worth it? “The orchestra’s recent tour, which ended Feb. 27, was certainly a success in terms of the musicians’ bonding and finding confidence with new music director Osmo Vänskä. Whether it was worth the $1.6 million it cost is not an exact calculation.”

Embargo This! (If You Can)

“The embargo is the absurd practice by which publishers distribute advance copies of newsworthy new books to the media only after individual editors have signed a quasi-legal document denying their right as members of an otherwise free press from reporting or reviewing the contents of such titles.” But in the age of the internet, embargos (thank God) are becoming unworkable.