Nefertiti Mummy Claim Disputed

Earlier this year, archaeologists reported they may have found the mummy of Queen Nefertiti in Luxor. Now the claim is being disputed – in part because while Nefertiti was said to have had six children, the body found appeared not to have given birth. “The evidence does not at all support the finding of Nefertiti. It would be very obvious from any x-rays of the mummy whether it had given birth…there would be specific markings.”

Shakespeare The Librettist

No writer in the history of the English language has had as many operas, ballets, and other musical works written around his words than William Shakespeare. But there are some rather big stumbling blocks in the path of any composer attempting to add his/her imprint to The Bard’s work. Says one director, “It’s almost like trying to choreograph a Beethoven symphony… It’s already there; you don’t need to add an extra level of music onto it.”

Trashing The Booker Judges

Longtime Booker Prize administrator Martyn Goff unloads about various personalities that have been involved in judging over the years. “He recalled how one year Salman Rushdie threw a tantrum, telling Goff to ‘Fuck off’ before storming past. He listed the failings of numerous eminent judges, branding last year’s chairwoman, Lisa Jardine, as ‘bossy’ and accused her colleague, David Baddiel, of saying ‘stupid things’. Gerald Kaufman and Fay Weldon also came under fire, but Goff’s prize for worst-ever Booker chairman went to John Bayley, widower of Iris Murdoch.”

Opera’s Essential 25 Recordings?

Tim Page ensures that his fall will start off with bags of vitriolic hate mail as he chooses 25 opera recordings meant to “give a novice listener an opportunity to explore the field.” “The selection process was not easy. Operaphiles are an opinionated lot, and I can already anticipate some of the mail, both curious and furious, that I’ll receive. A few sample heresies: Not one of the more than 60 operatic works by Gaetano Donizetti made the final cut. Virgil Thomson’s “The Mother of Us All” is here, but George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” an infinitely more popular American opera, is not. Where are the works of Benjamin Britten? And how can such composers as Mozart, Verdi and Wagner be limited to two operas apiece?”

Names And Memorials

Names are a powerful memorial in our culture. Michael Kimmelman ponders the likelihood of some sort of list of names at the World Trade Center site as a memorial. “The competition guidelines for the memorial at ground zero require that the design ‘recognize each individual who was a victim’ on Sept. 11, 2001, and on Feb. 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked. It’s a safe bet that many of the 5,200 submissions interpret that as some kind of list of names. By aesthetic and social consensus, names are today a kind of reflexive memorial impulse, lists of names having come almost automatically to connote ‘memorial,’ just as minimalism has come to be the presumptive sculptural style for memorial design, the monumental blank slate onto which the names can be inscribed.”

Movies And The Musical Message

Movies use borrowed music to telegraph extra-musical ideas – most of them never intended by the original composers. Movies offer a peek “into the contemporary American unconscious, into the way mass culture understands, or misunderstands, high culture. The pop associations are an important part of the music’s meaning, even if the composer never intended his music to work this way.”

Politics Of Picking Memorials

With more than 5000 entries in the design competition for a World Trade Center memorial, how do jurors go about choosing? “In the first round, a jury typically tries to eliminate 75 percent to 80 percent of the entries. Richard Andrews, the director of the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, said that sophisticated juries could rule out some entries within 10 seconds. ‘But there will also be entries where three or four of the jurors say they didn’t see anything and one will say: `Look at it again. Here’s what I found.’ And it will be held over for a second round.’ That’s when jurors really start debating and discussing stylistic differences among submissions.”

Architect Behind The Buildings

Architect David Childs is having a major impact on the skyline of New York. “At Skidmore Owings & Merrill, you don’t know what my next building will look like. You know what a Richard Meier building will look like; there’s a style. I’m more like Eero Saarinen, whom I revere. His buildings all look different.” Buildings as “egoistic big statements,” as Mr. Childs put it, do not interest him. Making the fabric of the city is what excites him most: how streets thread their way through avenues and parks, how they open vistas to rivers or create a neighborhood.”

Minnesota – New Baton In Town

The Minnesota Orchestra is beginning life under new music director Osmo Vanska. “After seven years of flight and fancy under Eiji Oue and nine previous to him under the iron fist of Edo de Waart, the orchestra is banking on Vänskä as a happy balance — an elite, uncompromising musician of mild temperament, an A-list conductor for top orchestras in America and Europe, with expertise in a corner of Scandinavian repertoire the Minnesota Orchestra yearns to conquer. The stakes are high.”