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The Classical Beat
Anne Midgette takes the measure of the classical music scene.
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5 years ago |
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I’ve been delinquent in updating the links to reviews — some of which can be hard to find on our website. Here, without further ado, is what’s been happening on Washington’s concert stages over the last week-plus.

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After the Metropolitan Opera debacle yesterday, I thought twice about running the mini-series I planned this week on responses to the company’s HD broadcasts. However, the Met has seen the light, and some of yesterday’s comments readers about the negativity of professional critics made me particularly inclined to bring a few more opinions into the mix. There follow, therefore, two responses — one a letter, one a very funny essay/review — to the “La traviata” broadcast originally aired in April. (I did not review this production myself, though the New York Times certainly did; the New York Post also reviewed it, but with a different singer.)

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UPDATE: At 4:01 PM, the Metropolitan Opera sent out a press release saying that, in view of the reaction to the news, the Met had decided that Opera News will, in fact, be allowed to continue to review Metropolitan Opera productions.

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Two obituaries from this weekend’s papers. For some, it is profane to link these two men in a single headline.

Herbert Breslin, Pavarotti’s brash and profane manager, dies at 87.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, master singer of German art songs, dies at 86.

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My friend and coauthor Herbert Breslin, who managed Luciano Pavarotti’s career for 36 years, died on Thursday in Nice of a heart attack at the age of 87.

Herbert was one of the more controversial figures in a field that sees its share of controversy. Reviewing our book, The King and I, in Opera News, Brian Kellow said something along the lines of, “I’d always thought of Herbert Breslin as a foul-mouthed, money-hungry old windbag. Now that I’ve read “The King and I,” I think he’s a lovable, foul-mouthed, money-hungry old windbag.” Leave off the “lovable" part and you have a good idea of how most of the field felt about a man who routinely screamed expletives into the telephone before slamming it down, cut various financial corners, and made gleeful use of his star client’s fame to manipulate journalists and other artists. When in 2002 an offer to write a book with this character fell into my lap and I began sounding out people in the business about it, I started to get the impression that he was universally hated.

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On Saturday, I reviewed the Washington National Opera’s final production of the season, Massenet’s “Werther,” with a very good Werther, Francesco Meli.

Edited to add: Another view from Charles T. Downey on Ionarts.

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In this weekend’s Washington Post, I took an advance look at an unusual Debussy concert by the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, led by Emil de Cou, that included the premiere of an arrangement by the CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well as another piece arranged by de Cou himself.

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I was strongly impressed by what Liz Lerman and the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra managed to do last week with Debussy’s ”Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” and I said so in my review. I’m not recommending that everyone rush out and try to do this kind of thing, or saying that it’s a model to which all should aspire: just that it’s a powerful reminder of some of the possibilities of classical music that often remain unexplored, and a remarkable teaching tool that I doubt any of the student players who participated will ever forget.

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A catchup post with links to the past week’s worth of reviews. Charles T. Downey enjoyed Stefan Jackiw at the Kennedy Center. Samantha Buker checked out Denyce Graves as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Annapolis Symphony (complete with a work from composer-in-residence Gabriela Lena Frank). Robert Battey was generally impressed by the pianist Benjamin Hochman. And Joan Reinthaler appreciated the distinctive voice of the Dutch composer Michel van der Aa.

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