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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

A few years ago I had the chance to spend a few days in Valencia attending some concerts. They have an absolutely magnificent opera house, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, part of an enormous complex of contemporary museums and attractions. You can see an aerial shot of the opera house at the end of this clip, announcing their 22/23 season:


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At The New Yorker, Alex Ross offers us A Grand Tour of Germany’s Opera Paradise:

Germany is, on statistical grounds, the most operatic country on earth. The Bundesrepublik has more than eighty permanent opera houses, which in a typical season present seven or eight thousand performances—about a third of the global total, according to the Web site Operabase. By contrast, Italy, the birthplace of the art, manages fewer than two thousand. As opportunities elsewhere dwindle, the German system has become a crucial mechanism by which opera careers are made. Countless younger singers from around the world have undergone the ritual of a Festvertrag—a fixed-term contract to sing a variety of roles at a single German house. With so many productions, directors feel free to try out new ideas, some outlandish and some revelatory. New works surface regularly; forgotten scores are given a second chance. Public funding makes this quasi-utopia possible: before the pandemic, federal, state, and local entities were spending 2.7 billion euros each year on theatre.

Yes, that's where you want to be to make a living as an opera singer. I remember a conversation I had with an agent many years ago. She was saying that she would tell people looking for a career as an opera singer that they would have to invest at least $50,000 just to prepare: lessons, travel, master-classes, competitions and so on. And how long would it take to recoup this investment? One year. Read the rest of Ross' article for a fascinating glimpse at the riches available in the smaller centers in Germany.

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Rhinestones & Nashville Twang, a look at the early music scene in Nashville!

Nashville’s period-instrument musicians can play Bach’s B-minor Mass with the best of them. But these musicians are influenced just as much by their close association with Music City as they are by their familiarity with valveless horns and viola da gambas. Nashville has a music infrastructure that is second to none, with over 180 recording studios, 130 music publishers, 100 live music clubs, and 80 record labels.

The urbanologist Richard Florida once famously described the concentration of musical talent and resources in a city as the “Nashville Effect.” This phenomenon has contributed to a remarkably versatile commercial- and classical-music culture.

It’s not uncommon for Nashville classical musicians to perform Mahler with the Nashville Symphony, record a pop song with Miley Cyrus, premiere a 21st-century piece with one of Nashville’s several contemporary-music ensembles, and give a period-instrument performance of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto—all in a few weeks.

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Fading traditions don't have to be lost forever as we learn from this BBC article: Flamenco and the 1922 Woodstock of Spain

Falla had organised the contest with an express purpose: to elevate cante jondo (deep song) – the raw and expressive strand of flamenco practised by the Roma people – into a serious art form. The classical composer and his assembled friends were concerned that the music was in danger of losing its essence, being contaminated by popular "flamenco" which, by the 1920s had, in their opinion, morphed into a frivolous public spectacle staged in rowdy urban drinking establishments known as cafés cantantes.

Falla's group wanted to reset the clock, opening a dialogue about what flamenco was and how it was perceived. To them, the music in its purist form was a noble art whose structure had been framed by Andalucia's Roma people as far back as the 15th Century.

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A $56 Million Donation Will Help MPR Greatly Expand Its Classical Service.

MPR says it will establish a separate permanent endowment to steward the massive contribution so it can best serve the donor’s designated purpose. It plans to use some of the money to increase national appreciation of classical music and expand audience reach with new programming and technologies. It said it will divvy up the funds between classical programming and new media technologies to fit the organization’s strategic priorities. And how MPR invests in new media technology will serve as a model for digital transformation across APMG, it said.

When I was young the classical programming on the CBC in Canada made a big difference in my exposure to classical music.

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 I couldn't find a really good clip of early music in Nashville (maybe I didn't look hard enough!) but here is an example of cante jondo with some interesting harmonies:


Here are some excerpts from a performance of Aida in Chemnitz:



And while we are on opera, here is the spooky Wolf's Glen scene from Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber:



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