La Scena Musicale

Monday, 30 May 2011

Big, Bold & Beautiful: Dallas Symphony and Chorus in Beethoven 9th!

by Paul E. Robinson
The Beethoven Ninth Symphony is one of the most overplayed pieces in orchestral literature, but it sells tickets by the bushel and managers seldom go wrong, even when programming it season after season. To call it “overplayed” is not to say that it isn’t a great work or that it doesn’t bring out the best in conductors and orchestras; indeed it is and indeed it does. These facts took me back to Dallas recently to hear Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony (DSO) engage with the Ninth in the Meyerson Symphony Center.
Van Zweden recorded all the Beethoven symphonies in his native Holland, and recently he recorded the Fifth and the Seventh with the Dallas Symphony. To a certain extent, then, I knew what to expect: intensity, excitement, speed. The quick tempi are by no means arbitrary; Beethoven’s metronome markings require them. That said, conductors of the stature of Otto Klemperer were highly regarded in their time for tempi that were extremely slow - they simply ignored the metronome markings and no-one seemed to care.
That was yesterday. Today we live in a more enlightened time, a time in which period instrument specialists have come to the fore and respect for the written score is more the fashion.
Former Violinist van Zweden a Master of Nuance
From the perspective of the early 21st Century, it might seem obvious that the composer’s metronome markings should be followed. There was a reason, however, why some of the great conductors of the past – not to mention piano soloists and string quartets – looked askance at some of these markings; some of them were surely mistakes. Perhaps Beethoven didn’t understand how to use the newly-invented metronome, or perhaps he was simply too deaf to judge how fast his music could be played. In any case, there is still plenty of room for disagreement over correct tempi for the Beethoven symphonies. Ultimately, the success or failure of a performance depends not so much on choice of tempi but on what the conductors and players can do within those tempi.
In van Zweden’s case what is most remarkable is that he somehow finds time for the most nuanced phrasing even at the fastest tempo. This was particularly evident on this occasion in the slow movement variations. The slower tempi taken by many conductors here to underscore the gravity of the music, often render the move
ment interminable and shapeless. Van Zweden adopts the composer’s metronome markings and this makes the complex figurations the strings must play very difficult. How is it possible to give meaning to this multitude of notes at such tempi? The answer is meticulous rehearsal, with infinite care taken over dynamics and choice of bow stroke. As an ex-string virtuoso, van Zweden has a special talent for achieving the results he’s after.
Two Superb Concertmasters for the Price of One!
180KERRIn this performance, Maestro van Zweden was supported by not one but two master concertmasters at the first desk. Newly-appointed DSO concertmaster Alexander Kerr (photo: right) was on hand and sitting beside him was David Taylor, a longtime assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. Taylor had been engaged many months ago as a guest concertmaster at the beginning of the search for a successor to Emanuel Borok. Partway through the process, a decision was made to appoint Kerr. That meant that Taylor never got a chance to show what he could do; nevertheless, he honoured his original agreement and came along anyway. It should come as no surprise that the DSO string sound on this night was special.
Incidentally, Alexander Kerr succeeded van Zweden as concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. You can see him in action with the RCO playing the solos in Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben with Mariss Jansons conducting, on a DVD issued in 2004 (RCO 04103)
The entire Dallas Symphony played the Beethoven Ninth with commitment and precision. A special mention is due new timpanist, ex-Detroit Symphony principal Brian Jones. He raised the roof in the big moments – his solos in the scherzo, and the dynamic rolls and sharp accents at the recapitulation in the first movement – and blended his sound beautifully with the ensemble when required.
Choral Dynamics and Phrasing Exceptional

The Dallas Symphony Chorus reached an international standard under the late David R. Davidson, and on this occasion was more than adequate under its assistant conductor Melody Gamblin-Bullock. Her name was not included in the original printed programme but by the second night performance – the one I attended – she had made it into the insert. This was an inexcusable oversight. In any case, as of this summer Joshua Habermann (photo:right), a University of Texas graduate with a great breadth of choral conducting experience, will be in charge of the chorus.
What struck me about the choral contribution in this performance were the vast number of major and minor alterations in dynamics and phrasing. These are not found in the printed score but most of them made perfect sense. These were obviously Jaap van Zweden’s ideas and many of them were clearly based on similar passages in the orchestra. It is often said that Beethoven treated voices like instruments. Van Zweden took this characterization literally and made the vocal parts much more expressive and interesting than usual.
Among the soloists there was a last-minute substitution. Soprano Sabina Cvilak fell ill and was replaced by Texas resident Jeanine Thames. Unfortunately, her contribution was simply not up to the overall standard of the performance. On the other hand, bass Luca Pisaroni was excellent, with a strong presence and fine evenness of tone and intonation throughout his wide-ranging solos.
Multi-talented Tao Shines in Shostakovich
180CONRADTAOThe concert began with the Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Solo Trumpet and Strings Op. 35 by Shostakovich. The soloist was 15-year-old Chinese-American pianist Conrad Tao (photo: right) , an uncommonly gifted young man who plays both piano and violin and is also a composer. He lives in New York and studies at Juilliard. He charmed the audience with his technique and his ability to tease the playfulness out of the music. Van Zweden “discovered” this young artist at a concert they did together in Singapore and no doubt Tao will become a regular guest with the DSO.
The solo trumpet part in the Shostakovich was played with equal virtuosity by principal trumpet of the Dallas Symphony, Ryan Anthony. Anthony tossed off the many fanfares in the piece without appearing to break a sweat and brought a lovely singing quality to the bluesy solo in the slow movement.
For Those Wanting More…
Laurie Shulman writes the uncommonly thorough programme notes for the Dallas Symphony. She also gives many of the DSO’s pre-concert talks. In addition, she is the author of a massive and comprehensive book on the building of the Meyerson Symphony Center. This book is not only an historic document on the construction of one of the world’s great concert halls, but also a first-rate primer on acoustical design. Wearing her acoustical design hat. Laurie was recently invited to the opening of a radically-rebuilt concert hall in Omsk, Siberia. The man responsible for getting the acoustics right in Omsk was Nicholas Edwards, the man largely responsible for ensuring that the Myerson turned out so well. Edwards was also the acoustician for Symphony Hall in Birmingham, England. During her visit to Omsk, Laurie blogged every day for the DSO.
On the subject of concertmasters and former Detroit Symphony musicians, it has just been announced that Detroit Symphony concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert will be moving to the Dallas Symphony next season to take up the position of Associate Concertmaster. These latest defections from Detroit underscore how difficult it has been to keep that orchestra going in a tough economy. But Boisvert is a wonderful player and the Dallas Symphony is lucky to have her. This appointment also speaks volumes about the ability of Maestro van Zweden to attract top players to Dallas.
Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. NEW for friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, Classical Airs.

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This Week in Toronto (May 30 - June 5)

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and tenor Placido Domingo star in the Inaugural Gala Concert of the Black Creek Summer Music Festival Saturday June 4 8 pm at the Rexall Centre

To be sure, the biggest news for classical music fan this week is the opening gala concert of the Black Creek Summer Music Festival. This high profile festival is giving the Toronto summer music scene a much needed boost. Unlike many other major cities in Europe and the States, Toronto for years did not have a summer classical music festival starring top-ranked international artists. Things started to change for the better with the establishment of the Toronto Summer Music Festival a few years ago, and now with the Black Creek Festival, Toronto is definitely on the map of summer music destinations. Of the seventeen concerts spread out over three months, seven are classical music events featuring top-class international artists. The opening gala is a blockbuster, starring the great tenor Placido Domingo in his first visit to Toronto in more than ten years. Joining him will be American soprano/GTA resident Sondra Radvanovsky. She of course wowed the TO opera public with her first Aida at the COC last fall - any opportunity to hear this wonderful singer is not to be missed. The concerts are all being held at the Rexall Centre on the grounds of York University. It is of course known for tennis tournaments, but a stage will be set up with amplification for this and each subsequent concerts. For ticket information and directions, go to

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting the queen of classical improvisation Gabriela Montero in her TSO debut. She will be interpreting Rachmaninoff's famous Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini. Joining her is TSO principal clarinet Joaquin Valdepenas in Debussy. Also on the programs are works by Dukas and Messaien. Peter Oundjian conducts. Two performances on Wednesday June 1 and Thursday June 2 at 8 pm. On Saturday June 4 8 pm for a single performance, Russian pianist Ilya Poletaev is playing Medtner's Piano Concerto No. 3. A much underrated Russian composer, Medtner's works typify the super-virtuoso school of "finger breakers" that Canadian pianist Marc Andre Hamelin used to favour. Medtner dedicated this concerto to his friend Rachmaninoff. Also on the program is Debussy's very familiar Prelude to L'apres-midi d'une faune. Once again Peter Oundjian is on the podium.

With the COC spring season just concluded, those opera fans who still want more can try something a little different. Against the Grain Theatre, a Toronto-based operatic and theatrical initiative under director Joel Ivany is presenting Puccini's La boheme in a new English translation. The directorial team of Ivany, Camellia Koo and Jason Hand came third recently in the 6th European Opera-directing Prize that took place on the stage of Covent Garden. So you can be sure his Boheme will be edgy and provocative. For more information, go to the press release I posted some time ago - Four performances June 2-5 nightly 8 pm at the Tranzac Club on 292 Brunswick Avenue. The singers include former COC Ensemble Studio members soprano Laura Albino and tenor Adam Luther as Mimi and Rodolfo.

Derek Holman, one of Canada's best known composers, is turning eighty. A group of his friends and colleagues have come together to produce an event marking the composer's many contributions to Canadian music, and to celebrate his 80th birthday. On Wednesday June 1st 7:30 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, there will be a concert of his music, featuring some of Toronto’s leading musicians. The concert is free to the public.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Austin Lyric Opera in Crisis: No Easy Answers!

by Paul E. Robinson
The news just keeps getting worse from opera companies across the United States. As the economy ever so slowly rights itself after a devastating recession, ticket buyers and generous donors are hard to find. Endowments have taken a tremendous hit from the stock market collapse. The New York City Opera has been struggling for years and recently announced that it would have to leave Lincoln Center in order to cut costs and remain in business. David Gockley, the San Francisco Operas highly-regarded General Director, said that his company was feeling the heat and needed to do some radical restructuring. While Texas has weathered the recession better than most states, the Austin Lyric Opera (ALO) finds itself in serious financial turmoil. General Director Kevin Patterson handed in his resignation in the face of a growing deficit.
ALO Repertoire: Popular Mix too Much for Austin?
Austin is neither New York nor San Francisco, either in size or in the importance of its opera company; it is, however, a vibrant and growing major population center (the Austin Metro area is about 1.4 million people) and problems facing its opera company are fairly representative of what’s facing cities all over the country.
The ALO’s current budget is $4.3 million and its season is comprised of three main stage productions – presented at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, with each opera given four performances. In addition, there are some smaller events and the ALO also runs the Armstrong Community Music School.
Under Kevin Patterson as General Director and Richard Buckley as Principal Conductor, the ALO has developed a reputation for excellent work and for deftly mixing standard fare with off-beat contemporary repertoire. This past season the ALO offered Jonathan Dove’s wonderful opera Flight, and the previous season it mounted a production of Chabrier’s rarely-heard opera, L’Etoile. In 1997, it presented Philip Glass’ “Waiting for the Barbarians.” One of the AOL’s most enjoyable productions in recent years was an Austin-oriented version of Die Fledermaus (The Bat). As travelers to Austin probably know, one of the city’s prime tourist attractions is the daily emergence downtown, at sundown, of something like 1.5 million bats from under the Congress Street bridge.
On the whole, the ALO has given the community a consistently high quality of sophisticated and entertaining repertoire. Although there are few recognizable names among the singers, the mostly young and mostly American singers have been well-chosen and Buckley’s presence in the pit has guaranteed well-rehearsed and well-executed performances. Such quality comes at a price, however, and it is a price that the Austin community apparently is no longer either able to, or prepared to pay.
Several years ago the ALO moved from the Bass Hall on the University of Texas campus to the new Long Center downtown and the move was expected to be a boost for the company. The Bass Hall had 2,900 seats and the Dell Hall in the Long Center only 2,400. With fewer seats to fill, the ALO still averaged only about 45% capacity.
ALO General Director Kevin Patterson Resigns!
I spoke to Kevin Patterson recently and he emphasized the work that he and the ALO had been doing to get the community more involved in opera. He believes that the organization’s main challenge is in the area of contributed income; the ALO has simply been unable to raise enough money. Patterson blames the board for this failure. Too many of its members also sit on other non-profit boards in Austin and so have divided loyalties. He also expressed disappointment that board members didn’t take their fundraising responsibilities more seriously.
Slimming Down to Stay Healthy
When Patterson resigned recently as ALO's General Director, board president Ernest Auerbach was appointed “volunteer interim director.” When I asked Mr. Auerbach for his comments on the situation, he was circumspect. He confirmed that next season will go ahead as planned except that the usual four performances of each opera will be cut back to three. He suggested that further changes could be expected after the board meets on June 14.
One of the items in the ALO budget they may want to review is the role of the Armstrong Community Music School. According to Kevin Patterson, the school contributes to the ALO’s cash flow but does nothing for its bottom line. Others maintain that instead of providing another revenue stream for the ALO, the school is actually a substantial money-loser. One might well ask why the ALO is in the business of operating a community school which has very little to do with opera. The school itself could be a plus for the community if it could support itself, but the ALO can ill afford to subsidize it.
Tough Times for Many: ALO in Good Company
Much of what ails the ALO is also affecting other performing arts organizations. David Gockley, who presides over the distinguished San Francisco Opera and a budget of $70 million, is very apprehensive about the future: “I look at this company as teetering. The annual expenses are about $7 million more than we can reliably fund, and half of our annual gifts are made by just 11 individuals who are over 65 years old.” (SF Chronicle, May 7, 2011)
Classical music audiences and donors tend to be older, to put it mildly. While "The Met Live in HD" presentations in movie theaters suggest that opera is more popular than ever, the popularity of these streamed performances may in fact be an indication that confirmed opera-lovers will flock to see a quality product and will gladly pay for it - “here’s the rub” – if the price is low enough. While the "Met Live in HD" presentations have been innovative and entertaining, however, I am not convinced that they are attracting new audiences. I have attended many of these performances in theaters with fewer than 20 people in the audience, almost all of them elderly.
How can the Austin Lyric Opera and other smaller companies across North America compete with "The Met Live in HD?" The Met offers superstars in every performance and prices far lower than those charged for live opera.
Patterson's Parting Words Worth Pondering
As Kevin Patterson reflected on his four seasons with the Austin Lyric Opera, he offered a very sound analysis of what needs to be done: “The best position for ALO at this point is to reduce expenses, reevaluate the current production model with an eye toward moving away from competition in the marketplace; reevaluate the operations of the community music school; assess current staffing needs; and build a board that is accountable to itself, responsible to the mission and vision and interested in being an equal partner with the executive and staff in cultivating patrons to move the organization forward.”
When the ALO board meets on June 14, it might do well to ask itself some basic questions. Does a smaller city like Austin even need a professional live opera company? Opera performances on a generally higher level are readily available in Houston and Dallas, each less than 200 miles away, and top quality productions by "The Met Live in HD" are now available in a number of movie theatres in Austin and its suburbs.
If the answer is “Yes, Austin needs the ALO,” using as one argument the probability that most of the population can’t afford to drive to Houston or Dallas on a regular basis, then a solution for the current financial crisis might be a new organizational model. The ALO might consider opera performances that are smaller in scale and hence available to audiences at lower prices. But some would argue that this would be redundant, since there is already an opera school at the University of Texas filling this need.
Another solution is suggested by the Fort Worth Opera under Darren Woods. Woods determined that this company could not continue to operate as just another small organization with three or four productions spread throughout the year, in the face of the Dallas Opera - a bigger and more prestigious company - 35 miles down the road. He came up with the idea of combining all Fort Worth Opera productions into one high profile event - an “opera festival” scheduled at a time of the year when the company’s house, the Bass Hall in Fort Worth, was underused and when the community needed an attraction to draw tourists to the city. The result of Woods’ creative thinking was the very successful Fort Worth Opera Festival, which this year (May 14th – June 5th) is presenting four different works, including a new one called Hydrogen Jukebox. The Austin Lyric Opera might consider something similar.
With a huge deficit, a very slow economic recovery, major challenges facing all opera companies, and more problems peculiar to the Austin community and to the company itself, the ALO board has some serious work ahead of it. No doubt there will be a great deal of finger-pointing, but that will not get the job done; nor will the problems be solved by a couple of big donations. A way must be found to combine expert analysis, experienced leadership and new ideas. Let’s hope the ALO board is up to the task.

Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. NEW for friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, "Classical Airs."

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Guy Fouquet Interim Head of Conservatory of Music in Montreal

By Crystal Chan

Guy Fouquet, professor and academic adviser, has been appointed the Interim Head of the Conservatory of Music in Montreal. His appointment follows the retirement of Raffi Armenian from the post. Armenian left in order to devote himself to teaching and conducting.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

"Die Walküre" Battles "The Machine"!

by Paul E. Robinson
While opera fans are notoriously old-fashioned when it comes to stage directors bringing overarching new ideas to their favourite works, it is clear that if opera is going to have any future, it must be open to creative re-thinking.
Wieland Wagner successfully updated his grandfather’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth in the 1950s, and Karajan and Schneider-Siemssen used cutting edge projection technology to add a new dimension to the Ring cycle at Salzburg in the 1960s. In 1976, Patrice Chereau gave us something to think about with his radical new Ring at Bayreuth. In 2011, we have Robert LePage plumbing the depths of his prodigious imagination to produce an early 21st century Ring at the Met.
Watching LePage’s Die Walküre, live in HD from the Met, I was often enraptured by the words and the music and moved to tears on several occasions. It was a magnificent production - no doubt about it - with some of the finest Wagnerian singing and conducting one could ever hope to hear. LePage, the stage director, deserves much credit for the power of the experience.
That said, LePage’s overall vision can only be described as “underwhelming” at best and, under the circumstances, obscenely expensive.
The Machine With a Mind of its Own!
Peter Gelb must have lost his mind the day he agreed to fund a new Ring cycle based on a 45-ton machine (photo:above) that required the Met to reinforce its own stage. “The Machine”, as it is called at the Met, is a giant seesaw with 24 aluminum planks. It can be manipulated to make all manner of architectural and/or symbolic configurations. Standing more or less vertical, it acts as a screen for projections.
In theory, this set piece was promising; in practice, it proved hard to handle. On the opening night of Das Rheingold, the ‘rainbow bridge’ conversion failed to materialize and the gods were left to make a mortal exit - stage right.
Such difficulties persisted. The “Met Live in HD” performance of Die Walküre I attended started 35 minutes late while technicians scrambled to figure out why their computers were not able to communicate with the encoding sensors in the planks.
Inhibitor Rather than Facilitator of Directorial Creativity?

Worse than these technical difficulties, in my opinion, was the realization that director Lepage's (photo: right) "Machine” gave us little of artistic merit to justify the enormous amounts of time and money spent on it, and led, it seemed, to some rather inappropriate directorial choices; for example, did we really need “The Machine” to show us Valkyries pretending to ride horses (photo:above) – some said it looked more like surfing - in Act III? Or the planks jacked up vertically to form a wall – as they were for Siegmund and Hunding’s battle – thereby reducing the vast Met stage to a long, narrow downstage playing area, giving this critical scene a cheap and claustrophobic look, when it should have been apocalyptic! Or Brünnhilde, in the final scene of the opera, lying, not on a rock but upside down at the top of a wall. What was that about?
In this scene, Wotan – with Loge’s invisible help – lit the “magic fire” that surrounds and protects Brünnhilde. Projections on “The Machine” showed what passed for “fire” in this production. But surely Wagner intended something awe-inspiring here – a fire massive and threatening enough to fend off all comers with the exception of the hero (Siegfried) who alone will be capable of braving the conflagration to wake Brünnhilde.
LePage’s fire was puny and wouldn’t have frightened a child.
During the scene in Hunding’s hut, while Siegmund is telling Sieglinde his life’s story, the audience viewed projections on “The Machine” of moving figures in black suggesting warriors and dogs in combat. It was all rather primitive and unnecessary; one easily got the sense of the story from the words and the music.
In short, “The Machine” is not nearly as versatile as its inventor imagined it would be. My overall impression is that LePage simply ran out of creative ways to use it.
Stars Upstage “The Machine” in Movie House
Fortunately, at least in the HD version, audiences could spend less time being disappointed in the set and more being fascinated by the characters in close-up. The Metropolitan Opera House is a huge barn of a place with most customers seated too far away to see facial expressions without opera glasses. The “Met Live in HD” changes this relationship and the technology pays enormous dividends.
Wagner’s Ring has its big moments, but more often it is a sort of recitative with characters telling stories in intricate verse. In this particular production, the words really meant something and were sung with deeply convincing expression. And we, the “Met Live in HD” audience, had the added benefit of ‘seeing’ the physical expression of that emotion.
180brunWoMost expressive, perhaps, was Bryn Terfel (photo:right). Even with only one eye, he communicated volumes, and made every syllable count. His vocalizing was glorious, especially in the final scene, as he sings goodbye to his beloved Brünnhilde.
Deborah Voigt (photo:right) was an ideal Brünnhilde. She looked young enough to be Wotan’s daughter – a rare occurrence in Ring cycles – had plenty of voice for this demanding role and presumably with LePage’s encouragement, brought out the strength, the vulnerability and the playfulness of this character.
180siegsieglAs Siegmund (photo:right), Jonas Kaufmann was uncommonly handsome and his singing got better as the performance unfolded. He tended to go sharp in his upper register in Act I but was pretty much dead-on in Act II. He doesn’t have the stentorian tones of a classic Heldentenor, but at his best he projects both strength and beauty of sound. As his sister Sieglinde, Eva-Maria Westbroek (photo:right) also sang with strength and beauty and produced a special richness in the lower register. When these two lovers kissed, we believed it was the real thing.
It is no longer news that Stephanie Blythe is one of the Met’s greatest assets. In the role of Fricka in this production, she matched Terfel in both inspired histrionics and subtlety of phrasing. Making her entrance on top of ‘The Machine” in what appeared to be a mechanized wheelchair – albeit without wheels – she never left it. Was this device meant to suggest she was disabled? Was it a throne? Or was it was just another way to justify “The Machine”.
Maestro James Levine on the Podium Despite Health Issues
180levine.190The extraordinary performances in this Ring could only be fully realized with the support of a fine orchestra and an authoritative conductor. We had both in this performance. The Met Orchestra, a virtuoso ensemble, played with heart-rending expressiveness from beginning to end. The intermission feature with players from the brass section introducing their instruments – especially the Wagner tubas – demonstrating their sounds, and explaining what the ‘leitmotifs’ do, was excellent.
This performance also had the air of an historic occasion, thanks to James Levine’s presence on the podium. Levine (photo:right) has suffered mightily in the past few years as his health has deteriorated. His pain and physical incapacity have gotten so bad that he has had to give up the music directorship of the Boston Symphony and to cancel dozens of performances at the Met. There was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether he would be able to conduct this performance of Die Walküre. Happily, he not only showed up, but was in total control of the performance from the opening bars. At the end of the opera, he remained seated at the podium in the pit instead of joining the cast on stage for bows; but even the healthiest of conductors have been known to exhaust themselves conducting operas as long and as complex as Die Walküre.
The music was in excellent hands but what appeared on stage was less satisfactory. For all the hype about LePage’s remarkable new equipment, invented to give us an imaginative re-telling of the Ring, we waited in vain for ‘The Machine” to burst forth with a genuine ‘coup de theâtre Even more significant, perhaps, was its failure to serve the arch of the drama.
By all means, let’s have a unit set that morphs from one scene to another, but as it morphs let it complement the storyline – let it, in the case of the Ring, enable us to visualize the worlds of both gods and men, and let it illuminate the arenas in which they intersect as each is affected by uncontrolled pride, greed and passion.
LePage’s machine may have been conceived as a ‘means to an end,’ but halfway through this Ring cycle, it has become a deeply flawed end in itself.
Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. NEW for friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, "Classical Airs."

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

12-year-old Canadian wins first prize at international piano competition

By Crystal Chan

On May 13, 12-year-old Scarborough resident Anastasia Rizikov beat out 25 other competitors—some over twice her age—to win first prize at the Rotary International Piano Competition in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She competed in Category A, which was open to those aged 28 and under. Competitors who were required to play a total of one and a half hours of diverse repertoire over the three rounds, from memory, with no repetition. She will win approximately $3,600 Canadian and is invited to return to Spain for a solo recital tour and performance with the Baleares Symphony Orchestra.