… the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, conductor David Zinman, issued a passionate, brilliantly filmed appeal to the Dutch Parliament to stop the savage cuts in arts budgets.

Watch it here.

Daniel Barenboim has just announced that he will open his era as La Scala music director with Don Giovanni on December 7, introducing Anna Netrebko in her house debut as Donna Anna.

Peter Maffei takes the title role, with Bryn Terfel as Leporello and Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira.

Not bad for an opening lineup.

The Met has just posted audience figures for Don Giovanni. It earned $2.3 million at the US/Canada box-office and has been watched, so far, by 265,000 people worldwide.

Despite poor reviews, the show will become legend for quarter of a million people. Renee Fleming may well become more famous as an intermission presenter than as an opera singer. The times they are a-changing.

Press release:


Don Giovanni takes in

$2.3 million in North America


Missed it live? Special encore screening in the U.S.

 on November 16 at 6:30 p.m. local time

 (Find Local Theaters)


Click for photos and video from Don Giovanni

Password: opera11met


New York, NY (October 31, 2011) – The Met: Live in HD continued its sixth season Saturday with a live transmission of its new production of Don Giovanni, starring Mariusz Kwiecien, with an estimated attendance of 107,000 in North America earning a gross of $2.3 million. It was seen live on more than 850 screens. An estimated additional 109,000 people saw it live on 625screens in 42 additional countries; 28 in Europe, nine in Latin Americaand Russia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and the Bahamas.

 Delayed showings in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and encore performances in North America and Europe, are expected to boost worldwide attendance of Don Giovanni to 265,000. The encore screening of Don Giovanni in the U.S. is on November 16; the Canadian encores are December 17 and January 9.

             The new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, by Tony Award winner Michael Grandage, was conducted by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi in his Live in HD debut. In a dramatic offstage twist, star Kwiecien was injured in the final dress rehearsal of the production on October 10 but underwent back surgery and a rigorous physical therapy regimen so that he would be able to return to the Met stage in time for this performance. The other stars of Don Giovanni included Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina, Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira, Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna, Ramón Vargas as Don Ottavio,  Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, and Štefan Kocán as the Commendatore.

The live transmission, hosted by soprano Renée Fleming, was directed by Barbara Willis Sweete.

The Met: Live in HD, the Met’s award-winning series of live transmissions to movie theaters around the world, has expanded its worldwide distribution to more than 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, the largest global audience the initiative has ever reached. In addition to Russia, Italy and Israel, new countries joining the Live in HD network this season include China, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Morocco, Slovenia, and the territory of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

            Don Giovanni was the second of 11 live transmissions to be shown this season. The next transmission will be the new production of Wagner’s Siegfried on November 5, the third installment of Robert Lepage’s new Ring Cycle at the Met.


# # #


Lee Abrahamian

Metropolitan Opera

(212) 870-7457



She was not much known outside Canada and most of her money came from her father, a media magnate.

But Anne Southam will be remembered for a huge gift she has made in her will to support Canadian women. The Toronto Star has the story.

Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico with the late composer Ann Southam.

And here’s more on her life and works.

The weekend business pages had Warner on the verge of becoming EMI’s new owner.

What they didn’t know was that Warner followed Universal late last week in pulling out. They didn’t like the numbers. Today’s Financial Times broke the story.

So who does that leave? BMG, Sony or yet another hedge fund.

Alternately, Citigroup could call off the sale or drop the price.

Such a bunch of bankers.


Here’s the Reuters version:

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) – The frontrunner in the sale of British music EMI’s assets, Len Blavatnik’s Warner Music Group, has walked away from their auction, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
Blavatnik, whose Access Industries group bought Warner Music earlier this year, had looked set to win from Citigroup a $1.5 billion deal for EMI’s labels which include Capitol and Virgin.

The newspaper cited people close to the negotiations as saying offers for EMI’s recorded music division remained below the price at which the U.S. bank was prepared to sell the asset it seized in February from its previous private equity owner, Terra Firma .

However, the sources cited did not rule out Blavatnik returning to the table, as he did after a similar threat three weeks ago, adding that it may not be clear for two weeks or more whether Citigroup will settle for offers below initial hopes or retain EMI for at least another year.

Citigroup and bidders’ representatives were unavailable for immediate comment.

EMI’s record labels, home to marquee names including the Beatles and Coldplay, have always been the glamorous end of the business.

Bids for the song catalogs of EMI Music have come in closer to Citi’s expectations but the early offers for its record labels had been underwhelming.

Sources cited in the article said Citigroup’s negotiations over EMI Music Publishing appeared to have made more progress, with a frontrunning offer of about $2 billion from BMG, the joint venture between Bertelsmann and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts .

A Sony-led challenge for EMI’s publishing operation is still working to secure financing from sovereign wealth funds and elsewhere, according to the article.

People close to several bidders, cited by the FT, believe the bank is prepared to keep EMI if it is unhappy with the offers.


Sixteen months ago, on BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read, I presented as my book of the moment newly translated Holocaust memoir by Béla Zsolt, called Nine Suitcases. A Budapest intellectual, Zsolt described the horrors he endured through a prism of coffee-house irony, never missing a comic aside or a human foible. His detachment, rare among tragic memoirists, gave the events an electrifying immediacy.

Discussed in the context of Barbara Trapido’s Brother of the More Famous Jack, proposed by Antonia Quirke, and Sue MacGregor’s choice,
A View of the World by Norman Lewis, the book proposed an altogether different definition of social normality on English teatime radio. I had to be careful not to say anything that would cause a listener to choke on a scone and did not expect much of a response.

However, one of those who listened to the programme was the actor-playwright, David Prince. He decided to turn Nine Suitcases into a stage play, which he has performed this year at Cardiff and the Edinburgh Fringe. This week he performs it twice in London, at the Hungarian Cultural Centre. Go, see.


Players in the Louisville Orchestra, a once-proud organisation that has fallen on hard times, have issued an appeal to fellow-musicians not to accept work from the outfit, which is seeking to reduce its head-count.

The latest deadline from management to musicians expires tonight. The orchestra filed for Chapter 11 protective bankruptcy last December. Its conductors are Bob Bernhardt, Jorge Mester and Jason Weinberger.


Dismayed by the hard-hat tactics, the musicians are now seeking to rally support from the rest of their profession, including soloists.

The following letter has just gone out. You read it here first:

TO: the musicians of ICSOM, ROPA, and OCSM

FROM: Bruce Ridge, ICSOM Chairman


Dear friends and colleagues,


As we all know, the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra have been engaged in a lengthy negotiation with their management. They have repeatedly been threatened by their board with being replaced by other musicians. And now, after a final ultimatum, the Louisville Orchestra, Inc. has begun recruiting replacement musicians.


Both the Louisville Orchestra, Inc. and the Kentucky Opera have been placed on the American Federation of Musicians’ (AFM) International Unfair List, and accepting work from these two groups could generate fines and penalties.

But it is not just the Unfair List that should deter anyone from accepting this work–the fact is that it would simply be wrong to do so.

Any musician accepting such work would not be serving the cause of art in America, or serving their career and family. Musicians accepting work as replacements would be taking food out of the mouths of fellow musicians, as well as depriving them and their children of health insurance.

The members of ICSOM, ROPA, and OCSM comprise a great number of orchestral musicians in North America, and we have thousands of students. Please educate your students, and the leaders at your music schools, of the importance of this effort. If the egregious and despicable actions of Louisville Orchestra CEO Rob Birman, and Board Chair Chuck Maisch were to succeed, then no orchestra in North America would be safe from such attacks. Any musician accepting such work would be building a career on quick sand.

Please post this message in your studios, and please send it to your students everywhere, as well as the colleagues in your orchestra who might not be subscribed to the ICSOM, ROPA, or OCSM news lists. Post it backstage at work. Post it on your Facebook pages. Spread the message everywhere that the musicians of ICSOM, ROPA, and OCSM will always stand together

The symphonic musicians of North America perform as a united network of friends. It is crucial that we stand together on this issue, not only for the musicians of Louisville, but for the future of musicians everywhere.

In solidarity,

Bruce Ridge

ICSOM Chairman


Three art works owned by the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who died in September 2007, are being auctioned off in Paris by his second wife to raise cash for her new institute for training tenors.

The works consist of a 1928 Marc Chagall watercolour (estimated at Euros 200-300,000), a 1955 Giorgio de Chirico sketch of horses (15-20,000) and a 1955/6 Massimo Campigli oil painting (200-300,000). The paintings were bought originally to hang in the tenor’s houses in Modena, Pesaro, Monte Carlo and New York.

Their sale on December 6 is just a taster for a  massive disposal of 250 items of Pavarotti’s personal property next year, including his blue-and-white Fiat 750. His widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, hopes to realise up to two million Euros ($3 million) from the clearout.

Here’s Le Figaro’s report. (this one’s not included)




Stafford Hartman, 24, deserves some kind of a medal for valour.

Cosi Fan Tutte Rehearsal

She was shot and robbed on her doorstep in Memphis, but was she going to miss a Tosca?

No way. Here’s the WREG report.

Welsh National Opera has gone looking for an audience in shopping malls. It’s trying out episodes across several counters in the hope of intriguing people enough to make them want to know how it turns out.

Wrexham Street Songs

Not happily, I hope, or it’s not opera. Here’s a BBC Wales report. And here’s some video.

Two London singers, Katy Hill of The Sixteeen, and Stuart Young, a bass at St Paul’s, have sent me an article with pictures of their work with choristers at Lagos Cathedral in Nigeria.

While they were gone, St Paul’s erupted in a deacons vs demonstrators standoff that has yet to be resolved.

Reading Katy’s piece, which I publish below, I’m glad to see that the boys from Lagos will come visiting St Paul’s next year to restore Christian humility and a sense of proportion to the beleaguered cathedral.

Here’s Katy’s tale:

Bleary eyed and excited, Stuart and I are greeted with broad smiles and vigorous handshakes and bundled from the hot and frenetic arrivals lounge at Lagos Airport, swarming with hyperactive baggage touts and  taxi drivers all competing for business far too energetically for 5am, into a suddenly very calm and chilly air conditioned people carrier. The door shuts, and with a swift click the hubbub is silenced and replaced by the unexpected soundtrack of the Nottingham Church Choir singing English psalmody emanating from the oh so up to date car sound system…

The Provost of Lagos’ Christ Church Cathedral, Rev’d Johnson, is a music lover and a wonderful man. He rates the place of music in the place of worship extremely highly and wishes his choir to compete with among the best in the world. A frequent visitor to Westminster Cathedral when in London, he knows what he wants and his expectations are high. Earlier this year, he asked his good friend and fellow music lover, Damola Aboaba, to invite two singers from The Sixteen to visit Lagos to make suggestions to help the improvement of the choir.

Lucky Stuart and lucky Katy.


Our mission was to enthuse and improve the treble line by giving each of the 20 boys two singing lessons, alongside working collectively towards some treble only pieces for the Sunday service. Along the way, we would also surprise a bemused and beautiful bride with some impromptu Haydn donned in brightly coloured traditional dress at her grand orange-themed wedding, eat a lot of goat, drink a lot of gulder and shake an ex-president’s hand. Throughout our stay, we were continually humbled and delighted by the warmth and kindness shown to us by Damola, Rev’d Johnson and their friends. And everybody we met laughs so very, wonderfully, loudly.

Inside the cathedral itself, the boys were impressively receptive, and the general standard was already good (a special mention should be made here of the considerably talented resident organists, Babatunde Sosan and Adejola Adeosun). Each boy seemed to relish some one-on-one attention, and individual lessons quickly turned into mini master-classes as boys actually abandoned their football games to come and watch their colleagues at work. Two lessons allowed us enough time to make some real headway – the most notable changes being in the older boys who arrived at our lessons as trebles and left as basses (!), much to the surprised gratification of the boys themselves. All performed beautifully on the Sunday, dutifully following our fairly experimental conducting (likened in my case to a jumbo jet trying to take off by a tenor who shall remain nameless).

Happily, our week there was not the end. Stuart, a bass at at St Paul’s Cathedral, has arranged for three particularly talented boys to fly over in early 2012 to sing with the cathedral choir for a week, which we hope will create an enduring memory for all boys involved, both Nigerian and British. The head chorister in Lagos (21 year old Joshua), who impressed us with his musical aptitude and fine countertenor voice will also come across to study with Tim Travers-Brown. We hope this visit will not only fuel their enthusiasm for the cathedral choir, but also encourage them to pass on what they learn by osmosis to their colleagues back home. Such is the community feel that surrounds the cathedral in Lagos that it seemed no sooner had we dreamed up this trip, funding had already been raised by generous members of the congregation.

For our part, any expectations that we may have unwittingly gathered before going were blown out of the water, stretched and reworked, and returned to us in brightly sparkling HD. It was an experience of extremes, with chilly smooth rides between our smart hotel and the cathedral each day (always accompanied by Norwich cathedral choir), versus the hot and hectic buzz of the amazingly over-populated and dusty world outside, with its own backing track of constant car horns and revving motorbikes, a joyful disregard for traffic lights or even which side of the road to drive on, and anything from lemons to carpets piled impressively high on grinning heads weaving between colourful street stalls. Wonderful then that a common love of choral music provided such unifying ground for us all.