We’ve been hearing some interesting remarks by Joe Volpe, the former Met chief, about the conduct of his successor, Peter Gelb, in the recent union showdown. Very interesting comments, indeed, and made to several trusted sources, each of whom asked us to respect confidentiality.

So we will. (Until Joe goes public, which could happen at any time.)

Meantime, we’ve been sent an interesting post by his namesake, Michael Volpe, the capable and enthusiastic founder-manager of London’s Holland Park Opera.

Michael had a coffee with Peter Gelb early this year on matters of mutual interest. Gelb said is audience demanded big stars, and they demanded more or less the same big operas all the time. Michael writes: ‘I felt a sting of sympathy for him when he said that; he is locked into a model of mega stars, lavishness and conservatism and his audience hold the keys.

Read the full post here.

Wagners Das Rheingold Metropolitan Opera 2010


Sir Antonio Pappano got down to basics with the LSO today…


pappano socks

…. only to be snapped by Maxine Kwok-Adams, the Imelda Marcos of the orchestra world.

Valerian Ruminski, the opera singer fired in Ottawa for supposedly anti-gay comments, has offered a fulsome explanation to Slipped Disc readers about his attitudes on life and the way he shares them on social media. He treats the issues raised by his conduct with frankness and self-awareness. He acknowledges his mistake and insists he has no prejudices about minorities. He seeks forgiveness.

valerian ruminski


I suppose the best way to explain myself is the way that I made my big mistake. I will write it out. I have been writing caustic blurbs about politics and religion and many other topics on my Facebook page since Facebook came out back in 2008. I have a tendency to want to shock and stimulate conversation. For me it’s a way to express myself in a chaotic world where there are so many things wrong. Over-population, war, disease, climate change, gender inequality, cruelty to wildlife and so on and so on…

I feel as powerless as anyone else when things happen in the world. We all have different ways of dealing with them. It seems like, for me, I like to write things and start debates. I get agitated at things and I want to vent and let people know I am bothered. I never know what it’s going to be.

I lead the life of an opera singer. For those of you who don’t know what that means I will take a moment to describe it to you. We train for years, spend loads of money on teachers and coachings and then start to get jobs in various cities with various countries for a month at a time thruought the year. It’s not as glamorous as you might think. I generally get 3 or 4, maybe 5 if I am lucky, gigs a year and learn new roles. Mainly it’s a lonely existence. You make a few freinds along the way and have some places that are regular employers. Most of the time the sacrifices that you have made to get to this point are greater than the rewards you will reap. Sometimes you can make a great leap and have some success. I wasn’t sure I was going to have an opera career. I knew I could sing.
It wasn’t until I joined the opera chorus in my local town that I realized that a career was possible. The general director, Gary, liked my voice and he invited me to sing for him in his studio. So I took my best piece of music and I did. I really didn’t think one way or the other about the fact that he was gay. He was an intelligent, caring and compassionate man who wanted to see my talent blossom. He taught me all the basics I needed to start mounting the career I have now.


valerian ruminski2
Gary also maneuvered my schooling. towards an elite school where I was inducted into a sort of ‘opera boot camp’. I was accepted into a 4 year full scholarship program. My first assigned teacher, Bill, was a great tenor….respected in the opera world and also quite gay. I went to my lessons and became great frieinds with Bill. He remained my teacher for 8 solid years and taught me the basic rudiments and foundations of my technique.

At the same time, at the academy, our music director, Chris molded and shaped me into an opera singer that could phrase a line, sing a language correctly and act well on stage. He was gay and had lived with the same man for over 25 years. I got to know Chris and John very well and I felt for Chris’ pain as John went thru cancer treatments and operations. They are still together.d are very special to me.
All the other coaches, except one, at the academy were gay and they each taught me very unique things about my craft. I felt part of a very special family learning there and I missed it when I left.

As I was leaving school and moving out into the world I was auditioning for many companies and I was accepted into a downstate summer program in NY. Jay was the director. Also very gay. He was an old Broadway dancer and had a way with comedy. He worked me to the bone all summer and I danced for the first (and last) time with frequency. He was a mentor, a director, a teacher and my employer. I left the summer program with a full stock of tricks to use throughout my career.

The summer after that I went out west to New Mexico and was in a very elite summer program. I was one of 10 young men to be accepted. I would say at least 5 of the other guys were gay,. Some of them didnt admit it because they were unsure as to the ramifications of what that might mean for their careers. I got along with them all and I still correspond with them to this day.

To play out the string on my recollections….my first two agents were both gay, My first major accompanist, Bill H, was gay. Almost half of the men who hired me into my first positions singing in Monte Carlo, Montreal, Dallas and Atlanta were gay. My current NYC agent is gay and married.

So, as for my big mistake. I like to write. I like to bitch. I like to complain about the world, about people, countries, organizations. It makes me feel better. I sat on a bus last week and I saw a man with 10 diamonds glued to his fingernails. I thought it was a bit over the top. I did not know who he was, To me it did not matter if he was gay or straight. I simply objected to the flambouyance and unneccessary accoutrements on his fingers. I wanted to get a picture of them so I angled my cell and got one. I posted the picture on Facebook. I vented some frustrations about his nails and his appearance and I left it there.

That was my big mistake. I did not know him. I did not know if he was smart or witty or dull. I didn’t take the time to say hello or greet him. I didn’t take the time to pause and think and consider that we are all special and that this person was different in a way that was unique to everyone else around us. I am an opera singer. He, as I learned, is a drag queen. The two of us are not too far apart, I guess. I am sorry I didn’t say hello before flash judging him. Certainly I regret the backlash and hulabaloo after my posting. I never bashed him for his sexuality. I never would have. I have been shaped by gay men. They have been father figures, brothers in arms and mentors to me. I lost my father at 10 yrs old to a heart attack. I found his lifeless body on the couch and I pounded on his arm to get up when he wouldn’t open his eyes. Ever since then I have sought out fathers in my life., To me, the gay men that have been in my life are not just gay men…they have been family. They have been cherished, loved and lost. Never in a physical way, but in my heart.

I would ask the gay community to reconsider flash judgements. Facebook is not a place where the totality of a person can be glimpsed in moments. We are all text books of experience and depth and sometimes you have to look underneath the surface to see that. You yourselves have fought for so long to rise above the prejudice that has plagued you for centuries. You have wanted to be judged for who you really are not just that you love someone of the same gender. I am asking you to judge me for who I am telling you that I am.

I am Valerian Ruminski, opera singer, hetero male,orphaned son, liberal, progressive, tolerant and accepting of all. But I made a big mistake last week. Please forgive me.


Rachael Lander, one of the subjects in a forthcoming documentary on addicts in symphony orchestras, writes with great candour on her early-morning vodka habit in the Guardian, here.

rachael lander

She adds: To admit this publicly may amount to professional suicide. However, I’m frustrated with the classical-music profession and the fact that stage fright is still a touchy subject, despite the huge pressures on musicians. My story is not unique. Many classical musicians struggle alone, masking their nerves with beta blockers and alcohol, ashamed, as I was. For some reason, it is more acceptable to admit frailty in the world of rock and pop.

Everything in the life of Marshall Fine, who died tragically last week at 57 after a road accident, was a struggle with his prevalent condition.

Marshall became a successful composer and principal viola in the Memphis Symphony. His father, Burton Fine, former principal viola of the Boston Symphony, told Memphis media: ‘What made him memorable was the depth and breadth of his knowledge of music, and his intense personal desire from his childhood on to succeed. He did magnificent things, in spite of his handicap.’

Read more tributes here.

marshall fine


The Berlin Radio Choir, which has been operating for two decades without a working agreement, walked out on strike last month.

The choir suspended the strike this week to perform Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

In return, several of Rattle’s players wore picket-line jackets to manifest their support for the mistreated professional singers. More details here from Gerald Mertens.


rattle strike jacket

The Israeli-born principal trombonist Nitzan Haroz, who quit Philadelphia for Los Angeles two years back during a period of financial turbulence at the orchestra, has been lured back by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Press release below.





The Philadelphia Orchestra announces the appointment of Nitzan Haroz as principal trombone, effective immediately. Haroz returns to The Philadelphia Orchestra, where he was principal trombone from 1995 to 2012, after serving for two years in the same position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Nitzan Haroz is the first principal musician appointed under the tenure of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who said, “It is a wonderful moment to welcome Nitzan Haroz back to The Philadelphia Orchestra. We already made great music together during my time as music director designate, and I look forward to the return of his outstanding artistry to enrich our unique Philadelphia sound.”

“I’m very happy to return to Philadelphia, my family, and my colleagues of The Philadelphia Orchestra,” said Haroz. “I look forward to rejoining this rich musical community and to making music once again with these fantastic musicians.”


The Lyric Opera is selling off costumes this Saturday. Price from $1 to $200.

Wanna be a Flower Maiden for Halloween?




Sat., Sept. 6, 9am-6pm, one day only at the
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr. at Madison St.

CHICAGO – Lyric Opera of Chicago is  having a one-day-only costume sale that’s open to the public on Sat., Sept. 6, between 9am and 6pm. Admission to the sale is free, with a suggested donation of $5. There will be a donation box at the entrance.

More than 3,000 costume pieces (including a variety of hats) will be for sale in the Rice Grand Foyer of the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr. at the corner of Madison St. Items for sale will be organized according to price, ranging from $1 to $200.

Everything will be sold as is, and prices are final-no bartering. Cash and major credit cards are accepted. All sales are final; no refunds or exchanges. As there are no fitting rooms at the sale, shoppers should dress appropriately to try on costumes over their clothing.

Among the operas represented in the sale are Don Giovanni, The Mikado, The Voyage of Edgar Allan PoeThe Rise and Fall of the City of MahagonnyA Masked Ball, The Pirates of Penzance, the Ring cycle, The Flying Dutchman, I Capuleti e I Montecchi, and Die Fledermaus. Costume pieces are of varying sizes and conditions. Children’s costumes are not included in the sale.

– See more at: http://www.lyricopera.org/pressroom/costume-sale.aspx#sthash.tdycWr20.dpuf

Happy birthday, one day late, to our beloved Ivry Gitlis – probably the best violinist never to have a record career (though he became world famous on film and television).

(Click on ‘Post’ if video fails to pop out).

ivry film


OK, time to quit.
(if video does not pop out, please click on ‘Post’)

deborah voigt2

press release:




conlon ravinia
James Conlon, music director of Ravinia Festival since 2005, announced today that 2015 will be his final season as music director of the festival. Conlon has offered a one-year extension on his current contract that was due to expire at the end of this season, said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman. Conlon and Kauffman have shaped the 2015 season as a celebration of Conlon’s long association with Ravinia, where he has been regular guest conductor since 1977.

            “At the conclusion of another wonderful summer season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia, I have chosen to make the 2015 season my last as music director,” Conlon said. “I am grateful to Welz Kauffman, who graciously understood and accepted my decision, and will arrange for a smooth transition.

            “Everything has its time, and after 11 years I feel it is the moment to pass on this responsibility. This has been a difficult decision. The work at Ravinia is very meaningful to me, and the CSO is a supreme orchestra,” continued Conlon. “I have worked year-round, including every summer, since 1974. There are things I wish to accomplish, both musical and personal, and I need dedicated time to realize these projects.

            “I am deeply appreciative to the Ravinia Family for the confidence they placed in me over a decade ago, to Chairman John Anderson and all the past Ravinia Chairmen—especially Eden Martin, who presided over my hiring—the Board of Trustees, the Women’s Board, the Ravinia Associates Board and the entire Ravinia staff (some of whom I have known since my earliest visits to the festival), to the supportive public, and most of all to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the years of beautiful and exciting music making.”

            Kauffman said, “James has brought us so many magical moments at Ravinia. We’re proud of his multiyear Mahler cycle that commemorated the major anniversaries of the composer’s birth and death. His traversal of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos featured soloists who had graced all the world’s stages right alongside newly minted pianists from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI). And when it comes to Mozart, what could have been better than James daring to take the CSO into the Martin Theatre for a collection of Mozart operas in this perfectly sized hall, equivalent in size to the theaters Mozart himself would have known?

            “Considering James’s worldwide acclaim as an opera conductor, it’s no wonder that his celebration of romantic grand operas blew the roof off the Pavilion. He has drawn on his vast experience in opera and knowledge of the contemporary opera scene to cast Ravinia’s opera performances at the highest international level. We’ll never forget Patricia Racette in Salome,Madame Butterfly and Tosca, the latter with Bryn Terfel and Salvatore Licitra; or Rigoletto with Dmitri Hvorostovsky; and Aida with Latonia Moore, Michelle DeYoung and Roberto Alagna,” Kauffman continued. “James also introduced Ravinia and generations of music lovers to the works of composers suppressed by the Nazi regime. James has made an enormous contribution internationally in rescuing these composers and their music from obscurity. His championing of this music has become a worldwide calling card and a cause that achieved particular impact at Ravinia, which also presented this work at Chicago’s Temple Sholom and at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.”

            “James is a true believer, a lover of music and a musician with boundless capacity for empathy and artistry. He will be missed almost as much as he is admired by the Ravinia Family,” Anderson said. “In addition to his music making with the CSO, Conlon has also brought his teaching acumen to RSMI, adding luster to an already lustrous program, sharing his insights and decades of performing experience with these young artists. We will always be grateful to him.” 

            Ravinia was founded in 1904 and began presenting the CSO in an annual summer residency in 1936. Nearly three decades later Ravinia hired its first music director, Seiji Ozawa (1964–71), followed by James Levine (1971–93) and Christoph Eschenbach (1995–2003).

             “As to the future of Ravinia’s musical leadership, the only decision we’ve made at this point is to not rush into a decision,” Kauffman said. “Such transitions present a rare opportunity to take a fresh look at who we are and what we do in these challenging times for classical music. We know from our audiences that they enjoy seeing a variety of guest conductors leading the CSO, so we will take our time.”

There will be no shortage of candidates clamouring to succeed Paavo Järvi at the Orchestre de Paris in 2016.

It is one of the top-paid music director posts in Europe and it will come equipped with a stunning new Jean Nouvel hall, a dedicated management and an excellent, hard-working group of musicians.

So why did Paavo quit?

We haven’t spoken to him recently, and there is no doubting the sincerity of his affection for the city and its musicians. His reasons will be personal and strategic. It may be that he has an eye on other targets, not least the Berlin Philharmonic vacancy that looms in 2017.


ivry paavo

pictured: Paavo (centre) with Ivry Gitlis (left) and others


But it seems more likely that he was deterred by the political and economic outlook in France, where the government has just fallen over a new austerity policy and everyone is talking of ‘la crise’.

All through the summer we have been hearing rumours of heavy cuts about to be imposed on orchestras and opera houses. The culture minister, Aurélie Filippetti, was one of a group of three Cabinet members fighting austerity measures. The new Philharmonie hall is running late and way over budget. Its scheduled opening in January may be delayed. Its artistic plans may be curtailed.

Paris is burning with anxiety. Until the government unites for or against fiscal responsibility, the economic outlook will remain cloudy.

Paavo has done a tremendous job at the Orchestre de Paris, but the rush to succeed him will be tempered by sober realities.