Anyway, soprano Liz Meister has had enough and she’s lashing back. Liz writes:
When did we all become so judgey? We’ve become a culture of demonisers: everyone is discriminated against in some sense. The overwhelming likelihood is that people are unconsciously transferring their unresolved issues with themselves onto fat (usually female) singers, in the same way that men often transfer their unresolved sexual issues onto homosexuals so they can be angry at them instead of themselves.
Apparently, the system is so screwed up the adjudicators couldn’t tell what went on. Story below.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Pop violinist Vanessa-Mae was cleared by sport’s highest court Friday of allegations she helped fix Alpine skiing races so she could qualify for the Sochi Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, however, upheld the ruling that Vanessa-Mae should have been ineligible for the 2014 Games because the qualifying events in Slovenia were ”so defective.”
The court lifted the four-year ban imposed on the celebrity athlete by the International Ski Federation, meaning she can try to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Lucia Lucas, a soloist in Karlsruhe (centre), is a trans woman who sings baritone roles.
Through her agent, Dominic Stafford Law, she has answered a few questions about her life and work.
WHAT IS GENDER DYSPHORIA?
Gender Dysphoria is the Clinical term, as of 2012, for the feeling that your brain does not match up with the characteristics of your Assigned at Birth Gender.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW?
I knew when I was about 5 or 6. I had no brothers or sisters to be put in one group for toys or clothes at home. My toys were not overtly masculine or feminine, usually being educational toys, including an erector set and lots of legos.
The integration of children at the beginning of a child’s education will quickly separate them into boys or girls, for various purposes. In this setting, a child does not self-identify, but is grouped with the same sex others were assigned at birth. With enough of this grouping, even an only child will realize what gender the world thinks they are. I was told I was not a girl, but I knew I was not a boy. At that age, short hair and no dress will exclude you from the girls’ playtime.
While I was growing up, I would save my allowance to buy girl things and hide them. These items would give me an inner calm. I was repeatedly coached on how to walk and talk from family and teachers from about 6-12. I think they wanted me to appear normal. I would do anything to simply wake up a girl. It was around the time of High School and puberty that I learned that other people were also experiencing what I was. Had someone of Caitlyn Jenner’s celebrity come out in the mid 80s, perhaps the climate would have shifted sooner.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU COME OUT?
I had many attempts at coming out, starting before age 10.
I had been “caught” with girls clothing and makeup at various times in my childhood. In High School, I used Halloween to dress up as a girl. The calm I felt being around my peers as a girl made me know, in my heart, it was right. But in the late 90s, there were not other teenagers on youtube going through exactly what I was. I think for most trans kids, it’s easier to find info on your own in our current internet.
In college, around 2000, I gave very serious thought to transitioning. I even occasionally came to my music classes dressed up. I was scared to lose my support network, as I was living at my mom’s house in Sacramento while going to California State University, Sacramento.
Had I known that I would transition for sure, I would have got a degree in computer science. Transition is very difficult on an artist’s salary. So, I was getting better and better parts in the Operas at my school and my career started to really interest me. There was always a price tag in my brain for transitioning, and until I actually just did it, I thought the price was the end of my singing career.
Leaving for Chicago in 2005 was a huge commitment, so my brain was pre-occupied at least for a bit. I always thought I would go till I hit a wall in my career, then transition and give up music. I continued to get accepted into young artist programs, then eventually was given an apprenticeship at Deutsche Oper Berlin. Right when I kept getting ready to come out, my career would have something special happen, giving me a ‘sign’ that it was not the right time.
It was not until my third year at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, that my Gender Dysphoria was unavoidable. Through grad school and my first three years of Germany, I moved an average of once a year. Moving is a stressful event and simply the logistics can keep your brain occupied. I think staying at one job and in one apartment for a while gave me calm to be with my own thoughts.
Around this time, the climate for trans people was already starting to shift. Every year the percentage of out trans people keeps growing. The fear of losing everyone becomes less and less the more people you see happy in their new gender. You see people coming out and you know that you are trans, you just keep weighing all you have to lose if you show the world who you are.
I went full-time the beginning of May 2014. I spoke with my wife Ariana at the end of October 2013, and we agreed this was something I had to officially talk with a doctor about.
I began talking to my doctor in November and planning for the journey. We found a psychologist and endocrinologist. A psychologist is needed to approve treatment after determining no underlying issues are present or, if present, are at least under control. If informed consent clinics existed in Germany to start hormones, I may have waited longer to officially come out, but I felt anxiety about moving farther away from my true body. It was clear than right now in Germany, I would have to commit to coming out to be able to actually start hormones.
My wife and I had an idea that we could go to the yearly Opera ball in Karlsruhe with her in a tux and me in an evening gown. This would give me an opportunity to see genuine reactions to people seeing me presenting female. Most people recognized my wife first, then figured it out. It was not a costume ball and my dress was a very nice dress purchased from Karstadt (like Macy’s). Some buzz started after the ball about how comfortable I looked and that maybe it wasn’t some dare or bet or joke.
Two days after Opernball, I came out to my Intendant, Peter Spuhler. I had one year in Heidelberg with him, and about 3 years in Karlsruhe at that time. I said that I have to come out. I love my job and I hope I can continue, but this was the most important thing to me. We talked first about my voice. Hormones cannot raise the pitch of a trans woman’s voice. I think many trans women would hope that it would raise their voices, including me, but sadly it does not. So the idea was born that maybe I could be a female baritone. Peter Spuhler has been extremely accepting and helpful in trying out this new idea of a woman baritone. There have been girls playing boys for hundreds of years in opera, but not as a baritone.
When I look in the mirror before my makeup is done, I see a woman. I see myself. I used to see an ageing, increasingly depressed and angry man. I was turning into all of my roles slowly in real life.
Kothner, Monterone, Bitterolf etc. were blueprints for my future. Now they are simply roles I play for the evening. I can actually enjoy playing a man onstage now that I don’t have to play one in real life.
I came out because I could not hide anymore and hiding my true self was exhausting and depressing.<
HOW DID YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS REACT? My dad has not come to see me in Germany. He has not seen me in over 5 years, at least. I haven’t spoken with him on the phone for maybe 4 years. I would get the Happy Birthday, Merry Xmas and who died emails throughout each year. My body running on Estrogen has definitely reduced the wall that used to hold back my true feelings and inside thoughts. Last September, I just said that I didn’t want Birthday, Xmas etc. emails if that was all we were doing with this relationship. He wrote back that he was proud of all of the risks I have taken in my life and how they have went well. He said that I knew exactly who I was and that now some things when I was growing up made more sense. I am hopeful that more discussions will continue to take place.
My mother and I are close, but I still am not sure she understands what I’m going through. She works for the government and is surrounded by people who would likely react negatively to her talking about her new daughter. I think without being able to see her on a regular basis, understanding of my situation comes much slower for her.
My wife Ariana is amazing. We have been married for over 6 years and together for almost 12. She has been incredibly supportive at every step of the journey. Over the years, as much as I desperately wanted to be “normal”, it has become clear that this was very deeply part of my personality. She asked me one time early at Karlsruhe, “why are you so different at work than you are with me at home?” It was clear: I was holding back at work to keep up my “normal” vibe.
My friends that I work with have been great, as are most of my old friends that only exist now on Facebook. I have had a couple of friends that don’t agree or understand, but ever since I left the US, most people only exist on Facebook. There is not time or money to visit my friends scattered about the world. I share pics of my evolving face and pictures of crazy costumes I get to wear. People are never negative and generally are very supportive.
I have step and half siblings, but really didn’t get to spend much time growing up with them. They are generally supportive and I think if I lived in Sacramento, we would see each other regularly.
HOW DID YOUR PROFESSIONAL CONTACTS REACT? (HOUSE, AGENT, COACH, COLLEAGUES)
My Intendant, Peter Spuhler, was the first non-family person I told, besides two very good friends in Karlsruhe. He was basically the Keystone to this entire project of a female baritone.
My job continued until the fall, when I was renewed. Each October most of the ensemble will find out if they are renewed for the season after. At the end of October I knew I would have work until at least September 2016. This is incredible job security for any field, not to mention the arts. <
When I came out he said, “but you play a man on stage so well!?” I replied, “I have been learning that skill my entire life.” I think he watches with cautious optimism how well I do with this transition, but he is absolutely supportive. I cannot thank him enough for this. I have a full-time job during the majority of my transition and could not be more thankful. Many, if not most, trans people do not have that luxury.
My Agent, Dominic Stafford Uglow has been amazing. I am sure he did not see this one coming. I was prepared to have to start over with a new agency, but he has turned out to be one of my greatest career defenders. He has read at least as many articles about trans people as I have and was very quick to incorporate politically correct and preferred vocabulary. He was very quick to adopt my name and pronouns. He has single-handedly taken houses from thinking this will never work, to giving me auditions.
My coaches are all fantastic. They had no problems switching right over with everything. I think it may have taken a little time getting used to my voice coming out of a different presentation, but they didn’t show it.
My GMD Justin Brown was very supportive and, when I came out, said his first boss was actually a trans man, back in the early 80s. Most of the rest of the staff have been great.
There have been scary moments. I told a conductor in private after a rehearsal that I know it takes a while, but I would appreciate if he could use female pronouns when I wasn’t on stage. He laughed at me, turned and walked away. I was warned by the Operndirektor that if the stage directors didn’t want to use me that I may find myself with no work here. I think my ongoing blog series “An engineer’s guide to opera” and my willingness to present the gender a director needs in rehearsal should show that this is not an issue.
Colleague reactions have generally been good. I do think that this puts a magnifying glass on what I do, but I think I am up for the challenge. I always wanted to be the most prepared person in the room and this has not changed.
HOW DOES THIS CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE PERFORMING?
I am performing all of the same things. Still singing angry old men on stage, but fringe projects have also started appearing as possibilities. I had the pleasure of presenting the High Priestess in Samson et Dalila with Staatstheater Darmstadt.
I must especially thank Charlie Edwards, Karsten Wiegand, Berthold Schneider and Inga Levant for this opportunity. They all gave me the freedom to explore another dimension of this character. This is normally a very misogynistic character, but by changing the inflection without changing the text we were able to achieve an interesting spin. I would be very excited to play with gender in traditional operas more in the future. 90% of my projects remain playing cis-gender male roles and I am perfectly happy with that.
I think the repertoire of masculine conscious mannerism I have learned from the age of 6 would rival almost any actor. As a child I had to hide my feminine expression and I have built up quite a repertoire of how to be masculine.
HOW DOES THIS CHANGE HOW YOU ARE PERCEIVED?<
I think most people are OK in theory with trans people, but may also be the first to say, “I told you it wouldn’t work.” Before I came out, no one questioned my technique or my acting or my marriage. Some critics and some colleagues feel very free to say they think hormones are affecting my voice. I record samples constantly and post new ones every 2-3 months and have many ears I trust. My voice has not changed. As for acting, I was told that I couldn’t put my hand in front of my mouth when I was surprised for a character because that was a feminine gesture. It was for a comic figure and I am pretty sure I did it the same way the last time I did it. This was before I came out and no one ever said anything.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
I plan to conquer the Baritone world. I want to sing all the most masculine roles and continue to be myself offstage. I want to have the best product and give the most conservative houses in the world no choice but to hire me. I want my work to continue to stand up to a blind taste test. I don’t want my gender to hold me back and I don’t need it to help me. I have sung in some very important places before I came out and I plan to grow my career even more
People who are in a field very constrained to traditional gender roles will have to commit to their transition and risk their careers. They will have to put the initial transition in the hands of others and hope their job continues. For people lucky enough to have HR departments to help them transition, congratulations.
If there is a music student who is trans, but has not come out yet, opera is a difficult field to break into and possibly impossible if you are openly trans. I had five years of singing full-time in Germany before I came out. For an instrumentalist, I think it is not such a big deal. I think the performers in Opera are people who would be accepting, but the Business itself likes traditional people.
In about 2002, I looked for a job selling pianos. The manager said that he liked me, but informed me that the customers were very traditional and I would sell more pianos if my hair was clean cut. My hair was one of the things that calmed me and I loved having it to my shoulders after my parents couldn’t make me cut it anymore. So… I cut it and came back the next day. He hired me shortly after.
I will never again give up my identity to fit in someone else’s box. If my identity stops me from having the career I want, then that’s not the career I want anyway. (c) Lucia Lucas/Slipped Disc
When Thomas Südhof won the 2013 Nobel Prize for medicine/physiology, he gave credit to his music teacher for the important advances he had made in discovering ‘ vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.’
He spoke again soon after, in a conversation with the editor of a bassoon magazine, underlining the value of the discipline he had acquired from immersion in music, while lamenting that classical music in the US is ‘fundamentally a dying art.’
Now, for the first time, Dr Südhof has spoken about the specifics of his musical training and its relation to scientific practice. In an exclusive interview with Stuart Diamond of Empowered Doctor, he emphasises the importance of one-on-one teaching and the importance of ‘hard, unimaginative, non-creative, repetitive work.’
Here’s what he says, with a linking paragraph by Dr Diamond:
DR. SÜDHOF: First, I was exposed to playing music in school, the recorder. Then I began the violin. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t like the teacher. Perhaps it was the age, possibly the instrument. So I stopped playing the violin on my own initiative. But after a while, I decided I needed to do some music. So I picked the bassoon. I have no idea why. It may have been after all the subtle hints of some of my teachers. I doubt it was my parents. It may have been that I liked those sonorous deep sounds.
In my own experience playing bassoon puts you in immediate demand. You are courted by any number of ensembles, whether or not you could actually play adequately. But that was not the case with the young Thomas. When he first started to play where he grew up in Germany, there was no youth-training orchestra. So he simply took lessons and played on his own. As he grew older he became more accomplished and played in the State Youth Orchestra and traveled with the group throughout Europe. He considered the possibility of pursuing a career as a professional musician. Though acknowledging how satisfying a career as professional musician could be, he was also well aware of the hard realities of life as an artist. I then asked him exactly what he meant when he said his bassoon teacher was his most important teacher. Did he really mean that?
DR. SÜDHOF: Yes I do. I think, that in general, teaching is extremely dependent on personal relationships. It is important that one has teachers, who you can personally respect – a whole persona you can see. It is true in science as well in music, as well as other aspects of life. My bassoon teacher was the typical German musician that went through the system, learned how to be a bassoonist, and became an orchestra bassoonist in Hanover. He taught me from day one. I only had one teacher ever. He wasn’t set though on turning me into a professional musician. But he was set on having a certain degree of quality instilled in me. What I mean, when I say he was my most important teacher is that I see playing music very much akin to many of the other things I do. In that playing music requires above all a lot of practice and hard work. Creativity is not just imagining stuff. You can’t be creative if you have no mastery of the medium. Some people master the medium, but are never creative. So it’s not like you master the medium and you are automatically creative. But if you don’t master the medium you will never be creative. You will never be good. That relates to what I do as a scientist. It also relates to what doctors do, in that you can’t be good at it, unless you are really technically outstanding. And to become outstanding takes just a lot of hard unimaginative, non-creative, repetitive work. That is most of what we do. And that is the absolute prerequisite. In that sense it is the same as in music.
It could only be one conductor. You can see him coming from miles off.
Leif Segerstam was told last summer that he had prostate cancer and required surgery.
His response was to compose 14 symphonies, bringing his total to 285.
He is performing one of them, together with Sibelius 4th and 7th at the Heinävesi Festival and has given an interview to the Helsingin Sanomat. He says, among other things, that Sibelius thought he might die after a tumor was found in his throat. It became the inspiration for the fourth symphony.
The interview is full of ‘Leifisms’. His inspiration, he says, comes from nature, woman, testosterone, also just from the ‘lovely female body’. And he is quite sure that the third note of the beginning of Sibelius no 4 means farting.
This is not one of the majors, but it’s a 70-year old orchestra in a civilised part of the US, not far from Yale with its zillion dollar endowments. It should not have to reduce musicians to the breadline. Here’s what’s up, from the musicians’ side (h/t Joe Goetz).
(HARTFORD, Conn. – June 18, 2015) – In a meeting of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Board on Wednesday, musician board representatives voted unanimously against the proposed budget and strategic plan for the coming season.
The Hartford Symphony Board includes ten musician board representatives out of nearly 50 board members. The musicians’ contract is currently under negotiation, and their concerns stem from a budget that reflects little consideration for their wages and working conditions. In 2014-15, Core musicians earned a little over $23,000. In 2015-16, these musicians are being asked to accept under $15,000 a year, a figure that represents a 40% reduction in wages.
According to federal poverty guidelines, a family of four needs to earn at least $24,250 to stay out of poverty. And a recent U.S. Department of Labor report found the average wage in Hartford County to be $64,792, more than four times what is being offered to the musicians.
“One does not grow the Hartford Symphony by cutting the Hartford Symphony,” said violinist and board member Michael Pollard. “At the same time that musicians’ wages are being cut, wages and expenditures for management and conductors have increased dramatically.”
“Spending commitments are being made,” continued Pollard. “The Music Director has been signed to a 6 year contract and hiring of an Assistant Conductor is underway. Salaries and benefits for administrative staff have increased. On the other hand, pay for musicians has been frozen for 3 years. And now we are asked to accept changes in work rules that will prevent us from combining HSO employment with the other jobs we must pursue in order to supplement our poverty-level wages.”
The musicians were outvoted in the meeting, and both the budget and the strategic plan were approved.
# # #
The Connecticut Valley Federation of Musicians, Local 400 of the American Federation of Musicians, represents approximately 600 professional musicians in central Connecticut
pictured: music director Carolyn Kuan
Decca are raising cash for cancer support by climbing the tallest peak in Scotland – by night.
They’re nuts, of course. But if you give enough money they might just come to their senses.
Apparently, it’s organised this way so that no-one misses so much as one day’s work at the spinning table.
On Saturday 11 July 2015 Team Decca will scale Ben Nevis during the night to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support
Our goal is to raise over £10,000 and we will not be able to do this without your help
Twenty of us will leave London on the Saturday morning and that night we will climb Britain’s highest peak in the dark. We’ll reach the top by sunrise, head straight back down and we’ll then travel back to London the same day. All in 48 hours! Then it’s back to work the following morning
It sounds tough, and it will be a challenge for all of us but not as challenging as those who are suffering from cancer. That is why we will be asking you to help donate to our chosen cause
Thanking you in advance for your kind donations over the coming weeks!
TEAM DECCA are;
Dickon Stainer, Rebecca Allen, Tom Lewis, Laura Monks, Ash Noonan, Andrew Dalton, Anna Malone, Caroline Crick, Chris Kershaw, Ellie Thomson, Emma Price, Esme Strathcole, Fiona McLachlan, Holli Sullivan, Jessica Simmonds, Kevin Long, Noorjhan Flanagan, Oli Harrop, Rachel Haller & Shona Hamilton
Search & Like “Team Decca – Ben Nevis Challenge 2015” on Facebook
Or contact one or the Team Decca member’s for link, or go to
From the Top, ‘America’s largest national platform dedicated to celebrating the stories, talents, and character of classically-trained young musicians’, has put together a video of students at Berklee and New England Conservatory backing a local rapper in a Wiz Khalifa cover.
The playing is pretty good.
From the Top explain: ‘The song, from the movie Furious 7, has a message of loss of family and friends that really connected with these kids, in particular classical violinist Haig Hovsepian and rapper Lotus Taylor. Perhaps most importantly, the collaboration between hip hop, jazz, and classical music was very inspiring to them.’
Inspiring, huh? FTT go on to blether about ‘building bridges across genres’ and ‘reaching new audiences’.
It’s been a long week. See what you think of this.
Roll them credits:
Shot on location at Berklee College of Music.
Stefan Arzberger, leader of the Leipzig Quartet who stands accused of attempted murder after an incident in a Manhattan hotel, made another court submission yesterday. Here’s his summary:
not really good news…
here is a statement by my lawyer Mr. R. Levitt:
Today we were in court to discuss various pre-trial issues.
Because we notified the court that we would likely present expert testimony at trial to establish that I had been involuntarily drugged on March 27, the prosecutor asked permission to have me examined by its own psychiatrist, and we said we would voluntarily do so. The court adjourned the proceedings for two months, until August 20, to give the prosecutor time to select a suitable psychiatrist and to speak with me. On the adjourn date we are hopeful that we will receive a favorable report from the prosecutor’s psychiatrist and that, if necessary a trial date will be set. We have explained to the court that we want to begin trial as soon as possible and we are hopeful that the trial will be scheduled to begin no longer than two months after our August 20 adjourn date.
Alexandria, VA, USA: Classical Movements is pleased to announce the “Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival” featuring 4 fully-staged productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni under the stage direction of legendary American baritone, Sherrill Milnes. The Estates Theatre was featured in scenes from Amadeus and is the only remaining venue where Mozart conducted.
The 30 day Young Artist Festival with 100 students features multiple concerts, productions and travel, all arranged by Classical Movements, Inc. Nearly 500 singers and instrumentalists auditioned to be considered for the Prague Summer Nights Festival from all over the world and finally 45 singers and 55 musicians were selected along with leading faculty from all over the world including from the most important musical institutions in Berlin, London, New York, Boston, and Prague.
“I am so happy to return to the beautiful city of Prague where I was the first American to play Don Giovanni at the original Estates Theater where Mozart himself premiered it. It is exciting to be back after 20 years, this time in my Stage director debut for Don Giovanni as part of the Prague Summer Nights, Young Artists Program. I look forward to working with these brilliant young artists over the next 30 days and putting on these 4 productions of Don Giovanni with famous sets and costumes from the Estates Theater.” says Milnes.
No admission problems have been reported at the Tchaikovsky Competition (or Cardiff Singer of the World, for that matter), but the Van Cliburn has been forced to replace an Italian judge who encountered a visa problem.
FORT WORTH, Texas, June 18, 2015—The Cliburn announces today that Lydia Artymiw will replace Fabio Bidini on the jury of the First Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival. Mr. Bidini is unable to travel to the United States in time for the Competition due to the current global technical issues of the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs.