It will be strictly virtual, but they’ll capture a whole generation once again.

Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad broke up in 1982 and have never sung together since.

The new project, involving the Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller, will be a ‘groundbreaking venture that will utilise the very latest in digital and virtual reality technology’.

Sad, for more reasons than we can enumerate.


Frida Lyngstad: ‘Our fans around the world are always asking us to reform and so I hope this new ABBA creation will excite them as much as it excites me!’

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group: ‘Having the privilege of working closely with the band for over two decades, I can comfortably say there are few recording artists who like ABBA bring together their mastery of craft, a high level of professionalism and enormous commercial success. I’m thrilled to be involved in this innovative new project that will introduce the band who are responsible for some of the greatest songs and melodies in pop music to a new generation of fans.’

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says he’s staying in touch with both sides in an effort to end the lockout.

Peduto said the PSO, more than a century old, survived the city’s “darkest days” when industry collapsed and shouldn’t be forced to close now that the city is growing. He said the city must do everything possible to keep the doors open and preserve a valuable cultural asset.

Read more here.

pittsburgh heinz hall

The change of Kennedy Center personnel under Deborah Rutter continues apace.

It has been announced th Rita Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) since 2002, will step down in two months’ time. That’s unusually short notice for  a senior position.

But she has held the fort capably through the Slatkin and Eschenbach years and can probably use some fresh air.

Press release follows.



(WASHINGTON)—Rita Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) since 2002, today announced she will step down from the leadership position effective December 30, 2016.


During Shapiro’s 15-year tenure with the internationally acclaimed NSO, she has forged productive collaborations with music directors Leonard Slatkin and Christoph Eschenbach, Principal Conductor Iván Fischer, and Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. She oversaw the launch of ongoing community engagement projects and partnerships, expanded audiences through cross-genre projects with major artists, fostered explorations of new digital media frontiers, and raised the profile of the orchestra with new musician hires and five international tours. Most recently, Shapiro successfully led the orchestra’s search for its next music director, resulting in the appointment of acclaimed Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda, who begins his directorship in September 2017.


Throughout her tenure, Shapiro, a highly regarded leader in the American orchestra field, has grown both the artistic portfolio and reputation of the NSO, as well the orchestra’s social impact in the community through programs like NSO In Your Neighborhood and NSO SoundHealth. She also strengthened the artistic affiliation of the 96-member orchestra with its long-time home, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, yielding more interdisciplinary programming, presenting NSO musicians and ensembles on its Millennium Stage, and expanding the breadth and reach of the NSO’s education initiatives. In addition, she led the selection process, acquisition, and installation of the $2 million Rubenstein Family Organ in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.


In her 15 years at the helm of the NSO, Shapiro has helped to promote and further the national and international reputation of the NSO through extensive touring, including residencies in nine U.S. states; a U.S. national tour; and five international tours to Asia, Trinidad and the Americas, Oman, and Europe. The NSO continues to be one of the most visible orchestras in the country, with annually televised appearances on the National Mall on Memorial Day and July 4, and local monthly radio broadcasts on WETA 90.9 FM.

“These last 15 years have been enormously fulfilling for me,” said Shapiro. “I’ve been so fortunate to work in a field about which I care so deeply. I am grateful to the talented musicians of the NSO, my administrative colleagues, especially the incredibly dedicated NSO team, our Board of Directors and volunteers, and innumerable distinguished artists for giving me countless musical memories that will stay with me for years to come. I’m proud of what we’ve all accomplished together during my time here.”

“Rita Shapiro has worked with dedication and devotion to the National Symphony Orchestra,” said Jeanne Ruesch, Chairman of the NSO Board of Directors. “She has led the search process for two music directors, supported the recruitment of numerous talented musicians, and provided the guidance for the orchestra to perform on five international tours. Her love of symphonic music and her aspirations for the NSO have been a source of inspiration for the Board and all of those around her. The Board of Directors and I are extremely grateful for her leadership during these important times in the Orchestra’s history.”

“Rita and I have become close colleagues during my time here, and I value her partnership and her leadership,” said NSO Music Director Christoph Eschenbach. “I admire what she has done for and with the Orchestra, always approaching any challenge in a positive way. We will certainly miss her knowledge, her appreciation for all forms of culture, and her dedication to the NSO.”

“I’ve had the honor of working with Rita for a number of years as a colleague in the orchestra field,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. “In my time here at the Center, she has proven to be a positively fearless partner—always in service to the music, always seeking innovative ways to engage with audiences, and thoughtfully guiding the Orchestra in both its artistic profile and its social impact. She leaves the NSO strong, energized, and poised for new levels of excellence in the years to come.”

Shapiro has demonstrated a firm commitment to reaching the broadest possible audience for live symphonic performance by identifying and experimenting with new concert formats and times. The NSO’s DECLASSIFIED series launched in 2015 and includes interactive pre- and post-concert activities themed to enhance the concert experience. Programs have previously featured collaborations with the NSO by Ben Folds, Mason Bates, and Storm Large, and this season’s series begins with a night of music by Bryce Dessner. She also initiated a midday series of Coffee Concerts on selected Fridays at 11:30 a.m. Spurred by successes in serving new and diverse audiences, Shapiro led the Orchestra’s efforts to experiment and collaborate with non-traditional artists ranging from Hip Hop to other popular music genres. The NSO was the first among American orchestras to perform with rappers Nas and Kendrick Lamar; Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain; and Seth MacFarlane, among others.

 She conceived of three major and ongoing community engagement projects, and created a new staff position, manager of community relations, to lead and support these efforts, including: the 2012 launch of NSO In Your Neighborhood which each year brings 50+ performances and events into schools, community centers, homeless shelters, libraries, and other location across Washington, D.C. neighborhoods; the NSO SoundHealth program, with multiple annual performances at the National Institutes of Health and in six area hospitals; and the December 2016 launch of NSO Salutes the Military, a series of initiatives that provide free performances to active military members and their families in partnership with the USO, as well as performances to honor veterans.


In a passionate call for observance of Christian traditions – ‘we are the party with a C in its name – the German chancellor called on people to sing traditional songs and dust off their recorders during the festive season.

‘If we don’t do this,’ she warned, ‘we will lose a piece of our Heimat.’

Watch video here.



A cute promo for Belgrade’s contemporary and classical music festival next month:

Luca Pisaroni, 41, is a sought-after bass-baritone at the Met, Covent Garden, Zurich, Vienna, Paris, Salzburg – just about everywhere except his native Italy.

His will finally make his Scala debut in February. What took them so long?

Luca talks to Graham Spicer in Milan:

I grew up musically outside Italy. I began my career outside and for some reason I have only performed in Italy very rarely. I can’t invite myself, so there’s nothing I can do.

I don’t think that the theatres really ‘know’ me. I certainly haven’t had hundreds of offers and always said ‘no’, and sometimes when they ask me nowadays it is for next season and I’m all booked up.

Of course, to be honest, I’m not happy about it, not only because it is my home country but also because Italy is the home of opera, so not to be asked is not pleasant…

Full interview here.


We hear that Norwegian National Opera and Ballet has lost its fifth artistic director in eight years. Fonancially, it is holed below the aterline.

Here’s an update from Michael Fergus, in Oslo:




The design of Oslo’s spectacular Opera House, completed in 2008, has been widely acclaimed. Inside, however, things are not so cheerful. The Chief Executive Officer Nils Are Karstad Lysø has just resigned.

The Opera House has had five artistic directors in just 8 years. Lysø was an unlikely choice for the job. When phoned by the Opera to take the job, he is reported as saying “Have you maybe got the wrong number ….?” An accountant with a background in the clothing industry, had no experience, professed interest or track record in the Arts.

However his position within the Opera put him above both the Opera and Ballet chiefs. Within one year he had recommended that the five year contract of the Artistic Director of the Opera, Per Boye Hansen should not be renewed. This caused uproar and protests in artistic circles throughout Europe, as it was widely considered that Boye Hansen had made the Norwegian Opera one of the best and most innovative in Europe. But Lysø may have found the financial issues too hot to handle. While his own salary increased by 30%, the Opera was firing staff and lost € 7 million in 2015. Without pension costs, the Opera might have made a € 10 million profit.

The Opera is already advertising for a successor to Lysø. One of the requirements is that applicants should have and interest in and knowledge of Norwegian cultural life!

Oregon police have called off the search for Annie Schmidt, daughter of Piano Guys pianist Jon Schmidt, who went missing while hiking on October 16.

Her mother, Michelle, told local media the family believed she was dead.

However, Jon and the group have posted the following appeal:

Update: We are moved beyond words by the thousands who have searched, prayed for and helped our effort for Annie in any way. At this time, out of consideration to so many out-of-state people involved in the search, the Schmidts have set a conclusion time of Wednesday afternoon so travel arrangements can be planned accordingly. Until then, we are gathering up all our strength, energy, faith and prayers for one more push. Your thoughts and prayers have made such a difference. Please keep them coming for one more day!




The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is splitting first-seat duties between the incumbent Stephanie Gonley and a newcomer, Benjamin Marquise Gilmore.

A product of the Menuhin School, Ben, 28, lives in the Hague and plays in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.


The Paris hall campaigned for by the late composer will be named after him today.


Former music director Zubin Mehta, 80, has called in sick on three concerts next month with the New York Philharmonic.

Who’s free?

Why Manfred Honeck, who’s hanging around twiddling his baton while his musicians are locked out by the Pittsburgh Symphony.

A gesture of solidarity with the strikers might be timely.

manfred honeck


The energetic Kazushi Ono will become artistic director of the New National Theatre, Tokyo from 2018-2019.

He is also chief conductor of Opera de Lyon and music director of both Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Busy man, with an even busier agent.

kazushi ono

Ono was previously music director at La Monai, Brussels.