After the Angela Gheorghiu debacle two months ago, a second international singer has withdrawn from the Teatro Colon.

The Argentine Marcelo Alvarez was due to sing Andrea Chenier in December.

He had agreed to arrive ten days beforehand for rehearsal. The new Colon artistic director Enrique Diemecke demanded more.

So Marcelo now says he’s not coming.

We have received this message from a member of the opera chorus:

“We, the state employees of the Municipal theatre, are collecting non-perishable food to distribute to the functionaries of the opera house who are in a situation of total penury due to the successive delays in payment of their salaries. Foods can be delivered on the days of performances…..

On Tuesday, May 1, at 5 PM, we will have a presentation of the opera Norma at popular prices – all sections will be for sale at the price of 10 reais [£2.5], this performance will take place through the dedication and effort of the employees of the foundation whose salaries are already two months delayed, and very close to three months delayed. Please distribute.

Nunca imaginei que fossemos chegar a esse ponto, mas infelizmente chegamos. Nós, servidores estaduais do Theatro Municipal, estamos arrecadando alimentos não perecíveis para distribuir aos funcionários da casa que estão em situação de total penúria devido as sucessivos atrasos no pagamento dos seus vencimentos. Os alimentos podem ser entregues em dias de espetáculos, na entrada principal ou na varanda lateral da Av.Treze de Maio.

Ou em horário comercial , na portaria da Av. Almirante Barroso. Na próxima segunda feira, dia primeiro de maio, às 17:00 hs, teremos a apresentação da ópera Norma a preços populares – todos os setores serão vendidos ao preço de 10 reais, essa apresentação acontecerá pela dedicação e esforço dos servidores da fundação que já estão com duas folhas salariais em atraso e chegando bem próximo da terceira. Peço que divulguem. (Copiar e colar)

Sixteen people are reported to have drowned when a refugee ship sank last week off the Greek island of Lesbos.

The Turkish newspaper Gazeta Manifesto reports:

On board the ship was also a young Turkish violinist – Barış Yazgı, 22 years old, born in Siirt – who wanted to go to Belgium – where his brother lives – to study music. His dead body was found hugging a violin box. Inside his violin box he carried his instrument as well as handwritten compositions.

More here. 

Here’s video of Baris playing (at the right) with a Turkish ensemble.

UPDATE: This never-ending tragedy off our shores.

William M. Hoffman, librettist of John Corigliano’s opera The Ghosts of Versailles, has died aged 78.

The opera, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in 1980, was staged in 1991 for seven nights, all of them sold out. The cast included Teresa Stratas, Renée Fleming and Marilyn Horne.

Subsequent runs were seen at Chicago, St Louis, Los Angeles and Wolf Trap. The Met booked a revival for 2010 but cancelled after the 2008 crash and has never rescheduled it since.

Hoffman won earlier renown for a Broadway play, As Is, recounting a gay man’s life during the Aids era.


We have been alerted to some social-media discontent in New Zealand over the appointment of Sir James MacMillan as conductor of the 2017 NZSO National Youth Orchestra.

Here’s a prominent sample:

I’m writing to express my concern and disappointment at the appointment of Sir James MacMillan as conductor of the 2017 NZSO National Youth Orchestra.

Regardless of his perceived qualities as a conductor and/or composer, his role with the NYO is primarily an educational one, to foster the talents of our young instrumentalists and composers. I would contend that his extreme conservative viewpoints – anti-secularist, anti-feminist, homophobic, islamophobic, misogynistic – make him unsuitable to be teaching and leading a large group of young people in a government-funded institution. I believe the NZSO has social responsibilities as well as musical ones….

Although some of his offending tweets have been deleted, James MacMillan’s twitter account is still a source of enthusiastic, radical conservatism….Many retweets of Roger Scruton articles, including his “Becoming a Family” which aggressively advocates for a return to traditional gender roles.

The letter is signed by Alex Taylor, a former composer-in-residence with the youth orchestra. Read the full text here.


The Times today exposes the identity of a British spy at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Pual Dukes, from Bridgewater in Somerset, went to Russia just before the First World War to study music and get work as a pianist. But he was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service to infiltrate the Communist movement.

The Times report, cobbled together from press material for a British Library exhibition, inspires little confidence once it informs us that Dukes went to Moscow to work at the Mariinsky.

More reliable accounts can be found here and, fascinatingly, here. Dukes once told the BBC he wanted to be an orchestral conductor and had worked for two years as assistant to the Mariinsky’s chief conductor Albert Coates.

Mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, 24, a student at Juilliard, has won the $10,000 first prize at the annual Dallas Opera vocal guild competition.

Ahmed al-Khatib, chairman of the kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority, Ahmed al-Khatib, has told Reuters he expects to open several cinemas and an opera house in the coming years.

The last cinemas were shut 40 years ago under religious pressure, but the entertainment authority has been charged with creating western-style diversions at home to stop Saudis squandering their wealth in London and New York.





A livewire on the London scene, Olga Hegedus was one of the founders of the Goldsborough Orchestra which evolved into the English Chamber Orchestra. She shared principal cello duties with Charles Tunnell and worked happily with the ECO’s group of young artists – Barenboim, Ashkenazy, Zukerman and more.


A student of Pierre Fournier, she was active as a chamber musician and played in many premieres.

Olga was born in London on 18 October 1920 and died there on 22 April 2017.

Olga (centre) in 1979, between Quintin Ballardie and Prince Charles.

Photo (c) Anthony Woodhouse/ECO

The authorities in Caracas have ordered musicians of the El Sistema orchestra to come out and march on May 1 in support of the Maduro government.



Various musicians have told foreign contacts about threats they have received if they do not turn out as propaganda soldiers.

Last week, the Sistema conductor Gustavo Dudamel called on Venezuela’s politicians to reach a peaceful solution.

No sign of that on the streets today.


Eduard Brunner, a Swiss international soloist who was for thirty years principal clarinet of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, has died in Munich.

Many composers wrote for him, among them Edison Denisov, Helmut Lachenmann and Isang Yun.

June LeBell, New York’s first woman presenter on a commercial classical station, has died of ovarian cancer on her 73rd birthday.

She was frontline cultural interviewer on WQXR, conducting five to ten interviews a week. She moved later to WSMR.

Her husband posted:

About 7;00 this evening June lost her final battle with ovarian cancer, which had been going on for almost 5 years. She was June til the very end , and it was a peaceful passing. There will be a funeral service and reception soon in Sarasota and a memorial service and reception at Marble Collegiate church in NYC. I’ll post all the details as soon as I know them

June was a truly remarkable human being, talented, loving and gifted beyond belief in so many ways. We will all miss her very much. Yesterday was her 73rd birthday and tomorrow is our 8th wedding anniversary. Elegant timing as always.

My thoughts go out to all of you who will also miss her so very much.

Rest in peace, my dear beloved June. Angels are greeting you even now.

Edward Alley