One of the more precarious pieces of Katharina Wagner casting has proved a risk too far.

The Festival announced today:

‘Roberto Alagna will not be singing the role of Lohengrin.

On 29 June 2018 the artist informed the festival through his agency: ‘Mr Alagna has to cancel the new production of Lohengrin because he wasn’t able to sufficiently study the part due to work overload.”

UPDATE: Bayreuth wants to sue Alagna.

UPDATE: Bayreuth cries: Lend us a tenor!


New on YouTube:

Liszt: Transcendental Etude in D-flat major, No.11 (Harmonies du Soir)

A live 1952 performance from the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, broadcast on Moscow Radio.

Stalin is still alive.

Gilels never recorded this piece.


From our quartet diarist Anthea Kreston:

Three concerts in three different worlds. The first – in Wroclaw (Breslau) Poland. I decided to drive myself there – as an American, our road trips are a fundamental part of our psyches – a chance to free-associate, blast the speakers (I chose Jeff Buckley and Beatles), eat ‘food’ we would never admit to eating, and take stock of our lives. As I drove, my arm wind-surfing out of the window, the large, single-crop fields, delineated by thin rows of trees – I could swear I was in Wisconsin – the only difference were the outlines of castles on the horizon instead of red barns.

As I drove into town, I was struck by the familiarity of the men – stalky, muscular, with t-shirts a teeny bit too tight, sunglasses, baseball hats, even a few faux-hawks and Chicago Bulls shirts. It was like walking in the suburbs of Chicago. I mentioned this to the guy behind the hotel desk, and he said – ‘You are from Chicago? We call Chicago our 17th state – third highest Polish population in the world.’

Next stop, upper Bavaria – to the summer residence of the Bavarian King Ludwig I, where I stayed on the grounds, inside a grand historic building. Out of my windows I looked directly down the perfectly manicured gardens, while the sounds of horse-drawn carriages drifted by. Here is a live web-cam link.

The glorious ballroom, with a chandelier bigger than my living room, had a traditional Bavarian painted ceiling. Yes, I ate spaetzel and drank a nice, big beer.

Final stop, Zurich, where I stayed in a very modern hotel, in an industrial section of town. The Tonhalle Maag is the temporary home of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich, and the acoustics are spectacular – it is a varnished spruce box placed inside a historic gear factory. The industrial cage is clearly visible – and the smell of freshly cut wood pervades the structure (the backstage is still very roughly constructed, with bald drywall and exposed wires).

Home now, I am settling back into my life, and woodshedding before our final recording block, before heading back for a glorious month in the States. Next week this time I will be in the Pacific Northwest, kicking back and enjoying absolutely everything and doing absolutely nothing.

Magnus Linberg was 60 this week. Esa-Pekka Salonen will cross that hurdle next June. Kaija Saariaho is 65.

Those guys once lit up the north with their Open Ears movement.

Where are they now?

Here’s a file of old newspaper pics.

From a review I have just written in the Wall Street Journal:

As a young radio journalist in Jerusalem in 1972, I would come off the night shift at 8 a.m. and go to breakfast at Café Alaska, where orchestral players were kvetching away the half-hour before rehearsal. As the musicians ­filtered out, the place filled up with black-gowned lawyers reading their briefs before court opened. Their seats, in turn, were taken by actors dropping in to read reviews and by frazzled mothers in need of a shot after leaving the kids at school. Café Alaska was not so much a place of refreshment as a carousel of human comedies spun around the noisy grinding of coffee beans and furnished with a rack of ­polyglot newspapers on the far wall.

The best cafes, I learned there, were the ones that the old-timers sighed over, the Herrenhof in Vienna, the ­Romanisches in Berlin and the Garden Cafeteria at 165 East Broadway, on New York’s Lower East Side, where Isaac ­Bashevis Singer weaved his tales. The best cafes, in other words, exist in a mist of ­aromatic memory to sustain our weakened civilization through cardboard slurps at Starbucks….

Read on here.

Radio 3 has chosen the six young artists it will promote over the next two years. They are:

Alessandro Fisher – UK, tenor

James Newby – UK, baritone


Facebook cover pic

Katharina Konradi – Krygyszstan, soprano

Anastasia Kobekina – Russia, cello

Elizabeth Brauss – Germany, piano

Aris Quartet – Germany

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

What are we to make of songs that were written for people to sing and play at home, when nobody plays at home anymore? The great canon of so-called ‘art song’ (horrible term) has shifted from the drawing room to the public stage and, in doing so, has lost something of its intended intimacy and improvisation. It seems to be that English song suffers more in this transition than French or German. All too often, in a concert setting, the singer feels obliged to pop a peach in his/her mouth for a declamatory purpose…..

Read on here.

And here.


This communication comes from Seattle Opera:

SEATTLE—When you think of the song, “Summertime,” perhaps you hear the elegant Ella Fitzgerald—or the earthy Janis Joplin—singing in your mind. But, while many great covers exist, there’s nothing like experiencing the song where “fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,” as Gershwin first wrote it: for the powerful voice of an opera singer. This August, come experience the origin of songs such as “Summertime,” and “I Loves You, Porgy” when Seattle Opera presents The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.

“Not only is the music in Porgy and Bess iconic, but this opera offers a rare and beautiful moment to see so many People of Color onstage,” said ChrisTiana ObeySumner, Social Impact Consultant for Seattle Opera. “As audience members, Porgy is an opportunity for us to celebrate the Black American experience, and to wrestle with aspects of America’s complicated racial history.”

Through lobby displays, program articles, and blog pieces, Seattle Opera will center Black narratives as it provides historical and cultural context for Porgy. Prior to the August performances, all are encouraged to attend Breaking Glass: Hyperlinking Opera & Issues, a free public forum on July 28 that will tackle issues of diversity, equity, and representation in a conversation led by arts leaders of color.


The culture minister Monika Grütters has secured a huge spending increase next year, upping the federal arts budget to 1.8 billion Euros.

Among other beneficiaries, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin opera houses will receive a one-off boost.

‘I am grateful for this signal of confidence in culture from members of parliament,’ said Grütters.

So are we.

The new production of Parsifal at the Munich Festival was greeted last night with vociferous booing.

photo: Wilfried Hösl

The hostility was targeted at Georg Baselitz’s stage design and at the director, Pierre Audi.

Kaufmann in the title role, with  Christian Gerhaher as Amfortas and Nina Stemme as Kundry, were loudly acclaimed, as was the conductor, Kirill Petrenko.


Tonight, La Scala will give its first performance of Bellini’s Il Pirata for 60 years.

Back in 1958, Antonino Votto conducted a truncated version with Maria Callas, Franco Corelli and Ettore Bastianini.

Imogene is one of three Callas roles that La Scala has never revived. The others are Medea – and Paolina in Donizetti’s Poliuto (but let’s not go there).

Tonight, Sonya Yoncheva will take the Callas role. Riccardo Frizza will conduct almost the complete score.

Stand by for reactions.

After a Carnegie Hall debut in 1942, Lonore Engdahl made several albums for MGM Records. She died on June 19, at home, near Boston.

Obit here.