‘Friends, we have been silent for a long time, it was a time of realization, acceptance and grief, but the importance of the common cause for which we have gathered together, common cause launched by Dmitri during his life, and a great responsibility for the destinies of children, motivates us to continue this mission. The goal is to create a civic social responsibility for the most vulnerable, helpless members of society – our children, for whom it is especially difficult.
‘We will ask for help from our friends and we will share what we have – communication through talent and creativity.
‘To form, through artistic events and relationships with extraordinary figures in the world of culture and art, a civil, friendly environment in which the suffering of children would occur less. We are proud to announce the first concert in Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s memory in his homeland, in Krasnoyarsk. It will be held on August 26, on Peace Square. We are waiting for you, friends, and we invite you to take part in the preparations for this event.’
The yellow label has just signed Sergei Babayan, Martha Argerich’s go-to four-hand partner and Daniil Trifonov’s US teacher.
Babayan, 57, is Armenian-American, a contemplative man who will not have much to do with media hype.
His signing is an industry coup.
In the first of her summer reflections, our quartet diarist Anthea Kreston describes how she had to fight the classical establishment in order to get time off to start a family. Those who know Anthea will be aware that nothing would stop her doing what she thinks it right, but we’ve heard of others who gave up having a family – or a classical career – because a manager said you can;t have both.
Here’s Anthea’s column. Let us know if her experience resonates with yours.
This week I have returned to being a mom. Lead parent, stay-at-home, laundry folding, dish-washing, jogging pants and lunch-making mom. As I sit across from my two kids (age 6 and 8), planning the next craft activity or dish for tonight’s potluck, I realize how lucky and courageous I was to take a step back from my career nine years ago and have kids.
Not that it was easy. We tried for years, went through two years of the adoption process after things were looking not good (because I was an unmarried atheist, the adoption options were thin and also shockingly expensive). We ended up finding a small Jewish agency in New Haven. But, as you hear about, with minimal invasiveness (I was unwilling to give myself daily shots in the stomach or spend $10,000 per month supercharging my uncooperative body), finally an embryo clung on for long enough to eventually turn into Baby Number 1.
And, being a super-competitive person (no one can get into Curtis without being almost insanely competitive and brutally hard-working), I had decided that I didn’t need to modify my touring schedule. I thought – Jason is with me, how hard can it be? Not to mention that my manager at the time was very clear that he was very unhappy that I was having a child, that the presenters should in no way even get a whiff that there was a child, I should leave the baby with a neighbour when I went on tour, and how insensitive I had been to get pregnant with a due date right in the middle of the prime concert season (why hadn’t I timed it so I would give birth between mid December and early February? Having an October due date was so selfish). My god – it had taken so long and had been so difficult to get to this point, and now I was getting the sense that this was just the beginning of a whole new world of navigating my life and career.
I performed until 2 weeks before I gave birth, and had a Trio date two weeks after the birth. I was on bed rest for 3 weeks after I have birth, with a natural birth that required many stitches, and our manager told me it couldn’t really be that bad – I could stand to perform, and Jason could drive us the 4 hours to the concert. I got a violin substitute for that one concert, but after that, hit the road just like I used to. By the time our baby was 6 months old, she had been to 25 states (many multiple times), and I knew to travel with more than one Vera Wang dress because of the possibility of my milk letting down during a performance, or a breast-feeding snafu during intermission. Performing on insufficient sleep, with swollen joints and handing my infant to a new stranger every day (who I had interviewed in advance, with an online service which provided background checks) was all worth it. I was lucky. So lucky.
I realized that I wanted to have a second child pretty early – and that this blueprint wouldn’t be sustainable with two kids. So, I told Jason we were going to put our house on the market in Connecticut, give up our university jobs, and move to a small town in Oregon so I could do this properly. I had two years of income saved as a buffer, our manager told me my career was finished – and slammed the door. He said, once you get off the conveyor belt, you can’t get back on. With one child it is possible, but two won’t work.
Jason told me he would quit Trio, that we could find another cellist and I could continue touring. I wouldn’t hear of it. We decided instead to put trio on the back burner – I would rather play 5 concerts a year with Jason then 45 with someone else.
When I look around me, at women in classical music, there is a noticeable curve. If you have a teaching position or orchestra job, you probably have a family (I am in no way saying that people should have kids, or get married/partnered, or that one path trumps another). If you have a chamber music career, your statistics take a huge nose-dive. The prime career-building years are the prime-fertility years. A soloist? Very rare. Very very rare. If you are super famous, it is possible, but a medium-famous female soloist? Hard to find a partner, harder even than that to be able to have a child (forget about two).
So – I know I am lucky. I also took a huge risk, have a partner who is my equal, and knew that if I never played again, I had enough other passions and interests to sustain me intellectually. My advice? Don’t be afraid of that manager, don’t be afraid of taking a chance, do what you want, follow your gut, and you will live a life free of regret.
Hard to describe my happiness to see that Goldschmidt’s opera Beatrice Cenci opened the Bregenz Festival last night.
A refugee from Nazi Berlin, Berthold lived in obscurity in London for half a century, gaining recognition in the late 1980s as one of the most interesting composers of his time and seeing all of his works appear on commercial record labels.
That recognition has not penetrated the British operatic establishment and Cenci has never been staged here.
But Bregenz has done it and others will follow because it is a work of high quality and contemporary relevance.
I wish I was there to see it.
Covent Garden has signed up to a campaign to end the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.
We want the Royal Opera House to be a great place to work with a safe, inclusive and productive culture. Everyone who works with us should feel supported and able to express themselves. Signing the Employer Pledge is a step towards creating an environment free of stigma for those living with mental health issues or supporting those who do.
We are committed to ending stigma around mental health. We will be holding awareness events and training mental health champions to break down the barriers surrounding mental health.
We will actively seek new and innovative ways to make sure every employees’ and artists’ mental wellbeing is looked after.
The House of Representatives yesterday massively voted down a proposal to cut funds for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by 15%.
The vote was 297-114.
The White House meanwhile named a Florida political fixer, Mary Anne Carter, as acting chair of the NEA.
Carter (pic) served on Trump’s inauguration committee and raised funds for him in Florida.
She replaces Jane Chu who got out after successfully heading off the first Trump onslaught on arts funding.
Kirill Serebrennikov, the international opera director whose criticism annoyed the Putin regime, has been under house arrest since August 2017 on trumped-up charges of embezzlement.
Yesterday, at a custody hearing, his house arrest was extended by another month.
Serebrennikov told the court that, as an artistic director, he had nothing to do with finances. ‘Everything we have read in this case explicitly confirms that what is happening is absolute nonsense,’ he said.
Kafka could have written the script.
The Baden Baden Festival has let it be known that Anna Netrebko and Yusif Evyazov have pulled out of Adriana Lecouvreur with an attack of norovirus. They are, says the festival, ‘obliged to spend the next few days in quarantine with their family.’
The two performances, billed as the German premiere of last year’s Mariinsky production, will go ahead with Russia-based replacements – soprano Tatiana Serjan and tenor Migran Agadzhanyan, both recruited by the conductor Valery Gergiev.
There will be no ticket refunds.
Norovirus causes diarrhoea and vomiting.
The conductor, 89, has retired to a 1,000 square-foot one-bed apartment on the 12th storey of East 63rd Street.
At age 50, Piotr Beczala is one of the biggest opera stars, performs on the world’s biggest stages as a lyric tenor, and counts Anna Netrebko among his circle of friends. He modestly attributes his success to his wife Katarzyna, a fellow Pole who gave up her own opera singing career for him. An interview with the two on the power of love, the strengths of taking it slow, and why Mrs. Beczala dreams of goats….
Katarzyna Bak-Beczala: It’s important to mention that I was also a singer. I gave up my career for Piotr. It was easy for me, because I am still working in art through him. I sing with him, I breathe with him and – of course – I criticize him, too. Singers can’t hear themselves. Piotr also knows that I only say something if I’m sure that he can do better.
Piotr Beczala: She always goes for the jugular and ends up saying too much. Then I just go.
Katarzyna Bak-Beczala: He always thinks that, and he always says that. But I have to say, we’ve been married for 26 years now and I’m still learning how to speak to him. It’s the hardest thing, because I know that every artist is, shall we say, very sensitive. I need to wait for the right moment and find the right words to reach him. I don’t want to hurt him, of course.
Piotr Beczala: Thank God I’m a half-decent singer… (laughing)