Friday, February 12, 2010

The extended run of brilliant winter days that we’ve had since the last big storm has allowed us to do some outdoor work and has also meant a bonanza for electric production. During the first eleven days of February, we’ve had four that registered over 10 kilowatts, two over 9 and two over 8. The remaining three were between 1 and 6 without any days at 0, which happened several times in January.

One of the things we did was to hang a new bird feeder from one of our overhangs where squirrels can’t get at it. We found it while cleaning out the pantry down at Fritz’s old house. I spent a couple of seconds trying to decide whether I thought it was kitsch or folk art, coming down on the side of the latter along with a healthy dose of “what the hell.”

The feeder is meant to take oranges in particular. It was missing the dowel that holds the orange half in place but that was very easy to supply. It went up yesterday; the birds haven’t found it yet (Fritz says that the color red is supposed to attract them) but since it’s in a triangular formation with the standing seed feeder and the tree-mounted suet feeder -– and highly visible from both – it shouldn’t be long.

We have a goldfinch that is a regular diner at the seed feeder. He came in December with his winter coloration, a very pale grayish yellow, but is now developing a much stronger yellow for the coming spring. He’s the smallest of our regulars, even smaller than the chickadees, but I noticed this morning that when he’s in the feeder, no other birds will land there. The nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees will all share the feeder with each other, but they all approached the feeder and veered off when they found the goldfinch standing there. And the little guy stayed a long time, even when he wasn’t eating he just hung out, looked around and seemed to enjoy his status as he who must be left alone. Animal psychology is always fascinating to watch.


The amount of space being allotted to arts coverage in the newspapers that remain in publication has been shrinking seriously in the last several years. As this trend has increased, the number of truly literate, quality reviewers has shrunk as well, leading to a steeply downward spiral of fewer reviews and less arts coverage by fewer and less interesting, musically literate writers.

Photograph by Matthew Worden from

There are some exceptions: the remarkable and truly great Alex Ross, as well as Martin Bernheimer and Anne Midgette. It was good news, then, when Ms. Midgette joined the Washington Post and began a blog on the paper’s site to expand the reach of her print work. She does not limit herself to musical events in D.C. and environs, nor does she have to given the expanded reach of the blog.

Since the lifeblood of any art is new work, no matter that there’s almost always resistance to change and the advent of new styles, she recently took a look at how the production of new operas by Americans is faring in the current economy. While some companies have gone under, others are struggling, and still others have retreated to tried and true warhorses, it turns out that a fair amount of new work has been commissioned and is being prepared for performance:

New American opera
By Anne Midgette | January 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET

For all of the effects of the recession, I'm impressed at the number of mainstage world premieres that are coming up in 2010 and 2011. So here, for the record, is a continuation of the informal list that began in the blog comments a few days ago, which I'll keep adding to as information comes in.

Madame White Snake by Zhou Long at Opera Boston (February 26, 28, March 2, 2010)
[I'm seeing it March 2. Madame White Snake travels to Beijing in October]

Elmer Gantry by Robert Aldridge at Florentine Opera (March 19, 21, 2010) (not a world premiere)

Shadowboxer by Frank Proto at Maryland Opera Studio/Clarice Smith Center (April 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 2010)

Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie at the Dallas Opera (April 30, May 5, 8, 13, 16, 2010)

Amelia by Daron Aric Hagon at the Seattle Opera (May 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 2010)

Before Night Falls by Jorge Martin at the Fort Worth Opera (May 29, June 6, 2010)

The Golden Ticket by Peter Ash at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (June 12, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26)

Life is a Dream by Lewis Spratlan at the Santa Fe Opera (July 24, 28, August 6, 12, 19)

Il Postino by Daniel Catán at the Los Angeles Opera (September 23, 29, October 2, 5, 9, 16)

Rio de Sangre by Don Davis at the Florentine Opera (October 22, 23, 24, 2010).

Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Ricky Ian Gordon at the Minnesota Opera (2010-11 season: April 16, 17, 19, 21 and 23, 2011).

And speaking of new American opera, I want to know when the Metropolitan Opera is going to get around to announcing some actual dates for performances of the commissioning program it announced back in 2006. Of the works then announced -- four years ago now; plenty of time to write an opera -- Rufus Wainwright's was already rejected by the program and performed last year in Manchester, UK; now, Nico Muhly's Two Boys, a later addition to the roster that was supposed to be a co-production with the Met, has been announced in print for ENO in 2011. Any Met dates for that? And what about all those other new operas we were promised? I'm sure the resonating silence on this topic is a symptom of recession woes; I wonder if they'll manage to evade those questions yet again at this year's season announcement.

Midgette is dealing here with major companies only. Smaller companies, like Intermezzo in Boston for which I design, premiere new work all the time. We not only present new work but we commission it. The next new opera we will produce is in preparation now.

Reading through the titles Midgette lists is revealing. The major source for new operas used to be overwhelmingly from plays, but also novels, legend and myth (most of Wagner), sometimes a major poem (Verdi's Il Corsaro from Byron) or original ideas (Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos; Wagner's Die Meistersinger). Many of the new operas these days come from movies. Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking is an outstanding example and there are a couple on Midgette's list.

Oh, to be able to fly all over the country to see some of these!


I do so love feed the birds...& if it stops the squirrels I don't care what it looks like (well, I would care somewhat).

I going to Cossi Fon Tutti at Portland Opera on Sunday...perfect for VD Day?
If, perhaps, a somewhat ironic "sadder but wiser" kind of Valentine!
This weather is deceptive. I just know we're still gonna get clobbered before it's all over. The sign really cracked me up this morning. The pipes. Yeah right.
Oh, yes--when I lived in Boston I can remember getting really slammed as late as early April; one ice storm left me without power for four days, a very unpleasant April Fool.
Oddly enough, the Muhly-Lucas project was announced in the Times today! ("A rough draft of the opera is complete, Mr Gelb said, and will be fine-tuned in further workshops.") We only have to wait until 2013 to see it...
Peter Gelb is probably anxious to announce ASAP that one of the hoped-for commissions is going to come through. Rufus's opera was rejected and a couple of others are in limbo at this point.

I've listened to some of Nico's music on YouTube. I wasn't immediately captivated but it does have its own profile. I'll look forward to hearing it and make up my mind then--too many others have already declared to be trash in advance.
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