Saturday, January 28, 2012
1) I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2) I wish I didn't work so hard.
3) I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4) I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends.
5) I wish that I'd let myself be happier.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
At Last a Glimmer of Common Sense!
Candidates Declare Super PAC Free Zone
January 24, 2012 by Michael Winship
As mentioned here a few days ago, campaign representatives for rival U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts were planning to meet to figure out a way to ban outside group advertising in their hotly contested election. The winner of that race could determine next year’s Senate majority
On Monday afternoon, the two candidates signed an agreement. Republican Scott Brown described it as a “bold statement that puts super PAC’s and other third parties on notice that their interference in this race will not be tolerated,” and Democrat Elizabeth Warren added, “Both campaigns will need to remain vigilant to ensure that outside groups do not try to circumvent what is an historic agreement.”
According to the congressional newspaper, The Hill, “The pact signed by Warren and Brown on Monday imposes a financial penalty whenever an outside group intrudes on the race. If an outside group places a television or Internet ad supporting a candidate, the candidate would be required to donate 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity of the opponent’s choosing within three days. Negative attack ads would also trigger the penalty, with the candidate whose rival is attacked being forced to forfeit half the cost. Also included in the accord are written requests signed by both candidates to broadcast station managers imploring them to voluntarily enforce the pledge.”
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post quotes the Public Campaign Action Fund’s David Donnelly: “It’s good for them, it’s good for voters, and it’s a good model for every competitive race in the county.”
The problem, of course, is enforcement, with Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC already attacking the deal as loophole-ridden and other groups taking a wait-and-see attitude. With the third party ads included, some have estimated that spending in the Warren-Brown contest could reach as high as $60-100 million."
The Brown/Warren contest has interesting origins fully in line with the bizarre brand of politics for which Massachusetts has become (in)famous. When Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat needed to be filled in 2010, Republican Brown ran against the state's tough and highly competent Attorney General, Democrat Martha Coakley. It didn't take long for Brown's centerfold, that had appeared in the June 1982 Cosmopolitan, to surface.
No particular damage was done to Brown's campaign as most people didn't hold a 22 year old's actions against him, to say nothing of the fact that a lot of women and men had no objection to the image itself (although I've always wondered, the state of societal prejudice being what it is, what the reaction would have been to a female candidate having appeared naked in a centerfold). But a lot of damage was done to Martha Coakley by herself; she ran a less than dynamic campaign, the general feeling being that she felt the Senate seat was a sure thing, hers by divine right as a Massachusetts Democrat.
So, Scott Brown took Teddy's seat and has surprised me on a number of occasions by behaving as a moderate in what is otherwise the Republican loony bin. Elizabeth Warren is a well thought of, Harvard Law Professor and bankruptcy expert who's had several books published on the economy and personal finance. One PAC ad has already hit her with completely untrue allegations about support for bail-outs, etc. It will be fascinating to see if these two can manage to keep their campaigns PAC-free.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
- Do you think that Romney's comments in the debate mentioned above really were "the dying gasps of the anti-equality Republican rhetoric"?
- Do you think that winning the Republican Primary in South Carolina will give Gingrich the push to win the nomination?
- How can the religious right and family values Republicans support a candidate, i.e. Gingrich, who has had two failed marriages because of infidelity and is currently on his third marriage?
"Titled “A Tribute to Horowitz,” the concert featured, at the great master’s beloved Steinway, Lola Astanova, a 26-year-old native of Uzbekistan who wore slinky, shimmery gowns; spike heels; and $850,000 in jewels borrowed from Tiffany, which sponsored the evening."
Ms. Astanova names Horowitz as her pianistic god. She prefers to play Eastern European music (ie. Slavic and mostly from the Romantic period). The Times review of the concert conceded her a good technique, though accompanied by melodramatic gestures at the keyboard such as ending a piece by flinging her arms high and backward over her head or clutching her bosom (perhaps in recognition of what a lot of men and some women in the audience might also like to be doing). She sometimes launches into or ends virtuosic works by grunting like a tennis play serving the ball.
Interestingly, the Times says that for all of her love of the Romantic piano literature, her playing often lacks feeling. Their final comment was that in a piano recital, a Chopin etude should shine brighter than the three quarters of a million dollars worth of diamonds the pianist is wearing.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
"Republican House leaders have delayed the vote on gay marriage, House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said yesterday. "The legislation will not be considered for a floor vote until February," Bettencourt said in an email. "We must deal with some critical financial and economic-related legislation first, as well as legislative redistricting, prior to any discussion of gay marriage," he said. "It's critical to keep to keep legislative priorities in their proper order." Bettencourt said in late December the House would most likely vote on the issue Jan. 11 or today."
Joe chased this with his own speculation that the Republicans know they don't have sufficient support to repeal marriage equality here, which could mean that Republican Representatives are well aware the population of this state has declared its opposition to repeal loud and clear. It is a very New Hampshire thing to listen to the voice of the people -- we'll see if this one works out that way.
Apparently there are some, yes. It was reported that a woman rose at a Rick Santorum gathering in South Carolina and launched into a fevered account of how the Obama administration has targeted the Tea Party for mass arrest and incarceration in camps fenced with razor wire. I shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing any more because the level of paranoia among the Republicans and their various followers has been extremely high, and because some of the Republicans themselves have advocated rounding up LGBT people and forcing them into camps of exactly the type this lady described.
What she described is not remotely possible, of course. But things have gone on in this Republican Primary campaign that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. As a former colleague used to say, "lunacy goes on."
From the New York Times comes word of an almost unprecedented labor negotiation in which, after bitterly adversarial confrontations, the musicians' unions agree to help in revitalizing the financially crippled New York City Opera.
New York City Opera Ratifies Agreement
By Daniel J. Wakin
New York City Opera's orchestra ratified a three-year contract on Thursday that provides for deep cuts but also a new labor-management committee to deal with fund-raising, planning and artistic matters. An agreement had been reached earlier this week ending a lockout and nearly a year of bitter negotiations. Tino Gagliardi, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra players, said in a statement that they agreed to “deep concessions” in hopes of raising City Opera “from the ashes.” The financially pressed company has moved out of its home at Lincoln Center to present a sharply reduced season in several theaters around New York.
The contract that's been ratified will give the union a hand in areas in which NYCO's Board of Directors has demonstrated significant incompetence. The company's current situation is chaotic; in the shortened season they're trying to mount, only about 10% of operating expenses can be covered by box office, an untenable position. Some people have asked why bother to save the almost 70 year old company -- why not just let it die?
NYCO occupies a special place in New York's performing arts history. Founded in 1943 by the city's dynamic Mayor Fiorello La Guardia specifically to be "the people's opera," NYCO's mission statement included charging popular prices for popular operas; but from the beginning, new and challenging pieces became part of the mix.
More significant socially, NYCO broke the color barrier in American opera production in 1945 when Todd Duncan (the original Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess) was engaged for leading dramatic baritone roles, followed the next year by the radiant soprano Camilla Williams -- both scored major successes with audience and critics. After them the floodgates opened as the company fully integrated, capped in 1949 by the premiere of the first opera by an African-American, William Grant Still's Troubled Island, to be premiered by a major American opera company.
Early in the game, American operas were welcomed by NYCO's audience and the company even mounted a season consisting entirely of American operas, including several premieres, in the early 1950s. There was critical acclaim; NYCO became the greatest advocate for American opera in the U.S., many of the works it produced becoming standards in the repertory.
The company's trajectory from those heady early days when it was on the cutting edge (if always somewhat in the shadow of the solidly established, highly prestigious Metropolitan Opera) to the disaster that has unfolded during the last two years of questionable artistic choices; the indefensible spending down of the endowment; and the engagement of a European General Manager who dumped the company before ever arriving the States but after he had used a lot of its money, was filled with truly distinguished achievements. Through it all, NYCO remained "the people's opera," launching hundreds of careers by American singers, continuing to present new and classic American works while bringing new European, South American and some Asian works to New York, and holding the line on prices at the popular level.
NYCO is far from out of the woods. It's broke. It left its home theater in Lincoln Center which it could no longer afford, it has to rebuild its Board almost entirely, it must establish the endowment from scratch all over again. But it has an agreement that will allow it to operate as a gypsy company in whatever venues it can afford, and it now has in the unions a collaborator, not an adversary.
However tenuous still, New York City Opera has a future.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I came to Boston in 1962 to begin theater design studies. The last generation of the classic Boston Brahmins was still very much in control of a lot of the culture, including the office of Censor. Yes, everything that was published, or books that were sold, or plays put on a stage in Boston went through the Censor’s office and changes that the Censor dictated were made or the work was banned.
The 60s and 70s saw a huge sea change in Boston culture. One by one, various taboos fell. The Censor was dismissed, partly as the result of a famous interaction with Edward Albee over the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf script. The "Banned in Boston" sticker no longer appeared on books, breaking the hearts of book retailers nationwide who knew it meant huge sales. Desegregation of the schools caused massive civil trauma, but remade the social, artistic and political order. Then the Blue Laws fell one by one--including some that had been on the books for close to three centuries.
More recently, the Catholic Priest pedophilia scandal severely undermined the Church’s ability to dictate local morals and mores, as well as quite a bit of local law. Through it all, Academia, an omnipresent and influential presence in Boston, galvanized the region and flooded it with a strong presence of young people, a large number of whom come to school here and then stay, spreading a liberal political bias. I am one of thousands in that regard.
When I arrived, Boston was a dreadful theater town. Other than the frequent pre-Broadway tryouts (which don't exist any more, with very rare exceptions), there were a few small, underfunded companies working out of difficult spaces and always on the brink of going under, which many did. Boston now has a goodly number of well-established and funded theater companies where excellent work is being done.
As for opera, Sarah Caldwell’s legendary Opera Company of Boston would still be with us had she been willing to trust competent professionals to run the business side of the operation which eventually collapsed in chaos. Caldwell's financial irresponsibility scared and angered the inner circle of Boston banking known colloquially as The Vault; its members retreated from arts funding for many years following their experience with brilliant but unruly Caldwell.
The Boston Lyric Opera, which developed out of Associate Artists Opera (for which I was the resident designer), has been around a long time and may well be the one company that could achieve permanence. The Boston University Opera Institute (founded by renowned soprano Phyllis Curtin) gives good productions of stimulating repertory and produces singers who have had significant careers. The two Conservatories (New England and Boston) also do highly respectable stage work. Emmanuel Music presents one 18th or 19th century opera in concert every year.
I currently design for Intermezzo, the New England Chamber Opera Series. We produce modern and brand new work (about 40% of what we do) in English, designed and directed like theatrical productions. An opera for which my husband and I wrote the libretto was premiered last May and we have a second libretto commissioned for production in 2013 or -14. There are several other small companies that do serious, well produced work.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
~The Nykredit site
Comparative maps posted by Good Morning America's handsome boyishly and high spirited Sam Champion have drawn amused comments for the shape of his snow cover area borders.
Sunday, January 08, 2012
We had the Republican pre-Primary debate last night here in New Hampshire. I'm a Democrat and have been driven even further into the Democratic camp by the lack of quality in the Republican candidates. I'm a gay man and certainly a large part of it is the homophobia of the Republicans and their huge retinue of Evangelical and Catholic support groups. Bottom line is that I'm sick and tired of being lied about and having my husband and friends lied about by people whose major weapon for many years now has been to place before the public one after the other horrific, generally invented, threat to America. It was (is) Liberals, Iraq, Feminism, non-Christians, Harry Potter, intellectuals, environmentalists, Europe and, through it all, men and women born gay and lesbian.
There was a brief section in the debate last night devoted to "social issues." Whoever was asked about gay rights said all the right tiptoe-around-the-subject things. None of them said the things they say in other contexts or the truly scabrous things their supporters say. Romney sleazed his way through it.
I thought Rick Perry completely shot himself in the foot by announcing that he would send the Armed Forces back into Iraq immediately on becoming president. Huntsman didn't make a breakthrough; the rest were as usual. New Hampshirites think very independently. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Primary vote Tuesday night -- or very possibly Wednesday morning.
Update: As of this (Monday) morning, the latest poll shows a whopping 56% of Republican voters have still not decided for whom to vote. Among those who have decided, Romney's leading with 41%. Paul has 17%. Huntsman and Santorum are tied in third place far behind Romney at 11% each, and Gingrich has 8%. The Santorum and Gingrich "surges" may be derailed here. Perry's in the basement -- 1% -- I don't think anybody wants to see American men and women back in Iraq.
Monday, January 02, 2012
I know the answer, of course, but I deplore it.
Just before Christmas, a relatively short and stark press release appeared in the Boston Globe and on it's website, Boston.com. Opera Boston was joining a frighteningly large number of excellent regional opera companies in closing down. Operations ceased as of January 1, 2012.
The chill of shock that ran through all of the Company's fans whom I know is still with us. The company was a great resource to the true opera lover, one who, like me, embraced the art form whole from Monteverdi to what was written last week. Yes, some production concepts failed but the risk had been taken and risk in the arts is essential to their progress. I think the audience here understood that -- Boston is a musically very sophisticated town, and its opera lovers still speak of Sarah Caldwell's repertory exploration as a golden age, no matter how chaotically organized and chronically indebted her company was.
Along with traditional productions, OB mounted many updated and re-investigated text productions that were visually stimulating and theatrically exciting. When the first body in Kurt Weill's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny was picked up and almost casually tossed in the dumpster on stage right, I remember saying to myself, "they got it absolutely right." And when the great mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe took over the stage as Offenbach's La Grande Duchess de Gerolstein in a series of sumptuous period costumes and sets, the audience was dazzled.
There's little doubt in my mind that Boston's other major opera company, Boston Lyric Opera, was jolted out of its standard repertory complacency by OB's adventurous repertory choices. In my opinion, which is shared by a good number of others, Boston Lyric's current, wider approach to repertory, and their new series of contemporary works done in appropriate venues all around the city, would not have happened if not for Opera Boston's success. And OB trumped the MET in New York by a year in presenting Shostakovich's musically and satirically brilliant The Nose.
Some information has seeped out about the contentious Board of Directors meeting that ended with the closure of the company. The decision to pull the plug on OB was apparently violently opposed by many on the Board. The financial problems of the company which were revealed are telling: after the inspired seven and a half year leadership of general manager Carole Charnow, the company was running a relatively modest deficit of just over $200,000. In just six months of the new general manager, Leslie Koenig's administration, that deficit rose to $750,000.
There seems to have been some disorganization attendant on the precipitous announcement released to the press immediately after the decision was reached. Nobody apparently thought to contact the cast, designers and director of the upcoming and highly anticipated Boston premiere of Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage -- they learned that they were out of their jobs from the press announcement like everybody else. At the very least, that's a breach of professional courtesy. Subscribers have not yet received any letter informing us of the closure (we assume, of course, that there will be no reimbursement for our money spent on tickets for the canceled part of the season) -- we know only what we get from the press.
I hope that the company might be reorganized financially and revived, something called for urgently in the Boston Globe's editorial on the closing, which concluded with, "It's nothing short of a tragedy for the city that such a cultural institution could be dissolved with so little transparency -- and without a fight."
Any way you look at it, this is all very bad news for music and opera in Boston.