Earlier tonight at la Scala, the performance -- in concert form -- of "Fidelio": the Wiener Staatsoper conducted by Franz Welser-Möst and the cast (led by Peter Seiffert and Nina Stemme), enjoyed a massive, 10-minute ovation by the audience.
CGIL and UIL unions at Scala have declared a strike for 9/9: the one-shot "Fidelio" concert conducted by Franz Welser-Moest (with Markus Marquardt, Albert Dohmen, Peter Seiffert and Nina Stemme) will not happen.
Remember the sad case of Don Rosenberg, the classical music critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who kept panning Franz Welser Moest until he got "reassigned" and his editor , Susan Goldberg, assigned someone else to cover the Cleveland Orchestra?
The suit charges that the editor and orchestra officials
conspired "maliciously, intentionally, willfully, unlawfully ...
retalitorily ..." to remove the critic from his duties. In fascinating
detail, the suit lays out a scenario that begins with an article by Don
that appeared in the Plain Dealer in August 2004 reporting on
an interview Cleveland Orchestra music director Franz Welser-Most had
given to a Swiss magazine. In that interview, the conductor was quoted
making some cutting remarks about Cleveland's provinicialism, its
audience of "blue hair ladies," and the "rich widows" needed to fund
the arts. Welser-Most also was quoted as favoring a system of charging
money to get an audience with him (it sounds rather like something that
Illinois Gov. Blagojevich might have thought up) -- more than
$5,000 before the donor would get a handshake, but, for $10 million,
"of course, you go to dinner."
"I was just being a dutiful
reporter," Don said today. But once those comments hit the Cleveland
paper, orchestra officials reacted angrily; the suit alleges that the
p.r. director told Don he would suffer "consequences." The suit goes on
to describe efforts over the next few years to "besmirch Plaintiff's
reputation as a music critic"; various meetings held between orchestra
administrators and the paper's editor to discuss critical coverage of
Welser-Most; the supression of an article Don wrote and another he
planned to write that would have contained negative assessments of
Welser-Most's tenure at the orchestra; and, finally, in September, the
demotion to arts and entertainment reporter.
Now that, as OC wrote last Friday, Don Rosenberg has been "reassigned", *wink wink nudge nudge*, and he won't cover the Cleveland Orchestra again, because he's a meanie, the paper is free to hail the new boss (aka Franz Welser Möst, who is also the old boss, only Rosenberg didn't care).
"Tonight at Severance Hall, as the applause dies down and the audience
takes a collective breath, a tall, slender Austrian will walk to the
podium and lift his baton to begin the next decade in the history of
the Cleveland Orchestra."
But then, if one is fascinated by big batons (and by those tall slender Austrians who wave the batons), more power to them! Especially if the same tall slender Austrians are friends with your boss!
One of the very few hilarious things that happened re: the whole mess, is that some people in the US seem to be under the impression that everytime Frankly Worse Than Möst took his orchestra over to Europe, critics had a tendency to cheer like crazy, unlike gloomy old Don Rosenberg back in Ohio.
Let's hear it from august Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading, most authoritative daily newspaper:
"Franz Welser-Möst, at present time the music director, doesn't unleash the horsepower, as they say in the slang of auto racing. A good, solid conductor who comes in prepared. Maybe one day he'll be as authoritative as Jansons. But he conducts Bruckner's Ninth fastidiously, without even approaching the metaphysical heights of this convoluted masterpiece. To have such a work preceded in the program by a barely cute work such as the Suite from Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès is simply ridiculous."
"The disappointing one is Franz Welser-Möst,
young music director of the Swiss theater. Flashy debut, as it has become tradition, then a long hiatus to study and analyze, then the comeback as more reliable conductor on the podium of important orchestras (in Cleveland, too) where his qualities can emerge. Such is his resume. But in Zurich he conducts a routine, generic Figaro: singers and orchestra proceed side by side, but from him much more is required."
How do you say "meh" in Italian?
Anyway, reader's request: if you're in Cleveland, print this out, make some stickers, t-shirts, whatevs. You have OC's permission. Thus spake Opera Chic. You may go now.
"Don Rosenberg, music critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer
for 16 years, was told yesterday by the paper's editor that he will no
longer be covering the famed Cleveland Orchestra. He has been given the
option of reviewing other musical events in town, as well as dance.
Another writer at the paper, Zack Lewis, was told he will now be
orchestra's reviewer." ... "Don's musical background is as good as it gets, his evaluations
reasoned and sensitive. He has covered the Cleveland Orchestra for
nearly three decades (including a stint with another area paper), and
he's the author of the definitive book about that orchestra. So what
did he do wrong? He has questioned, more than once, the sanctity of the
Cleveland Orchestra's music director, Franz Welser-Möst, who started in
2002 and has had his contract renewed a couple times, the last
extension taking him all the way to 2018. Don has
judged that Welser-Möst is lacking in certain abilities in certain
repertoire, that he doesn't necessarily get the best out of music
or the eminent ensemble. Yet, Don is also the first to admire what the
conductor does best, as was the case a few months ago after
a performance of Dvorak's Rusalka."
You know, there are videogame websites run by preteens that operate with more professionalism than that.
And the otherwise glorious Cleveland Orchestra might want to concentrate more on, like, playing better, maybe under a better conductor, than lobbying for the near-dismissal of a critic who simply doesn't cave in to the marketing line.
It's not just Rosenberg: many critics do indeed think that FWM is, at best, hit-and-miss. Face it. It's not like Rosenberg gave FWM the nickname "Worse Than Möst". It was musicians. In London.
Or, in Mr. Smith's words:
Plain Dealer has clearly caved into pressure from a faction
representing the orchestra and the man on its podium. By silencing Don,
those myopic folks must think they've achieved a great victory. They
haven't. They've made a venerable newspaper look cheap and act
cowardly. They've made a sterling orchestra look a little less so."
Listeners aren't always aware of these discrepancies, but the Cleveland Orchestra's audience Thursday at Severance Hall was abuzz at intermission about the two interruptions during the last movement of Alban Berg's Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin and 13 Wind Instruments.
The piece was moving along when everything suddenly collapsed and music director Franz Welser-Möst uttered, "Sorry." He took the ensemble back a bunch of bars and tried again, to no better effect.