Foundation Toscanini has issued a touching statement on soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, who passed away at 86 earlier this week. The Parma-based foundation's president Maurizio Roi recalled an evening with Vishnevskaya's husband, the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, and dedicated it to the couple's Moscow-based children, Olga and Elena.
La Fondazione Arturo Toscanini esprime il suo cordoglio per la scomparsa del soprano Galina Veshneskaya, erede e interprete della somma tradizione musicale russa e paladina dei diritti dell’infanzia, cui dedicò un lungo e appassionato impegno. Nell’inviare le condoglianze alle figlie Olga e Elena Rostropovic a Mosca, il presidente Maurizio Roi ha ricordato suo marito Mstislav Rostropovic e il suo ultimo concerto a Parma tenutosi nel gennaio 2006, quando diresse al Teatro Regio la Filarmonica Toscanini nella Sinfonia Leningrado di Šostakovic, nel centenario della sua nascita. “Mi ero da poco insediato alla Toscanini – racconta Roi – e quella fu l’occasione nella quale conobbi personalmente il Maestro Rostropovic. Fu una serata affascinante, che si concluse con una cena indimenticabile trascorsa a parlare di musica. Rostropovic dava del tu alla storia della musica”.
Arturo Toscanini Foundation expresses its condolences for the passing of soprano Galina Veshneskaya, heir and interpreter of the complete sum of Russian musical tradition and an advocate of children's rights, in which she was a long-time and passionate advocate. Sending condonlences to the daughters Olga and Elena Rostropovic in Moscow, president Maurizio Roi remembers her husband Mstislav Rostropovic and his last concert in Parma that took place in Jannuary 2006, when he conducted the Filarmonica Toscanini at the Teatro Regio in Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony on teh centenary of his birth. Recalls Roi: "I had been at Toscanini Foundation for a short while and that's when I personally had the chance to meet Maestro Rostropovich. It was a captivating evening, which ended with an unforgettable dinner spent talking about music. Rostropovich gave to you the history of the music."
A free performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony will be held at Avery Fisher Hall with soprano Dorothea Röschmann and mezzo Michelle DeYoung. The September 10th evening concert will be broadcast on the radio and on screens in Lincoln Center Plaza.
We only hope that seats will first go to those who were involved directly in the aftermath of the trauma of September 11.
Tomorrow evening Lorin Maazel bears witness to the traumatic events of September 11, 2001 in a gala concert at Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica. He'll be conducting a performance of the massive, achingly spiritual, gorgeously sustained Brahms' German Requiem with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana and the chorus of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (and soloists soprano Jeanine De Bique and bariton Paul LaRosa). The concert can be heard live on Rai Radio 3 on September 11 at 8:30pm (Italian time).
This Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of LucianoPavarotti'sdeath, and in remembrance, Modena is preparing for a weekend of tributes. The culmination will be a free, outdoor concert at 9:15pm in Piazza Grande, the same piazza where mourners paid their respects to The Notorious P.A.V. two years prior. Titled “Pavarotti nel cuore”, the concert will contain works by Donizetti, Giordano, Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, and Saint-Saens. The soloists were all former students of Pavarotti (or Raina Kabaivanska) and winners of the Modena-based Pavarotti International Voice Competitions.
Julius Shulman, one of America's greatest artists, died yesterday in Los Angeles. If you care about architecture, and/or about photography, this is a major, major loss: no photographer has better understood architecture -- especially his beloved Modernism. And even if oddly-shaped, Space-Age, glass-and-air buildings aren't your thing, his talent as a photographer, his eye for lines and details and beauty just soars -- he's the Michelangelo of architectural photography.
Some of his clients? Neutra,
Schindler, Ain, Wright, Eames, Soriano, Lautner, Saarinen, Frey, Koenig...
His obituary is here, a photo gallery is here.
His archive will rest at the Getty -- high above L.A., surrounded by the blinding light he spent his working life in, great art all around him, only the cloudless smoggy sky above him.
He wasn't technically a singer, as far as we know, but he certainly had one of the most recognizable voices of the last 25 years, if you're American. We now mourn the passing of awesome bass Don LaFontaine who really cranked up the awesome the way we wish opera singers would always do.
(above: photograph of Grigolo by Laurent Guiraud. Sauce.)
Our proclaimed heartthrob tenor, Vittorio Grigolo, could be sipping Cristal & Ribena with Kanye and Common this weekend in dat killa Chi.
The young Italian singer (and Harley Davidson owner/rider) is scheduled to appear in a Luciano Pavarotti Tribute Concert tomorrow night, July 26, live from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Milennium Park.
The tribute is homage to the late Pavarotti's legacy and is part of Chicago's Grant Park 2008 Music Festival. He'll be singing opera arias, Neapolitan songs, and popera songs from his debut CD, Vittorio. He appears with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alberto Meoli and Mexican soprano Olivia Gorra.
The awesomely delicious 98.7 WFMT, Chicago's fine arts and classical station, will carrying the live broadcast, starting tomorrow at 6:30 pm, Chi-zzle time. Yummy yummy party in my tummy.
We often ask ourselves, how many Bohèmes can one endure in one's life before one says, basta? We either need a new, exciting voice (with a sprinklage of teh drama to boot) or, say, really special set designs.
One of the lamest things to ever happen to the world of opera, is that no opera house has ever hired R.B. Kitaj, who passed away yesterday this past Sunday in Los Angeles, to design their sets. OC's choice, if she could travel back in time, conquer a major opera house General Managership, and hire Kitaj, would be Bohème: RBK's (the artist, not the sneaker) quintessentially Belle Epoque spirit would have created wondrous images for that opera. And, we'd have totally dug a Kitaj Lulu, too. The list is long, really.
(Above: A scene from the NYC Metropolitan Opera House entrance for the Sunday, September 16 tribute to Beverly Sills.)
Opera Chic was one of the lucky devotees in the audience of the lush Sunday, September 16 joint Lincoln Center/Metropolitan Opera/New York City Opera "A Tribute to Beverly Sills". Those who couldn't catch it in the Metropolitan Opera House had the opportunity to hear it online via Sirius's Met Opera Radio or via RealNetworks playa hosted on the Metropolitan Opera website. Tickets to the event were free, but were only available “day-of”, starting at noon, on a first-come/first-serve basis.
(Above: The scene at the NYC Metropolitan Opera House on September 16, 2007 for the Beverly Sills tribute.)
Only two short months have gone since Beverly Sills passed away at age 78 (on July 2, 2007), but as one with such an illustrious spirit and ascendant personality, recent memory by those who shared her time was not difficult to conjure.
Daughter of Romanian and Russian Jews, "Belle Miriam Sliverman" a.k.a "Cutie Pie Silverman" a.k.a "Cheupee Bow Sipperman" (Pavarotti called her "Bevelina"), Beverly Sills was bitten by the opera bug at the impressionable age of 8, with Delibes' Lakmé at the MET with Lily Pons.
(Above: Program cover of the Metropolitan Opera's Sunday, September 16 tribute to Beverly Sills.)
In her 1976 biography (more on that later), “Bubbles: A Self-Portrait,” she documents her rise to fame in intricate and engaging detail: her first lessons with mentor Miss Estelle Liebling, her marriage to Peter Greenough, the birth of Meredith "Muffy" and Peter Jr "Bucky", with every career highlight (and lowlight) that marked her unremitting presence in the opera world. Evident is how she protected her family and devoted herself to her children and marriage…evident is her involvement in philanthropy…and evident are the life-long friends she held, prominent luminaries and intellectuals.
Among ten speakers and a handful of performances, Sunday night’s tribute brought both laughter and tears. Lots of visible young MET singers filled seats, with a packed house and a supremely mixed crowd from casual dress to formal.
The gold curtains separated at 5:00 pm to a recital stage with a grand Steinway and a podium; behind the Steinway stood seven wooden panels for enhanced acoustics. Stage-center and raised was a giant movie screen where media presentations took place. The movie screen lit-up with a black white film of Sills in a silk, belted dress singing the “Willow Song” from The Ballad of Baby Doe. After the screen faded to black, it was replaced with a black & white smiling image of Sills, which stayed up until the next video clip later in the tribute.
(Aobve: Program of the Metropolitan Opera's Sunday, September 16 tribute to Beverly Sills. Cleek 4 biggar.)
The first speaker was Peter Gelb, current sex-ay GM of the Metropolitan Opera, who arrived well-dressed to the podium. He welcomed friends & family, and gave a special shout-out to Edgar Vincent, Sills former personal manager. Gelb honored also the memory of Pavarotti. He then jokingly chastised Sir Rudolf Bing (former GM of the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1950 to 1972), who was Sills’s “star –crossed lover”, unyielding in his belief that European and internationally trained singers insured the biggest ticket sales, and therefore shunned Sills during his tenure.
Plácido Domingo and James Levine then appeared, Levine at the piano and Domingo standing in recital position. Domingo was dressed in a dark silver suit and a matching shirt, his collar open to the first button and tie-less, with Levine looking stellar in his dark suit and white shirt. Domingo sang “Ombra mai fu” from Haendel’s Serse…hauntingly, darkly, and somberly beautiful.
Next was Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, delivering a memorable speech. But in a navy, untailored blazer and gray slacks…seriously, who dresses this man? Last I checked, he was a billionaire. If Mikhail Gorbachev can shill for Louis Vuitton, surely Bloomberg can work it for someone.
Then the ever-petit Barbara Walters took the podium. She introduced herself and said, “Beverly Sills was my best friend,” a gorgeous endorsement from someone so close to the entire Sills family. She was dressed simply, without any jewelry, in a cream blazer, a short & black suit skirt, black hose and modest heels. Her remembrance was poignant and truly moving, filled with love for Sill’s daughter Muffy, and she finished her eulogy with words from Muffy’s own pen, read on request. Walters was flanked on the opposite side of the stage by a sign-language interpreter, who alternated with a substitute for the duration of the performance speeches.
After Barbara left the stage, and everyone wiped away their tears, a video clip of Bubbles and Carol Burnett from “Sills and Burnett at the Met” (from March 8 & 9, 1976) flickered on the screen. The two sang a few bars, “We’re Only an Octave Apart,” eliciting genuine (and much needed) laughter from the audience.
The clip faded, and was replaced with another black & white image of Sills's smiling face, and the illustrious Carol Burnett took the stage. She had donned a glittering, gorgeous thick silver necklace, and a muted grey skirt & suit. Her short reddish hair was styled in a sweet sweep. She had a prolonged and proud applause by the NYC crowd, OC included. Her remembrance was a bit labored, as she was clearly struggling with wounds so raw, but she was able to interject a few moments of laughter. However, Burnett left the podium wiping away tears.
Now it’s time for Anna! Dark hair pulled back with healthy color from the spa, Netrebko took the stage with stocky pianist Craig Rutenberg (who also accompanied later with John Relyea and Natalie Dessay). She was wrapped in two pieces: on the bottom, a stiff, floor length blackish skirt with a slight plum-colored sheen, tight to her body. The top was a matching corset jacket with a deep, deep plunging neckline and three-quarter length sleeves. She wore jewels on a delicate chain around her neck with matching earrings. Her voice filled the vast auditorium with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Nightingale and the Rose (Oriental Romance)”. A dignified and restrained performance of a pitifully sad song.
Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Chairman of Lincoln Center then appeared in a dark grey suit and baby blue silk tie, dressed like Craig Rutenberg. His speech was well done, but he used the colorful expression,”She could talk a [starving] dog off a meat truck,” when referring to Sill’s incredible sales pitches for fundraising, which had the audience in stitches.
Out came Susan Baker, Chairman of the Board for the NYCO. She was in a black crepe de chine jacket with a white tulle ruffle collar peeking beneath, tight black silk pants, and black shoes. Then appeared a very tall John Relyea, ailing Nathan Gunn’s replacement, to sing “An die Musik” by Franz Schubert. In a black suit with a black shirt and a skinny tie, he sang a most gorgeous rendition, making OC regretful that she will miss the entire season of the Metropolitan Opera.
Representing directly the Sill’s legacy came Stanley Sills, the younger of Bubble’s two brothers, with an escort who helped him to the podium. He was wearing an excellent black suit, with a white shirt and a black tie. He spoke about her book, “Bubbles: A Self Portrait” from 1976, and disclosed that in the very first printing, in the very first paragraph of the book, a serious oversight was made by the editors. The book begins with Chapter 1 (“That’s no seven-year-old! She’s a midget”) like this: “When I was only three, and still named Belle Miriam Silverman, I sang my first aria in pubic.” pubic. lloooooooool
omg it rilly says PUBIC~!!
Well it just so happens that Opera Chic has a copy of “Bubbles: A Self Portrait”. Even better, it is a signed copy, autographed by Sills herself, to a certain Mr. Jack Lowery. If you want your book back, Jack, you can kiss my Cadolle-encased a$$. L(.)(.)k! vvvvvvvv
Stanley went on to share anecdotes of the Silverman family, including Sill’s La Scala triumph (which she credited her big chest and big a$$ for her popularity with the Milan crowds), her love of baseball (namely the Brooklyn Dodgers, where she would go with her brothers to Ebbets Field and sing in the stands with the Brooklyn Dodgers Band), and her aptly-doled nickname that kept all around her in good spirits.
After Stanley, another black & white video clip played. Sills appeared as an adorable, precocious eight year old, in white bobby-socks, white soft leather shoes, and a white nautical-inspired baby-doll dress. With dark curls, she was seriously channeling Shirley Temple. Titled "Uncle Sol Solves It" from DVD “Beverly Sills: Made in America”, the clip was Sills singing an animated version of Arditi’s “Il bacio”.
Nathan Leventhal, former president of Lincoln Center then took the stage, in another grey suit, and shared “random snapshots” of his professional career and personal history with Sills. Then arrived Maestro Julius Rudel, former General Director of NYCO, in a black suit and mauve shirt/tie combo. His voice was wonderfully rich and unique as he shared a smattering of anecdotes.
Time for Natalie Dessay! Singing Richard Strauss’s “Ich wollt ein Sträusslein binden” with Craig Rutenberg again at the piano, and her performance was a little on the stressed side in her preparations for next Monday’s Lucia opener. Unfortunately, she was in one of the ickiest dresses I’ve ever laid eyes on. Natalie, you are one of the most beautiful, graceful, spirited, and uniquely (oddly) gorgeous-looking sopranos (like Illeana Douglas) on the circuit today, but honey, that dress did you wrong. A too-thin silk sheath of light, pastel green fell past her shoes onto the stage and clung to her tiny curves unflatteringly. Two thick borders of light lavender silk (embroidered with glittering gems) edged the bottom hem, one circling her hips. The spaghetti-strap top gathered into a “crumb-catcher” bust-line. Sans necklace at her bare chest, and sans scarf, the pale fabric washed-out her pale, delicate tones. Nats, I rite now declare that I will be your stylist for free. I wanna be the Rachel Zoe to ur Nicole Ritchie omg p lz let me swaddle that gorgeous body of yours with all the right fabrics...email’s in the profile tia. i'll even let you dip into my vintage Sigerson Morrison collection to kick around the house.
After Dessay took her appropriate bows, out came Henry Kissinger in a black suit and white shirt. He was obvs the most eloquent speaker of the evening, and regaled the audience with delicious anecdotes. One of the best was bittersweet, involving an ignorant nurse at Sill's hospital when Kissinger went calling, who assumed he was Walter Conkrite. Sills overheard and retorted, “Walter Conkrite is older, and doesn’t have an accent.” He set the haus on fire!
After Kissinger made his exit, a final montage played across the movie screen. A recording of Sills singing an excerpt from Massenet’s Manon, “Allons! Il le faut…Adieu, notre petite table,” and a mélange of photos from La Fille, Giulio Cesare, I Puritani, Roberto Devereux, Thais, and Manon followed suite. Interspersed were loads of images from her personal life, with celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Frank Sinatra.
NYCO and Lincoln Center will continue to honor Sill's legacy throughout the current seasons. The Metropolitan Opera will dedicate both the September 20, 2007 Open House for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and the September 24, 2007 Lucia la prima to Ms. Sills, and continue various awards and events. On February 9, 2007, Toll Brothers Opera Radio broadcast will play the April 19, 1975 Rossini L’Assedio di Corinto, which was Bubbles Metropolitan Opera debut.
Below: My favorite image from the Bubbles autobiography...whaaaaa?
Below: A SASE and program insert from Sunday, September 16, for The Beverly Sills Greenough and Meredith Greenough Multiple Sclerosis Endowment.
Thanx to the secksay shinay polymeral beauty of her Samsung Blackjack, Opera Chic is pawsting live from the Met, where she is attending the surprisingly paparazzi-deprived hommage to the great Beverly Sills.
Nathan Gunn aka The Gunnster is ill, John Relyea replaces him, An Die Musik by Schubert. Our sweet Anna Bananna Netrebko has shown up. So did Dessay (we'll admire her next week in Lucia la prima). Henry Kissinger is here too.
Domingo will sing Ombra Mai Fu from Haendel's Serse. Trebs; Nitengale and the rose oby Rimsky Korsakov, Dessay Strauss (Ich wolt ein strausslein binden)
There's too much death around today, way too much.
One can spend hours arguing the finer points of Beverly Sills's art, but the fact that Belle Miriam Silverman, a tough Brooklyn kid, managed to become the greatest coloratura soprano of her generation AND a director of an opera company AND a worldwide celebrity AND in the process managed never to take any sh*t from anybody, like evar, esp from antisemites, and was so smart that she wasn't afraid to appear alongside a bunch of lovely silly puppets, because, you know, true art does not need to take herself too seriously, leave it to mediocrities to act as if they own classical music, well, all of that is a very worthy life lesson, even if you don't like classical music that much. Such a mix of talent, humor will and downright ball$iness makes us fear -- assume? -- that we'll probably never see the likes of her again.
And since we're a Milan-based blog, here's la signora Beverly talking about her Lucia shenanigans at la Scala.
Exactly one year ago, on July 3, 2006, we learned from the Internet, that famously unreliable news source (after all, we wouldn't be a part of it if it were otherwise), the frankly unbelievable news of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's death, at the scandalously young age of 52.
What in fact happened, of course, is simply that the spaceship that had left her here with the precise assignment to show everybody on this silly planet what singing is really, really about, well, that spaceship came back -- Hunt Lieberson left this irredeemably vulgar planet from Santa Fe, by the way, and how close to Roswell is that, come on, it's just so evident -- and took her away, to where she had come from. Because celestial beings can only inhabit a place as mean and disorganized as this world only for a short little while -- just like Mozart, Dinu Lipatti, Jimi Hendrix, those other envoys coming from the same place of pure music and beauty as LHL came from, right?
This is not to say that the sadness is diminished by this fact -- to the contrary, we can only imagine the crushing sorrow that her absence has created in her splendid husband's life, and in everybody who had the monstruous luck to get to know her -- Stelle barbare, stelle spietate / Perché mai tanto rigor?, for reals.
And there's huge sadness for Opera Chic, too, who has always considered Lorraine Hunt Lieberson not just the greatest mezzo to ever appear on this planet but also her cool, cool incredibly smart and funny New Age aunt, even if OC never had the honor to meet LHL in person.
The digital coolness of CD sound will never have the magic of her voice -- digital music is after all just a very long sequence of numbers, and there's nothing mathematical about that otherworldly sound, no way.
But it's all we're left with, and we're priviliged enough because it's a lot. Just don't believe she's dead -- she's about as dead as Mozart, who was here blasting La Clemenza in Opera Chic's house just a few minutes ago (and he ate all our chocolate, too).
She's unable to take any more roles, yes. But dead? Don't be silly.
Giorgio Armani praises Ferre's "dignity, calm, sense of responsibility".
Ottavio and Rosita Missoni remember "the sincere hugs we exchanged, the way old friends do. Our sorrow is intense".
Gianfranco Ferré (above with you-know-who) is a figure well-known in the world of opera (regardless of the fashion-initiated), as having been Renée Fleming's dresser since 1998, using his vast couturier skills to make Renée flemerific. Ferré has dressed Renée in a wide spectrum of craptastic to elegant gowns, but has always kept us entertained with his overall elegant and feminine designs for la Renée (who also wears many of the late designer's creations off-stage).
Back on November 5, 2006, OC was guest at the Teatro alla Scala Renée Fleming recital, which was co-collaborated with Gianfranco Ferré. He not only dressed Renée for the performance (o welps have pictures to share...but u noes the drill), but also supplied gowns for a Ferré-hosted after-par-tay in his Corso Garibaldi/via Pontaccio #21 head office after the show, where Renée showed-off another one of his evening gowns.
Earlier that evening at the theater before Fleming took her bis, she graciously gushed from cue-cards in Italian that Ferré was 'un grande amico'. You can go here to the Opera Chic flickr photostream to see more images of Renée and Ferré at the after-party. Girl looked good...str8 hustlin that night. First tier grade A number 1.
Mad props to the gentleman that is Tim Mangan, OC Register critic, musicologist, blogger, and fellow Giulini fan, who after enduring with great kindness Opera Chic's pestering has been so nice that he reposted a most precious document, his interview with maestro Carlo Maria Giulini for the late great conductor's 90th birthday in 2004.
One thing about Milan that always surprises Opera Chic, is that this is a city of ghosts.
And in Opera Chic's own neighborhood, it's especially a city of the ghosts of great musicians.
Walking down the via San Marco, you see the church of San Marco where Giuseppe Verdi conducted the first performance of his Requiem, and in the monastery of that church almost a hundred years earlier young Mozart had stayed with his father, and had written the (now lost) aria Misero Tu Non Sei (a few years later, in Milan, he would write and perform for the first time Exsultate Jubilate).
A few blocks from San Marco church to the right and you walk down via Borgonuovo to find the Grand Hotel Et De Milan, where Verdi -- who would take long strolls each morning walking up and down via Manzoni -- wrote parts of Otello and most of Falstaff (his desk is still in that suite) and where he died in 1901, the surrounding streets paved with hay so that the carriages would not make too much noise, disturbing the last days of the maestro.
It's the same hotel where, the following year, Enrico Caruso had his first recording session; and where Rudolf Nureyev loved to stay during his la Scala engagements.
If instead you walk left from San Marco, it's just three blocks and you find yourself in front of the building where Giacomo Puccini lived and finished Edgar and wrote Boheme and Manon Lescaut and Tosca. Three blocks south from there and you arrive to Arrigo Boito's house, where he used to greet unannounced visitors who had sneaked through the doorman's post by pointing a shotgun in their faces. It's nice to picture those poor saps who just wanted to pitch an idea to the great, cranky poet run down the stairs and breathlessly find refuge in the via Montebello.
From the church of San Marco it's only a ten minute walk north -- maybe less -- to reach Cimitero Monumentale, the cemetery where Boito and Francesco Maria Piave and Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz and Catalani and Amilcare Ponchielli and -- for a brief period before being moved in the little church in the home for the elderly he built with his own funds, Verdi himself -- all rest.
But Opera Chic's favorite ghost is Carlo Maria Giulini's: the stories that Opera Chic's Milan friends and neighbors often tell, that the maestro, tall and handsome to the very end, always in a three-piece suit, double-breasted chalk-stripe charcoal-grey overcoat and black fedora in the winters, used to walk around the streets of Brera, a few steps from la Scala and his own apartment, often to go to Church, and politely acknowledge a "buonasera, maestro" from a particularly bold passerby, or respond with a smile of recognition to a friendly nod from people who saw him during his passeggiata, all proud of their concittadino.
It seems incredible that it's been already two years exactly today since Carlo Maria Giulini died, isn't it?
And because we don't really want to be sad today, because today at Opera Chic is a all-Giulini-CDs day, in memory of that humble giant of classical music, we'd like to point out that, among his countless achievements, one of the greatest conductors of all time also managed to tame, of all people, Kathleen Battle (and oh how we love to hear Battle anecdotes):
The month I spent playing Falstaff with Giulini in Florence was like working with God. Talk about concentration and intention! --but also an incredibly profound love and respect for the music. During a rehearsal he stopped once, pointed to a guy a few rows in front of me, and sternly said, "Suona meglio!" I swear to God if it had been me, I would have left the rehearsal and thrown my instrument into the Arno, basta, finito. Before each performance, before a note had been played, the Florentines gave him a standing ovation as he entered the pit. A friend in the LA Phil told of one of his friends auditioning for the orch during Giulini's time there. After the guy played, Giulini leaned over to my friend and asked, "Is he a good person?" "Oh yes!" my friend answered, and with that, Giulinli let him in the orchestra.
This October 14, 2007, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala will be at the World Financial Center in NYC's Lower Manhattan, where they will play Verdi's Requiem overlooking Ground Zero. The event has been commissioned in the name of remembrance for the roughly 2300 victims of 9/11.
It began as architect Daniel Liebeskind's idea, and Milan mayor Letizia Moratti and the La Scala management immediately agreed.
The La Scala chorus had already appeared at Ground Zero (well, literally on the edge of it) in the Summer of 2002, when the chorus conducted by Riccardo Muti sang Va' Pensiero in memory of the victims.
Next weekend at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, a fundraiser is scheduled to raise $$$ for the restoration costs of a 1845 teenage girl’s crumbling monument that lays in ruins among the famous residents of the historic cemetery. //Also to be raised is the ghost of Leonard Bernstein.
Titled “The Stories Never End, The Love Never Dies,” it features a theatrical dramatization of some of the most famous celebrities that eternally rest between the Green-Wood Cemetery walls. In this "interactive theatre", the famous dead figures will be personified by the students at the Holy Name of Jesus School in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn (which borders the cemetery). Yeah, um, did I mention that it's going to take place IN the cemetery?
Among the show’s highlights: some kid is going to impersonate Maestro Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) who is buried at Battle Hill, the highest point in Brooklyn.
I just hope the wrath of Lenny’s ghost, resplendent in a cape, brings torrents of hail next weekend in Brooklyn.
See, all those who have had the privilege of meeting him, even for a brief encounter, or who simply wanted to shook the great maestro's hand -- and would have settled for a simple nod of the great man's head in their general direction -- and got a bear hug or even a triple kiss, Russian-style, instead, they all agree that Rostropovich was, really, a helluva guy. Quick to laughter, with a optimistic streak and a strong -- if very personal -- faith in humanity.
So it's OK to be sad for his passing, but sadness can obscure the greatness of his lesson, at least for a day -- his lesson of humanity, and his love for life.
The National Symphony Orchestra, may Terpsichore bless them, has sent out thru AP this 1927 family photo of Baby Mstislav resting in his dad's cello case, dreaming of all the great music waiting to be played -- no, to be imagined -- in the following 80 years.
Just wait until I'm tall enough to be able to sit, and my hands are big enough to handle a bow.
Daniel Barenboim, the musical director of Berlin's prestigious Opera, said Rostropovich "was not only an excellent cellist, but also one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. "His talent was immense and we can describe him as a true titan," he said of the musician, who in 1989 played an unforgettable Bach rendition in front of the newly-crumbled Berlin Wall.
Seiji Ozawa, the conductor of the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra, said Rostropovich was a "great man" who taught him much about music and life. "Slava was a soldier of music," said Ozawa, who is currently in Vienna, through his press attache. "He told me that he was not afraid to die because he absolutely believed in a new life after death. Surely he will wait for me and I am looking forward to seeing him there again."
Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, a close friend of the cellist, remember him as "one of the most extraordinary figures of our time". He vowed to dedicate an interpretation of Gluck's 'Orpheus and Eurydice' to him.
As a sidenote: because of their personal friendship, Rostropovich classily declined to step in Muti's place after Muti's break-up with la Scala: he chose not to conduct there to avoid hurting his friend's feelings.
In Thomas Bernhard's shattering novel The Loser, the protagonist studies piano with Vladimir Horowitz. Which is totally cool -- the only problem is that one of the other students is a strange-looking Canadian who's really really good. His name is Glenn Gould.
Which, of course, suXXors a l0t if you're studying with him under another genius.
It's kind of what must have happened to the people who studied under Rostropovich, and one of the other students was an English girl with a French name -- Jacqueline du Pré.
Many things come to your mind because you're there, in the kitchen, preparing lunch (it sounds more complicated than it is -- slicing sashimi-grade tuna with a samurai-sword-like monstrous shiny Japanese blade is not exactly cooking, but still), with the TV on with the sound turned off because you'd much rather listen to La Ceci (aka Cecilia Bartoli for those of you who don't go shoe-shopping with her like Opera Chic does -- j/k j/k we can only hope) sing Gluck. But the TV's on and you see Maestro Rostropovich appear on the screen of the lunchtime news, and you know he's been very sick, and you don't even need to turn the audio on to know what happened.
You check out your CD collection quickly -- Dvorak, Beethoven's Sonata 5, there are so many, and you take down the Bach Sonata n. 2 in D Minor, because it just seems appropriate, and you don't need YouTube to imagine him leaning on his cello, eyes shut tight, drifting into ecstasy.
But it's also nice to imagine him walking briskly in the city of Paris, almost 50 year old and drunken with newly found freedom; playing Berlin in 1989; pacing the corridors of the Russian Parliament in 1991, already in his sixties, to defend the newly born Russian democracy against the military coup. Or simply, already in his old age, playing for the victims of the tsunami. Campaigning for making vaccines cheaper for children worldwide. Conducting with a twinkle in his eye, smiling serenely toward the strings with an expression that said don't make me come down there and show you how it's done, kid, don't make me.
We hear he kissed people a lot, Russian-style, especially perfect strangers.
We wish we'd met him, so much.
The Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation said the funeral will be held on Sunday in Moscow, in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Rostropovich will be buried, as he should, in Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Shostakovich and Prokofiev.
Very few sights are cooler than somebody playing a cello -- even if they play badly and the audio it's all wrong, it's just cool (all due respect to the other tremendous instruments, we just think the cello carries a particular strain of DNA awesomeness).
If somebody plays it like Rostropovich, then, the coolness factor is just off the charts.
Farewell to the great Maestro, who had been sick for a long time now.