My friend was telling me about a story that surfaced yesterday: The Houston Grand Opera, one of the most innovative and daring companies in the US, will have a $2.3 million budget deficit at the end of their fiscal year this July. Strangely enough, the HGO's former artistic director, David Glockley, recently moved to the San Francisco Opera to clean up the crippling $12 million deficit created by the previous director, and there just happened to be a story this morning on the Bloomberg wires about Glockley's plans to turn around the SFO.
Now, I hope you don't find this boring. But maybe it's just me who finds this kind of thing interesting; the opera business in the US has been in increasingly dire straits since the late 90's. And you can't point to anything simple as the cause. Sure, you can give the hairy eyeball to tired productions of the classics and too-weird productions of new operas, or the fact that people seem more motivated to support and contribute to health and social activism charities, or the post-9/11 economic downturn -- but the fact remains that opera companies have trouble doing outreach to new patrons -- especially 20-and-30-somethings. Which is to say, the demographic of most of the readership of this blog. For curiosity's sake: Do you have an interest in opera? If not, what would make you more interested in opera? If so, do you regularly attend opera productions? If not, how come? Ticket prices? Production quality? Uninteresting or unfamiliar repertoire?
Remember all those movies in the 80's that used arias and overtures as musical motifs? Moonstruck, Wall Street, The Hunger, A Room With A View, Raging Bull, Fatal Attraction -- just to name a few notable examples. Whatever happened to that fad? I suppose it just got played out, no pun intended.
And then there was the rather disastrous run on Broadway of Baz Luhrmann's retooling of La Boheme (the very early version of which I very vividly remember watching when it was on Great Performances as performed by Opera Australia about a million years ago). I had the rather amazing luck of seeing the production on Broadway, and it was about the most fantastic thing I'd ever seen on a stage in my entire life. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone else felt that way.
...but then wasn't it just a few years ago that everyone was mad for the Jerry Springer opera?
Leontyne Price -- 'Un Bel Di Vedremo' from Madama Butterfly
Alfredo Kraus -- 'Questa O Quella' from Rigoletto
Mary Costa -- 'Quando M'En Vo' (Musetta's Waltz) from La Boheme
James Levine and The National Philharmonic Orchestra -- Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
In other news: Thanks to George for tipping me off to the new Herbert album, Scales. I'm unsure how I missed knowing about a UK dance/house/whatever music producer who uses live instrumentation (STRINGS! HORNS!) in addition to samples, but there you go. (Oh, wait -- he produced that Roisin Murphy album Ruby Blue -- aha!) Check out tracks Pound For Pound and Silence Is A Rhythm Too.
Also, I'm finding I have a soft spot for bizarro pop singer/songwriter (and Canadian) Hawksley Workman. As I mentioned elsewhere today, he hits the same part of my brain that appreciates Rufus Wainwright, Ed Harcourt, Josh Ritter, M. Ward, Harvey Danger (and Sean Nelson in general), Keren Ann, Cass McCombs, Kevin Tihista, and naturally, the biggie, Harry Nilsson. I'm especially attached to "No Sissies" and his rather lovely cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (via MOKB).
And: Here's a rather nice profile of Greg Dulli and a discussion of The Twilight Singers' Powder Burns from The Independent.