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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 3 November 2010


by Crystal Chan, Wah Keung Chan, Joseph K. So / November 1, 2010

Flash version here.

Joan Sutherland Passes Away at Age 83
On October 10, the opera world lost one of its brightest stars. After a long illness Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland passed away in Switzerland. Dame Joan was unique in that she was a coloratura soprano with a huge voice, extremely rare among coloraturas. Thanks to her husband, Richard Bonynge, who carefully shaped her career, Sutherland became the most celebrated singer in the bel canto fach—pace Beverly Sills fans!—from the late 1950s until her retirement in 1990. She had a significant association with both the Vancouver Opera and the COC.  She sang in Vancouver when she was in her prime in the 60s and 70s, and sang Norma, Anna Bolena, Hamlet and Adriana with the COC under the Lofti Mansouri era.  JS

Detroit Orchestra on Strike; Chang ‘Threatened’ Into Cancelling Season Opener
The Symphony Orchestra has been on strike since October 4, upset over a 33 per cent cut to the base pay of musicians. Management invited violinist Sarah Chang to perform on October 11. Her performance would have replaced the season opening concerts cancelled due to the strike. At the last moment, Chang backed out, claiming she received emails and Facebook messages that escalated to physical threats, even though she had asked that all proceeds from her performance go toward the musicians’ pension funds. CC

Peggy Baker Wins Carsen Prize
This year’s Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts goes to dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker. The $50,000 prize handed out by the Canada Council for the Arts will honour the founder of Dancemakers and Peggy Baker Dance Projects. Born in Edmonton but working mostly from Toronto since she was 19, Baker has also won the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. CC

Russian Yulianna Avdeeva Winner of Chopin International Piano Competition
The 25-year-old Avdeeva took home the top honours at the 16th edition of the Chopin Competition on October 20. After performing on October 29 with the New York Philharmonic in Warsaw, Yulianna will perform in New York on January 4. Second prize winners: Lukas Geniusas and Ingolf Wunder. CC

Electronica Fans Get a Taste of Boulez + Mahler
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra presented Boulez's Messagesquisse and Mahler's Symphony no. 1 to a crowd of beer-wielding electronica fans on October 16 as the first of a proposed “Eclates” series of MSO concerts which will aim to reach out to unconventional audiences at non-traditional locales. With the doors opening at 10 p.m. and the night really hopping by midnight, the concert at the Molson Coors Brewery got going when most MSO attendees would be leaving the concert hall and heading to bed. In his Gazette review, Arthur Kaptainis noted that “when I glanced behind me I saw a long row of young, alert faces. Never mind the demographics. This is the kind of crowd all musicians want to perform for.” CC

Brigitte Haentjens Appointed New Head of French Theatre at the NAC
Haentjens will replace Wajdi Mouawad's as the Artistic Director of French Theatre at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2012, when his five-year contract comes to a close. She will begin shadowing him in the fall of 2011. Haentjens, who is one of Quebec’s most innovative and acclaimed directors, will be the first woman to hold the position. CC

The MSO’s Fuzzy Arithmetic
In October, the Montreal Symphony announced 48 of its major concerts for the 2011-2012 season, its first in the new concert hall, which has a capacity of 2100 seats, including the choir loft (for major choral concerts, the capacity drops to 1900). The early announcement was made to allow time for existing subscribers to choose their seats in the new hall. However, the numbers suggest that there will be a ticket shortage next year.
MSO general director Madeleine Careau said that currently the orchestra averages 2000 people for concerts at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, which is the capacity of the new hall. For 48 concerts, this amounts to 96,000 tickets, equal to the number of tickets available next season. Although six programs will increase from two to three performances next year (mostly Nagano concerts), Careau also said that the total number of concerts given by the orchestra will not increase, and that there is no provision to add a supplementary night in case other concerts sell out. This point is key, because unless the orchestra sells out every night, including all non-Nagano concerts, the MSO will not make up the number of tickets sold at SWP, which is in contradiction to Careau’s statement that “we want to bring new audiences to the orchestra next year.” Other organizations have adjusted their offerings when they moved to a smaller hall; for example, when the Canadian Opera Company moved to the better acoustic smaller 2100-seat Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre, the number of performances increased from six to nine or 12, depending on the opera. The MSO would be advised to do the same. New subscribers can sign up for the MSO beginning January 2011.  WKC

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