Quick post from my phone to congratulate the LSO and our Billy Budd colleagues on the Grammy win.
We were and are honored to be in such amazing company!
Now, on to the big evening ceremony. Let the fun begin!
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Quick post from my phone to congratulate the LSO and our Billy Budd colleagues on the Grammy win.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
We have the great privilege of going to LA for the GRAMMYs this weekend! The Volpone recording nomination (one of 5 in the category of Best Opera Recording) meant that Wolf Trap, as the record label, was able to get a few tickets for the ceremonies. (GRAMMYs are for artists on the recording, and even though we commissioned and premiered this work, then produced and distributed it on our label, we're sort of just hangers-on:)) So we're going to go and celebrate. We're not particularly good at strutting our stuff (we tend to fly under the radar and plug along), but we shall try!
I've always thought that the words "It was just an honor to be nominated" were 1) a way of being gracious when you won or 2) an attempt at not feeling bad because you lost. But I am here before you now to witness that it is possible to say it and mean it.
I am proud to bursting of our little company and our maiden voyage in the recording world. And I think that it's amazing - almost inconceivable, actually - that we did it so well on a wing, a prayer, and very little money. But at the same time, I don't think there's even a remote chance that we will win. (In case you don't already know, I am the Queen of Low Expectations. It's a way of life and a title I bear proudly.)
Yes, we did good. But to believe that we bested the LSO, or Ian Bostridge & Nathan Gunn, or Valery Gergiev, or the Hague Philharmonic etc etc, well, that's more hubris than I can typically muster.
But see, the thing is that it really doesn't matter. The recognition that comes from this nomination will pay off in so many ways, and I intend to celebrate that. I want to go to LA and be so proud that someone somewhere thought we belonged with the big boys. I want to celebrate that we didn't give up on the idiotically rocky road to completion of this project. There shall be people-watching and beach-walking and general jubilation.
January is WTOC Alumni Month
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, 2 of the other 4 nominees in our category feature Wolf Trap alumni (Nathan Gunn, Billy Budd; Charles Workman, Marco Polo)!
Posted by Kim at 8:29 PM
Monday, January 25, 2010
Special (Merriam-Webster): distinguished by some unusual quality.
Life's a Pitch just finished a week hosting a virtual panel on when and how artists, managers, journalists, presenters and publicists single out musicians for being "special" in their promotion and career-building efforts. Amanda's summary of the posts by her 4 guest bloggers is here.
I hesitate to spend most of an entire blog post regurgitating other writers' material, but this is worth it. Great food for thought for musicians, presenters, and music lovers of all stripes. If you need more motivation to click through, some highlights:
Jonathan Biss (our Wolf Trap Debut Artist from 1997!) writes that "Traditionalism is big in classical music, of course, meaning that there's a lot of knee-jerk "this is the way to do it because this is the way it's always been done." ("It" could be any number of things - from questions of musical style, to programming, to concert attire, and on and on.) But recently I've heard a lot of the marketing-driven opposite, which seems equally knee-jerk to me: "this has never been done before, and therefore it is relevant and interesting.""
Michael Kondziolka at University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan says that "yes, hooks are fine and human interest angles (sometimes) riveting...but, never a substitute for convincing music making that reveals some truth or provocation embedded within, some kind of technical accomplishment, or, maybe, some hint at a shared humanity... Actually, the more I think about it, if one can be certain that the players will hit the accomplishment quotient, then human interest hooks are actually welcome in my book. And we shouldn't be afraid of them or feel that they somehow cheapen the artist's integrity. (Please.) Any information sharing or story telling that aids, abets, or heightens a sense of empathy between performer and listener - whether artistic, human, spiritual - has to be a good thing. Right? Live concert performances must, after all, traffic in empathy."
Matthew Guerrieri of Soho the Dog weighs in: "On the other hand, I personally find assertions of specialness within the concert presentation itself--spoken explanations, multimedia elements, &c.--to be often more annoying and distracting than anything. I've seen it done well, but only rarely; it's harder than it looks, and it takes just as much (if not more) preparation as the music. If there's absolute commitment on the part of the performer(s), if they really believe in whatever high concept they've come up with, I can happily go along for the ride, even if, in the end, I don't quite buy it."
Posted by Kim at 9:10 AM
Thursday, January 21, 2010
All sorts of things interfering with blogging. This week included a trip to New York for preparations for our upcoming workshop of Musto & Campbells Inspector opera. And the little remaining office time was clouded by fumbling attempts at writing marketing copy for our 2010 shows. (You'd think that struggling with Twitter would have given me some practice at being simultaneously clear, intriguing, detailed, and entertaining in 140 characters. But it seems to have just made me dumb and inarticulate.)
The other clog comes from struggling to write a post on the recent Pro-Am discussion that's been going on at various places on the interwebs. I'm fascinated by this subject, and I'm of at least three different minds on it. I have written and rewritten a blog post on it so many times that I could've filed a dissertation by now. Sadly, little of it is coherent.
So, if it intrigues you, here's the pertinent linkage. Take a few minutes to read and discuss, and I promise I'll be back shortly with some sort of take on it!
Newsweek's Welcome to Amateur Hour
The Mission Paradox on Creating Scarcity
On one hand it is easier then ever for work to be created and if you believe (like I do) that a world with more art is a good thing . . . then that's a good thing. On the other hand, this incredible increase in both the number of artistic producers and the amount of artistic content has made it much more difficult for any individual artist to make a living through their art.
Butts in the Seats on Outsourcing Creativity to the Rich
...as people acquire competence and are willing to perform a task for less money, or have the resources where they don’t care about their losses, starving artists ended up starving more.
Create Equity on Arts and Sustainability
If the only way to earn money is through exposure, and the only way to get exposure is to spend thousands of hours making (and marketing) art that you could otherwise spend earning money, the people who need to earn money now are at a major, perhaps definitive, disadvantage. As a result, over time, you would expect to see more and more people who were lucky enough to have a cushion early in their careers (if not on an ongoing basis) persist to become professional artists, and fewer and fewer who have had to do it completely on their own.
January is Alumni Month
I love productions that contain a critical mass of Trappers. Last summer's Huguenots at Bard Summerscape came up in a conversation yesterday. 7 alums, representing two decades of WTOC excellence :)
And, in the Canadian Opera Company's announcement of their 2010-2011 season, we discovered this fabulous pairing in Cenerentola!
Posted by Kim at 10:26 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
I just got back from hearing dozens of aspiring young singers in the North Carolina district auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council. As is typical, I am equal parts exhausted and energized.
And, as is typical, I had the following post-competition discussion with a number of audience members.
Patron: It must've been such a difficult job to decide how to pick the winners.
Kim: Indeed, it was - they were a talented bunch!
Patron: I made my own list of winners, and I only have one question.
Patron: What were you thinking?
OK, paraphrased, but you get the idea. It happens again and again, and it never surprises me. And it's usually not confrontational but is born of true curiosity about the judging panel process.
Most of these MONC spectators are seasoned opera-goers and true lovers of the voice. And as such, they usually have pretty good taste. They know when something is out of kilter, and they know when they are truly engaged and excited by a voice. The kicker is that sometimes we don't choose some of the singers for whom the audience had the most enthusiasm. Why?
It's too complicated a question to answer in an exhaustive fashion, but in short, we're looking for singers whose profile (as demonstrated on this particular day at this particular moment) indicates that they possess the particular tools to distinguish themselves within their particular voice type. Being a compelling performer is part of it, to be sure. But having the vocal equipment and potential to rise above the norm as a coloratura soprano or lyric tenor or basso profondo or dramatic mezzo, etc. (random examples) is what matters. If you can't nail the exact requirements for whichever voice type you seem to be best suited (highest and lowest notes, ability to project in certain registers, flexibility and agility of the voice, etc), you will have a difficult time getting hired.
We have to take this into consideration, for the Met is looking for career potential. But singers in their 20's are so often (rightly so) in development and/or transition, and many of them don't yet know what they "are" - which box they best fit inside. (Of course, some of the best singers of all time didn't fit in a box at all, but you'll have a hard time selling that concept if you're a 20-something opera singer in America...) And every single person that comes into contact with young singers has a different opinion. It's a recipe for extreme confusion. Nevertheless, in order to figure out which singers should advance, panels have to grapple with the implications of it.
So, if you're in the audience for one of these events, and your scorecard doesn't line up with the panel's, don't despair.
First of all, you might be right and they might be wrong. We do our level best, on the basis of decades of experience, but we are not infallible.
Second, the judges may have had the same positive gut reaction as you, but were responding to details of the voice and its development that would indicate that it might not be optimal yet to send a particular singer on to the next level of the competition.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities for young singers to be heard - in various competitions, in auditions for young artist programs, in performance in conservatory and university. Even the most amazing singers don't always win, and everyone has off days. But over time, talent will out.
Posted by Kim at 3:03 PM
Thursday, January 07, 2010
If you haven't yet read Byron Janis's recent article in the Wall Street Journal, go here.
I am at my happiest when sight-reading music, but never really bothered to articulate why. I suspected that it had a good deal to do with being too lazy to practice. So I felt completely understood (and vindicated!) when I read this paragraph:
Actually, we are thinking when we are in this particular frame of mind. But it has so little to do with the way our minds usually churn that we don't recognize it.
What Mr. Janis has to say about the unscientific nature of tempi reminded me how much I adored fellow pianist Jeremy Denk's recent blog entry: Whose Brahms? (This link is longer and of a very different nature, but is particularly rewarding for the data geeks among us.)
He says that "tempo is more dangerous than an illusion, it is a kind of myth promulgated by all sorts of fascist types in order to destroy the natural and beautiful cycles of PDT [Perceived Desired Tempo] that are native to the human freedom instinct. The next time a conductor asks me “why are you moving so much faster here?,” referring to some passage X of a concerto, I will simply say “natural variability of sunspots,” and when the conductor says “that’s ridiculous,” I will say “you can’t prove to me it’s NOT sunspots.” I’m sure this will go over very well."
Tempo is so intertwined with heartbeat and breathing that to will it to be scientific is not only delusional, it's cruel. The tension between the hard cold data of music (frequency, amplitude, waveform) and how it emerges from our bodies and our minds is the essence of why we care about art at all.
Heading to North Carolina in the morning to judge Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Have a great weekend!
Posted by Kim at 1:58 PM
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
I wear my Marketing and Box Office hats a lot in January. (Good thing, too, for it's bloody freezing around here. I need all the clothing I can find.) All of the music that surrounded us during the audition and casting process has temporarily disappeared to make way for writing copy and selling tickets.
So, in thinking of ways to describe, promote and create enthusiasm about our upcoming season, I found this. And I'm of a million different minds about it.
And, as we address the thorny topic of ticket prices, it's serendipitous to find one of my favorite podcasts discussing the Psychology of Pricing. Unfortunately, our thinking has to go far beyond this discussion. We have obligations not only to our bottom line, but to our donors, our current and potential patrons, and to our art form. Raise prices to attempt to keep pace with expenses? Hold the line in sympathy with the economic challenges of patrons? Cut deep and low to eliminate obstacles in expanding the audience base? Yes, yes, and yes? Hmmm.
January is WTOC Alumni Month!
I was doing some surfing to see what our summer festival colleagues are offering for 2010, and I came across a performance of the suite from Candide with WTOC alums Anna Christy and Nick Phan. Ravinia also features former Trappers Nathan Gunn and Lauren McNeese in Figaro, and Tanglewood's roster includes Stephanie Blythe (Mahler #2), Dawn Upshaw, and Morris Robinson (Mozart's Abduction).
Posted by Kim at 3:13 PM
Monday, January 04, 2010
The happiest of new years to one and all! Strictly speaking, I know it's not a new decade, but it feels like it is. And that's good.
I'm back at my desk after a miraculously restful 11 days away from work. (Thank, you Wolf Trap Foundation, for the immensely sane and merciful act of shutting down between Christmas and New Year's!) By last night, I was calm, centered, and full of hope and energy for a fresh start. This morning, just a few hours chipping away at the mountain of pre-season tasks has rendered me slightly panicked. (I completely forget to breathe when I'm at my desk. Does that happen to anyone else? What's that about?!?)
It didn't help that I spent my lunch break digging through the NEA's 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. (Go ahead, click through, but not on an empty stomach.) I don't believe that the sky is falling, but this news is complicated. We're embarking on a new business plan for 2011-2015, and I'm trying to spend more time than usual wrestling with these facts and figures.
As we move out of the audition season, I welcome back my casual readers whose eyes glazed over while reading endless aria lists and other technical jargon. Over these next few months, the focus will be slightly broader and more varied. There will be another Met audition trip (North Carolina) and a trip to LA (for the GRAMMYs!), and I keep posts short to give you more time to keep those New Year's resolutions. :)
January is WTOC Alumni Month!
A shout-out to WTOC alum Michael Maniaci and his new recording of Mozart Arias - releasing in a few weeks and available now for pre-order. (Do it - you won't be sorry!) Michael sang Nero in Poppea and the title role in Xerxes at Wolf Trap, and he is a truly amazing artist.
Posted by Kim at 2:28 PM