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Met Gala on NPR/PBS

Gala Farewell concert, Metropolitan Opera House, New York (April 16, 1966), with Leopold Stokowski, photo by Louis MélançonThe Metropolitan Opera in New York bids farewell to its general manager, Joseph Volpe, this Saturday (May 20, 5:30 pm) in a gala concert. Of course, James Levine's medical problems prevent him from conducting, but Valery Gergiev, Marco Armiliato, James Conlon, and Patrick Summers will share the podium in his place. Here is the list of performers:

From the Met:

The Gala Concert, which brings the 2005-2006 opera season to a close, will include performances by nearly thirty vocal artists: sopranos Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila, Ruth Ann Swenson, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Deborah Voigt; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe, Olga Borodina, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Waltraud Meier, and Dolora Zajick; tenors Plácido Domingo, Juan Diego Flórez, Ben Heppner, Salvatore Licitra, Luciano Pavarotti, and Ramón Vargas; baritones Dwayne Croft, Thomas Hampson, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky; bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov; and basses James Morris, René Pape, and Samuel Ramey.

Additional scoop from Sieglinde's Diaries:

Renee Fleming reconfiguring "Tacea la notte placida ... Di tale amor"; Natalie Dessay showcasing "Glitter and be Gay"; Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon going AWOL (hmmm ...); Dolora Zajick, AWOL of late, gracing the glitterati with "O mon Fernand"; Deborah Voigt reprising "Pace, pace"; Placido Domingo clearing his throat for some zarzuela (zay what?); Luciano Pavarotti clearing his throat.
I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that this is going to be a once-in-a-quarter-century sort of convergence of the operatic world. If you have any interest in opera and fine singing, you are obligated to make every attempt to hear this gala concert. I am doing my best to help you, people.

I believe that the original plan was to air this gala concert live on PBS, but that fell through, not to my surprise. It will be broadcast live on some NPR stations (in the New York area certainly, but beyond that, who knows): May 20, 5:30 pm. It is impossible for me to learn if any public radio station in the Washington area is going to carry the broadcast. If anyone knows, that's what the comments are for. PBS is planning to broadcast at least some edited part of the concert: Thursday, June 1, 9 pm. Knowing PBS (and hating them) as I do, it will probably last for an hour and have ads for some cheesy Sarah Brightman special every 10 minutes.

In the only positive side of the betrayal of the radio station that must not be named, I have been listening a lot more to WBJC in Baltimore. You should know that on Mondays through Thursdays, from 11 pm to 1 am, they have broadcasts of symphony concerts: the New York Philharmonic (Lorin Maazel, conductor) on Mondays, the Detroit Symphony (Neeme Järvi) on Tuesdays, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Mariss Jansons) on Wednesdays, and the Milwaukee Symphony (Andreas Delfs) on Thursdays. This evening, while driving back from hearing Maurizio Pollini at Strathmore (reviews forthcoming), I heard Lang Lang playing the Prokofiev third piano concert at the Royal Concertgebouw. This is what I would like my tax dollars to pay for, not news. Thank you, that is all.

The reason that I could not find any information about what station in the Washington area might be carrying the Gala broadcast is because NONE OF THEM DID CARRY IT. Anyway, if we go by La Cieca's liveblogging post, we didn't miss much. The television broadcast will have the best hour or so.


Garth Trinkl said...

that is all?? ... Well, I certainly hope not. Over the past few years, you and Jens and your colleagues have just started to level the critical playing field vis a vis Washington's corporate giants of WETA, the Washington Post, and the Kennedy Center. (Who am I missing?) Many readers here are thrilled, I believe, that even the Washington Post is beginning once again to exercise a classical music critical function, as prompted by (As John Kenneth Galbraith is reported to have said in his last interview for FORTUNE magazine: he has nothing against wealth in and of itself, but that national wealth must be harnassed to equitable national and social purposes. Washington's cultural and critical giants, in large part, have failed to do this for the past many years.)

And thanks for the information about orchestral broadcasts on WBJC-FM out of Baltimore. I did not know about this, and these sound great -- just like the golden days of classical music on WETA-FM. How good is the reception, and do you have a fancy FM radio set-up? Thanks.

(And yes, I remember that you strongly disapprove of my giving WETA $35 a year as my contribution toward the funding of the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour. You and Jens can put me down in your book of limosine moderate-liberals.)

Charles T. Downey said...

Garth, that is all ... for now. You know that we are not likely to shut up for long.

jfl said...

If we soft-ball that staged hagiography masquerading as a MET Gala, we might well be accused of quitting too early. But rather than to bore with my ire at the very concept (or the idea that anyone goes to such events for the - non-existent - artistic quality; people go there to be seen, to see, and to tic their "I-have-seen-so-and-so" boxes) I'll just use the more sophisticated, wittier, more insightful comments of - I bow to him - Martin Bernheimer:

"New York is aquiver. On Saturday the Metropolitan Opera will close its season with a snazzle-dazzle variety show honoring Joseph Volpe, its grandiose, self-aggrendising, about-to-be-ex-general-manager. He steps down after 16 years at the helm of what may be the world's leading haven for the lyric muse.

The valedictory exercise promises to be the most momentuous event at Lincoln Center since David Blaine, drippy but undrowned, recently forsook his fishbowl on the plaza. Vople has assembled a gaggle of stars - would-be, has-been and bona fide - to deliver characteristic pomp if limited circumstance."

Then Bernheimer takes aim at Volpe (not a friend); most of which seems deserving, although I much more appreciated Volpe's ability to match the hysterical demands and tantrums of his most difficult primae donne with all the way. Still, he gets this jab in - and I love MB for it:

"Volpe does manage to express admiration [in his recent self-audulatory book "The Toughest Show on Earth"], usually guarded, for a chosen few. James Levine [...] is spared aspersion... He praises Franco Zeffirelli, producer of the kitsch extravaganzas New Yorkers adore." (my italics)

Someone needed to say it.

(BTW: Sorry to burst your Saab-driving, moderate-liberal bubble, Garth, but Lehrer has solidly bought into the neo-conservative argument or else snapped at their ideological bait and swallowed too hard. [MacNeil knows what he is doing by staying far, far away, fishing on some Canadian lake.])

Thanks for the kind words and overestimation - as always - though!


Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks Charles; I was half afraid that you had won a lottery (where 40% of the billions of dollars in ticket prices are pocketed by the State) and were taking early retirement both from this blog and from enlightening young adolescents -- and that you were going to spend your time fishing on some lake in the Midwest!.

Jens, thank you for the needed musical satire and for the political analysis. I have too much on my plate to comment further politically (in a non-partisan manner), but will expect that GP will chime in with some comment that if we cut taxes for the wealthy even further, culture will flourish and that Bill and Melinda Gates will then have enough wealth available to dabble in culture, as well as seriously support medicine, science, and media, as they currently due.

And I thought that Robert MacNeil was merely taking a deserved retirement. Boy, am I not 'getting it'.


PS. Jens, don't most people want to be able to say "I was there at the golden age MET gala of '06" more than "I saw so and so..."?

jfl said...

re: PS. Sure... EVEN *I* would be there, if they asked me to come. I am not above pointing out that this is a 'tick-the-boxes' event and take the train the next days and 'tick-the-boxes'. Probably brag about it, too, aftwerwards. :)

jfl said...

re: Lehrer... I used to admire him as the only watchable news on US TV... now I just don't "do" TV anymore -- but when I catch a glimpse of him on it or on the radio, I find that he soft-balls those that have power and is part of those that - to use the words of Bill Moyers (NYRoB) - fail to muster a "continues sense of outrage".

And although I am not sure if I'd rather have a Bush-Cheney appointee dole out money via NEA than some employee of the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation (as long as they give $500.000 to the MET either would be wasting money - unless that money went directly to bringing kids to performances that otherwise could/would not go)... just nobody touch my super-subsidized home orchestras! Or, instead of calling it 'super-subsidized', lets call it a an "image-proliferation investment" to "enhance the international and national profile" of the city. Some cities pride itself in their culture (which surely is an economic investment with great returns), others: Baseball. Not that it should be one or the other... I just think that ironically it is the LATTER that should operate directly in the market, not have its stadium bought... whereas I understand interjection after "market failure" into the arts much better. But try floating funding for a new opera house or a great concert hall in town... you'd get roasted so quickly...


Charles T. Downey said...

I understand the impulse to gag at something like the Volpe Gala at the Met, and Bernheimer's skewering of it is deliciously on target. However, I tend to think that opera needs more of this kind of general stardom event to draw attention to itself.

It's not really my kind of performance, although I will certainly be listening. I wish that one of the major television networks would pick this up and preempt some awful television show (the Met Gala bumping American Idol off the air for a night sounds like something to dream about). Classical music celebrities -- Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell -- routinely pack houses. If opera wants to pack its houses with listeners, perhaps it needs more mainstream stars.

Garth Trinkl said...

However, I tend to think that opera needs more of this kind of general stardom event to draw attention to itself.

O, o, Charles, I guess we do ... though I certainly didn't go out of my way to hear Placido Domingo and Christine Chenoweth duet (v.) at the Washington National Opera Gala this past late Winter or early Spring.

Can we compare the Washington National Opera Gala to the three or four regional American premieres of Toni Morrison's and Richard Danielpour's 'Margaret Garnier' cival war opera? Which event(s) have drawn greater broad-based audiences to the power and grandeur and relevance of opera in America? (And I don't quite understand who at the MET is not mainstream -- do you mean Anna Netrebko, or Juan Diego Flórez, or Denyce Graves, or Dawn Upshaw, or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson?)

Thanks too, Jens, and I'm sorry to be asleep at the mouse today. Very interesting, your thought regarding culture and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation v. the NEA. Given what I know, I think that I might just trust Bill's father more than I trust the collective wisdom of the National Council on the Arts. But my thoughts on this could change following a decade of watching Mr. Gates, Sr.; if his only cultural ideas were more and different stagings of Wagner and the Ring Cycle in Seattle (not that I would actually expect only that).

Wasn't the Periclean Greek genius that they forced the oligarchs to compete amongst themselves to fund the great cycles of tragedies and satyr plays, and Homeric odes? Compare that to our own, post-Camelot, bureaucratic, classically fun and often inane record of civilizational accomplishment.


PS. Jens, what's the status of Munich's possible new concert hall -- to replace the Gastig (which I've never been to, it always having been sold out for the concerts that I'd be interested in attending)?

jfl said...

I know of no such thing about replacing the Gasteig. Although not as ideal, accoustically, as hoped for (hello, Philadelphia!), it would very much surprise me if they were seriously talking about replacing the Gasteig (or even just one of the two orchestras abandoning it) for a newer place. The Gasteig is barely 20 years old and looked fine the last time I was there. (oh... the memories! the inception of serious muscial taste!)

Anonymous said...

Having been recently introduced to ionarts and already enjoying the reviews posted I thought I'd share the following with you. Perhaps NPR and PBS are short sighted when it comes to opera but luckily the BBC Radio 3 exists. They will broadcast the Volpe Met Gala in two parts. The first part is on Tuesday 23 May 2006 19:30-21:30 (that's 2:30 p.m. Eastern), and the second on Sunday Gala at 2.00pm (9:00 a.m. Eastern time) on May 28. At least those with an internet connection will be able to decide for themselves whether this kind of gala has any merit. The web address is:


Charles T. Downey said...

Anonymous, thanks for that information. I for one will be tuning in.

Garth Trinkl said...

it would very much surprise me if they were seriously talking about replacing the Gasteig ...

Jens, I read five years ago about serious plans to 'complement' the Gasteig, if not 'replace' it. I recall that a larger, more comfortable and modern international class hall was desired, one worthy of a very rich city. Perhaps later, I can track some references.

jfl said...

Munich, despite appearances, is bankrupt. True... a different, more begning kind of bankrupt as Berlin (where the vultures circle above every cultural institution) - but rich it ain't. Well... at least not the city government. I'll keep my eyes open for news... although I don't understand how the Gasteig is 'unworthy' of Munich... or how it might not be big enough or comfortable enough. Apart from the accoustic dark spots (stay away from tier F on the right side), it strikes me still as a fine hall.

Anonymous said...

I would love to get a DVD of this concert. Even in the truncated PBS version, the broadcast was splendid. email: