The San Francisco Opera Company completed an immensely successful Ring Cycle in July—the first Ring Cycle in San Francisco since 1999. At a time when the relevance and significance of the art form are being seriously and repeatedly questioned, the measure of this production’s success is not confined to the numerous accolades garnered by the company and everyone associated with it, as this Ring Cycle sold 44,055 tickets—99.96% of capacity—and generated over $7.23 million dollars at the box office.
A co-production with the Washington National Opera, this Ring Cycle consisted of three full cycles plus one extra Siegfried and one extra Gotterdammerung performance. It included an international cast and an exciting debut for Nina Stemme, singing her first complete cycle as Brunnhilde. Ms. Stemme made it very clear that she wanted to do her first complete cycle in the role of Brunnhilde with the San Francisco Opera conducted by Donald Runnicles. Both Ms. Stemme and Maestro Runnicles praised the orchestra musicians for their high level of preparation, with Ms. Stemme commenting that she had never heard an orchestra so prepared at the first rehearsal.
Delegate CarlaMaria Rodrigues reports that, for the first time ever, the entire opera orchestra was included in the company bow, onstage, at the conclusion of each cycle. “This was both a powerful statement of the work we had done and a significant acknowledgement of the role we play here. The rapturous applause resonating from the War Memorial Opera House when the orchestra appeared onstage was a reminder to all of us, that this art form is very much alive.”
The Florida Orchestra (TFO) is embarking on a multiyear cultural exchange with Cuba. Recently, TFO’s principal wind quintet visited the island to perform, give master classes at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana, and to interact with the Cuban musicians at a rehearsal of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. Stefan Sanderling, music director of TFO, will be conducting in Havana later this season, and Enrique Perez Mesa, the Cuban orchestra’s music director will make his U.S. debut conducting TFO in May 2012. There is also a desire to bring Cuban artists to perform with TFO in the near future, as well as plans for the full orchestra to perform in Havana in the spring of 2013.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra recently reported that it had achieved a balanced budget for its 2010–2011 season. The MSO began the season with a projected annual deficit of nearly $3 million and an accumulated debt that would not allow any further borrowing to cover the annual shortfall. After beginning the season last September with an interim executive director, Phoenix Symphony’s executive director, Maryellen Gleason, was hired at the end of October and began her duties in January. Together with new board chairman Doug Hagerman and interim director of development Charlie Krause, the management and board made an ambitious plan to balance the budget in the time remaining until the end of the fiscal year. Their plan was to accomplish this through fundraising and administrative savings, without asking the musicians of the orchestra for any additional contract concessions.
The musicians of the MSO are currently in the third year of a four-year concessionary contract, the third such contract in the past decade. The balanced budget for this year is the starting point of a new Long Range Institutional Plan that seeks to regain credibility in the community and achieve financial stability while maintaining the artistic capabilities of the orchestra. MSO musician Scott Kreger writes that his colleagues applaud the board and management for their positive approach and look forward to working with them to achieve the goals of the long range plan.
After opening their pops series on September 17 with Idina Menzel and their classical series on September 24 performing Carmina Burana, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians performed a benefit concert on September 26 for their neighbors at the First Presbyterian Church.
The church is located across the street from Kleinhans Music Hall and has served as a partner in the neighborhood since Kleinhans first opened in 1940, and it is in need of repairs and renovation. Over the years musicians have used the church for meetings, auditions, and performances—and even for ratifying union contracts. Bassoonist Ronald Daniels, who was recently elected as Local 92’s president, and timpanist Matthew Bassett, who also served as conductor for the performance, organized the concert. Over 50 musicians from the BPO volunteered their time on their usual day off to support the cause, joined by BPO librarians and stagehands. $15,000 was raised that evening for the project.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic opened its ninth season in Walt Disney Concert Hall this October with a gala benefit that raised $3.4 million. According to violist Meredith Snow, LA Phil LIVE will offer the first of three more live, digital theater-casts through NCM Fathom starting on October 9. The second, a combined performance of Mahler Symphony No. 8 with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, will be broadcast from Caracas, Venezuela in February 2012. Beginning in January, the LA Phil will launch a new teaching initiative called “Take a Stand” in conjunction with Bard College and the Longy School of Music. The program will grant a masters degree in teaching based on the El Sistema method. Much of the class work will take place within the Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) program. In May, a semi-staged Don Giovanni, conducted by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, directed by Paul Curran, and with stage design by Frank Gehry, will launch a three-year Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy project.