Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Merkin Hall and Kaufman Center

Joseph Campbell, the late great expert on mythology, said this, speaking of our choices in life, "All paths lead to the same place (death). So, given a choice, follow your bliss." Saturday night, I may have witnessed an example of this at a concert at the Kaufman Center/Merkin Hall/ Ann Goodman Recital Hall. I use the word may because there is a second interpretation of what was going on and maybe even a third.

A pianist/composer named Maria Morris was giving a solo recital called "The Prelude Project." I arrived somewhat early and so I was able to read some program notes - I had no idea who Maria Morris was. It seems Maria Morris is someone with a PhD. in Education who teaches at Georgia Southern University.
She is also a pianist, but gave up the piano twenty years ago because of an injury. Now miraculously recovered, at the age of 50 she has not only returned to the piano but has taken up composing. Of her Preludes: " these Preludes have been composed in a postmodern score with few time signatures, no staves, and the musical notes are written as letters."

Interpretation 1: She is someone who is following Joseph Campbell's dictum. She is following her bliss. Why not? We're all going to die anyway.

Interpretation 2: She is a foolish woman following some sort of foolish dream. There were all of 6 or 7 people in the audience. Who were they?

Interpretation 3: She has scheduled and paid for a concert in New York in order to improve on her academic credentials. Maybe she's not yet a full professor. Too cynical? It happens.

Thing is, perhaps it's only fools or villains who are really blissful. As for me, I'm heavy into following my bliss - or is it my passion - at the moment. I really passionately believe in the music I've written and in the point of view I have adopted with Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret. www.voiceafire.com

But then so does Maria Morris, and I didn't even stay to hear her play. Other allusions in the program to her Christian views and education were just to much for me to take. What's more the Preludes were to be played continuously, and there would be no escape once she had started. I left before she started.

Regarding Merkin Hall.  http://kaufman-center.org/ It's just around the corner from Juilliard and Lincoln Center. The Big Hall rents for something like $2000 but by the time you add extras allow about $4000. Don't know how much the Ann Goodman Recital Hall rents for. But don't do it! It's little more than a glorified classroom with a piano at one end. It's probably cheap, and then you can tell your academic committee that you played in NY.  They will never know that only 6 or 7 people showed up.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don Carlos at the Met

It pays sometimes to have friends in high places, in this case Bob Sutherland, Principal Librarian at the Metropolitan Opera. Met tickets are notoriously expensive. But for some productions the Met issues tickets to their staff for a dress rehearsal. This was the case for Verdi's Don Carlos. Bob Sutherland, my old biking buddy and commissioner of several of my compositions, came up with 2 tickets for Don Carlos. So my wife, Dulce, and I saw Don Carlos at the Met - for free.

The previous evening the 3 of us - Bob, myself, and Dulce - had gone out to dinner at Pau, a Portuguese restaurant in Greewich Village, purporting to have Portuguese Fado music - but not that evening, unfortunately. Bob - a dear friend and an extremely knowledgeable opera fan - and I got into a heated discussion. Perhaps I was annoyed at the lack of Fado music, so I asked Bob, "Why does no-one perform the operas of Alberto Ginastera?" Bob's answer, "It's because they don't work." "What!!" I exclaimed. "And what about all those other operas that the Met never does?" Bob, "The Met does the operas that work - for instance, the operas of Verdi (I'm paraphrasing and simplifying)."

Well, Bob, and anyone else who's listening, Dulce and I left Don Carlos at the first intermission. Reason: Don Carlos no longer works. Let me explain. The libretto for Don Carlos was adapted from a play by Schiller.  I don't know the original play, but the Italian adaptation is a melodrama of the 19th Century variety. 19th Century melodrama was  a plague on theatre - finally stamped out by Henrik Ibsen. Melodrama is defined by mono dimensional characters who gesticulate in an overraught, stylized manner. Think early silent movies.

Verdi, for whose skill and professionalism I have nothing but awed admiration, thought of himself above all else as a dramatist. His operas are about enhancing the drama itself. In the case of the Italian Don Carlos drama, it no longer work because the drama itself no longer works. No one would go to see the thing merely to hear it spoken. They go because of the music, and because of the singing, and because it is by Verdi. I figure that would have really enraged Giuseppi Verdi, the dramatist.

It would have also enraged him that opera singers mangle vowels incessantly. They do this in order to produce what they think is a more beautiful sound. Think of a person trying to speak with no tongue. Even the most fluent Italian speaker (Dulce speaks Italian) can't understand more than one word in a hundred. But then of course, who cares about the drama, and who cares about what Verdi had in mind. And who cares if the opera no longer works as drama. We are there only to bathe in melifluous vocal crooning.

Myself, I'm trying something different. If you've a mind check out my pocket opera version of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. It works as drama.

On the other hand, if Dulce hadn't been there, I would have stayed for the whole opera, just to get a lesson from Verdi in rhythmic pacing and in using the orchestra to support the voice.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ISPA International Society for the Performing Arts

More than one person has recommended I attend the ISPA Conference being held in NYC this January. Most recently, Ann Summers, with whom Voice afire is collaborating. http://sumarts.com/

From the ISPA website: http://www.ispa.org/
ISPA is a network of over 350 individuals, organizations and institutions from more than 40 countries around the world.  Members include some of the world's most significant presenting organizations, independent artists, performing arts organizations, artist managers, cultural policy groups, foundations, consultants, and many others who share the desire to advance the field of the performing arts on a global scale.

ISPA conferences are held around the world.
Host cities have included Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, London, Toronto, Birmingham, Jerusalem, Stockholm, Vancouver, Berlin, Sydney, Lucerne, Singapore, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Durban and São Paulo.

• New York 2011 ISPA Congress on January 11-13, 2011 in New York, NY, United States
• Toronto 2011 ISPA Congress on June 15-18, 2011 in Toronto, ON, Canada

ISPA does something called a pitch session. Very interesting. Here's a link to a pitch session:


Any collaborators out there?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visas for Canadian Musicians

Here is the latest info for Canadian musicians needing a visa to perform in the good old (?!) USA.

Effective November 23, 2010:
  1. The fee for P & O visas is $325 USD.
  2. The premium processing fee is $1225 USD.
The above fees are payable to "Department of Homeland Security", and must be submitted under USD money order. If applying through the premium processing unit, please submit that fee under separate money order. 

November 17, 2010 will be the last day AFM will accept petitions with the present fees of $320 (regular/standard processing) and $1000 (premium processing). 

Effective January 1, 2011:
  1. The AFM's P2 administration fee is $100 for musicians only (this is not per musician, it is per band/petition).
  2. When also applying for crew/technicians/all other supplemental workers integral to the main performance unit (band), the fee is $200 (this represents $100 per petition; $100 for the musicians, an additional $100 for the supplemental workers)
For more information please contact Liana White, lwhite@afm.org, 1-800-463-6333 ext 232. If you would like to learn more about AFM's immigration services, please see the October issue of the International Musician (pages 20-21), article entitled: Performing in the US or Canada 101: What AFM Members Need to Know, or, read it on the web

New Immigration Processing Fees for Union Consultation Letters required for P1, P3, O1 and O2 Visas 

The AFM Consultation Letter fee will be $250 (or $300 for expedited service) for each visa consultation letter prepared for US Citizenship and Immigration Service. This charge shall apply to all petitions and petitioners in all visa categories. This is one charge per I-129, and the fee must be pre-paid in advance of receiving the complete consultation. 

Petitioners who mail or hand-deliver an I-129 packet to the AFM office (1501 Broadway, Ste. 600, New York, NY 10036) must enclose a corporate check, certified check or money order payable to "AFM Immigration Processing". 

For more information please contact Steve Gelfand, Director, AFM Touring, Booking and Immigration, sgelfand@afm.org, 1-800-762-3444 ext 1231.
Let me know if this is useful.