NEWS: Yannick Nézet-Séguin to become the Met’s next music director

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

NZ
The Metropolitan Opera has announced that one of the hottest conductors working today, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (pictured right), will succeed James Levine as the Met’s music director. The Montreal-born Nézet-Séguin, 41, represents a generational shift from Levine, 72, who will become music director emeritus beginning with the 2016-2017 season in the fall.

The moves comes at a price, however. With a very busy schedule booked years in advance, Nézet-Séguin will become the Met’s music director-emeritus in 2017-2018, when he will conduct two productions per year. He becomes music director in the 2021-2022 season when he will lead five productions annually. According to a New York Times article, he plans on being involved in the Met’s management immediately, despite his limited conducting schedule.

Nézet-Séguin will continue to be music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra; in fact, he has extended his contract with that ensemble through the 2025-2026 season. He does plan on gradually cutting back on his commitments outside of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, where he got his first conducting gig and with whom he has maintained a strong relationship. “Just select dates in Berlin, Vienna, and Munich,” he told Peter Dobrin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and that’s pretty much it. So I made the choice to be a very much Northeast American.”

Read the New York Times article HERE.

Peter Dobrin in the Philadelphia Inquirer has good background HERE.

Alex Ross offers his lukewarm perspective in The New Yorker HERE. His comparison as to when Levine was named the Met’s music director in 1975 and Nézet-Séguin’s appointment is worth noting. Even though both were odds-on favorites to get the job, there was a great deal of uncertainty in 1975 as to how Levine would fit the new position; ditto for Nézet-Séguin. Only time will tell.
_______________________

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email

ON THE ROAD: Speeding through Switzerland’s Gotthard Pass Tunnel

Gothard tunnelAs we in California struggle to even begin building a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco — in part because of the “challenge” of tunneling under the Tehachapi Mountains —word comes via this Los Angeles Times story (LINK) that Switzerland has just opened the world’s longest rail train tunnel: 35.4 miles under the Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps connecting Switzerland and Italy.

http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-switzerland-rail-tunnel-20160601-snap-story.html

The new tunnel, which will carry both passenger and freight traffic at a maximum depth of 1.4 miles under the Alps, took 17 years to construct and cost 12.2 billion Swiss francs ($12 billion), but the project came in on time and under budget.

My wife and I have ridden through the older train tunnel (built in 1882) many times in our travels to Switzerland — there is also an auto tunnel constructed in 1980.

265px-Kirche_WassenThe old railway tunnel spiraled up and down inside the mountain, so much so that you pass a small church in Wassen (pictured left) three times during the circling maneuvers. However, the new tunnel is virtually a straight shot under the mountain and the trip will take about 20 minutes. When combined with two other new tunnels to open in December, the trip from Zurich to Milan will take about 2:40, an hour less than the current trip and the trip through the pass will reach speeds of more than 150 miles per hour.

Yes, California, it can be done!
_______________________

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email

NEWS: Michael Feinstein renews Pasadena Pops contract through 2019

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Michael Feinstein has renewed his contract as Principal Pops Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops through the 2019 season. He was hired to replace the late Marvin Hamlisch in 2013 and his contract was renewed through 2016 after his highly successful Pops debut that year.

Read the full media release HERE.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email

ON THE ROAD: RETIREMENT.2 — On second takes and public transit

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Expo Station
The new Metro Expo Line terminus in Santa Monica is a two-block walk from the Santa Monica beach and pier.
______________________

This week marks my second attempt at retirement. The first occurred in 2009 when I retired from my job as Senior Director of Communications at the Southern California Golf Association. Two years later I began studying in seminary and eventually became a pastor and administrator at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. This week I retire … again. We’ll see if this one sticks!

Through it all — work, study, family, church, etc. — I’ve kept up my writing career, including for the past 30+ years with the Pasadena Star-News and assorted other media outlets with what is now called the Southern California News Group. In this second “retirement” I plan on jumping back into the classical music field with both feet and you’ll find many more posts on this site in the coming weeks.

However, one thing you may not know about me is that I’m a public transit junkie. I have ridden public transit systems in more than a dozen cities in the United States, the three largest cities in Canada and more than a dozen systems in cities throughout Europe. I’ve also ridden Amtrak and Canada’s Via Rail extensively, and have ridden trains — both high speed and not-so-high speed throughout Europe. Nearly 40 years ago, I testified before a congressional subcommittee, advocating for what is now the Metro Purple Line — I hope I live long enough to see it reach Westwood (I doubt I’ll see it truly become a “Subway to the Sea” but hope always springs eternal).

In my first attempt at retirement, I volunteered for the Metro system, attending information fairs throughout Los Angeles. My experience with Metro stretches back more than 50 years, through its incarnation as MTA and even RTD. I rode the yellow streetcars in Highland Park, although not the late, lamented Red Cars. I can’t count the number of RTD, MTA and Metro buses that I’ve ridden and I’ve ridden every Metro Rail line either on the day it opened or soon after.

I’m a big believer in public transit for transportation, societal, environmental and economic reasons. We can — and should — do better in the area of public transit, but part of improvement will come when the public fully embraces that we live in a multi-modal transit community. All parts — autos, bikes, walking, uber/lyft/taxis, public transit and things we’ve not even imagined yet — are important to our “village” as we move forward (pun intended) into the next decades. Everyone has to give a little to accommodate the greatest good for the greatest number. We cannot continue to operate as have done for the past half-century. There are too many people in Southern California trying to move around at the same time.

I was thinking about all of this when my family and I climbed on the Metro Expo Line this morning for our first trip since the new extension to Santa Monica opened. I’ll report on that trip tomorrow — the good and the problematic. I hope you’ll find these new posts — which will be headed “On the Road” — to be informative and perhaps even useful and that you’ll feed back information to me, either by hitting reply or emailing me at: bobtatfore@aol.com.
_______________________

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email

CLASS ACT: Spring flings

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Summertime and its outdoor concerts loom on the horizon but there’s still some work left to wrap up the 2015-2016 indoor Southern California classical music seasons.

DUDAMEL, THE PHIL AND DISNEY HALL
Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic are offering a wide array of concerts to conclude their Walt Disney Concert Hall season, programs that are both interesting in their own right and demonstrate Dudamel’s continued growth as a conductor and musical leader.

Consider next weekend offerings, which feature two programs melding music by an old master and two contemporary folks.

On Thursday and Friday nights, Dudamel leads the Phil in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453, with Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan as soloist, and Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten and Symphony No. 4 (Los Angeles). The program also includes Inverted Birth, a short work by video artist Bill Viola.

The Saturday and Sunday programs pair Mozart’s Symphonies No. 35 and No. 40 with the world premiere of Pärt’s Greater Antiphons, a 15-minute work for strings that was commissioned by the Phil from the Estonian composer.

Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. DISNEY “SILLY SYMPHONIES,” AND THE ORPHEUM
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s subscription seasons are over but there’s always one final offering by the innovative ensemble. For several years LACO presented silent movies in UCLA’s Royce Hall as a fundraiser, but last June the orchestra changed things up by offering Disney cartoons with the orchestra accompanying the big screen presentation.

This year LACO reprises that concept when it offers seven Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” on June 4 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Six-time Emmy Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters leads the ensemble as it accompanies cartoons that include the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners.

Part of the evening’s enjoyment will be the theatre itself. Built in the 1920s, the Orpheum was the fourth and final theatre operated the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in Los Angeles. Its opulent lobby and auditorium remain a historical artifact of a bygone era, one that saw lavish movie and vaudeville palaces built across the country.

Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

ANGELES CHORALE

John Sutton leads the Angeles Chorale in a program entitled ““FREEDOM! The Sounds of Hope and Survival” on June 11 at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena. The principal work will be Songs of the Slave, a suite from the opera John Brown by Kirke Mechem. Bass-baritone Cedric Berry will be the soloist.

Information: 818/591-1735; www.angeleschorale.org

PASADENA MASTER CHORALE

On June 11 and 12, the Pasadena Master Chorale concludes its season at Altadena Community Church when Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein leads the chorale, soloists and pianist Michael Alfera in a performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion.

Information: 626/208-0009; www.pasadenamasterchorale.org
_____________________

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email