If you walk your dog in Toronto’s Jean Sibelius Square, take a leash.
As of January 1st, unleashed dogs were officially banned from the park named for the famous Scandinavian composer, Jean Sibelius. The centrally located park lies near Bathurst and Dupont streets.
Dogs’ rights aside, the park underscores the incredible popularity of Sibelius, who lived from 1865-1957. I can’t think of a composer alive today so universally revered. I’ve been reading about Jean Sibelius, and my appreciation for his music is moving beyond “Finlandia” worship. He loved nature, birds, and drinking. He was a homebody, full of self-doubt, despite his fame.
Last week, I started complaining about the muddy, colorless winter weather. Today, I’m delighted every time I glance outside. The garden is etched in black and white, transformed into an Escher lithograph. Balls of ice-encrusted bee balm sway on brittle stalks. Privet bushes hunker down, nearly smothered by the heavy, wet snow. Cardinals flit, electric red. I declare this the loveliest winter weather ever, especially if you like shape and form and contrast.
The Jerry Springer show -- that mesmerizing, down-market, slugfest -- has inspired an opera, and the first reviews are in: it’s good.
In today’s New York Times, Ben Brantley writes:
“If the real “Jerry Springer Show” turns its rowdy, angry guests into objects of sneering sport, 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' sees them as figures of passion, whose impulses, however base, translate into song that reaches for the stars.”
My friend Carl Pultz pointed me to The Idler’s website. Tom Hodgkinson (a.k.a “The Idler”) writes about his efforts to -- as he beautifully puts it -- “return dignity to the art of loafing.” But I don’t believe Tom is a great idler. He’s too productive. His recent article about Facebook in The Guardian newspaper is long and well researched. It explains why Tom despises Facebook, the online social networking site with 59 million current users and 2 million new ones each week.
I was going to write a blog today that started with the line, “facebook is evil.”
But I need more time on that subject. Check back later.
Instead, here's an interesting news item about the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Less than 1 percent of the repertory that orchestras played last year was composed by a black or Latino composer. The RPO has joined a new, national consortium of orchestras to commission major orchestral works from minority composers.
It’s enigmatically named the Sphinx Commissioning Consortium.
On Saturday night, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra opened with Fantasia on an Ostinato by John Corigliano, a short piece based on a famous repetitive passage by Ludwig van Beethoven (the second movement of Symphony No. 7.)
I loved it, but others reacted differently.
A Rochester blogger who went to the concert with her husband wrote,
I’ve been busier than usual at work and pretty happy about it.
This week I filed a feature story for NPR, interviewed guitarist Sharon Isbin, and listened to about forty audio tributes to homicide victims. The last thing was not at all fun, and I still have ten more to go. I’m preparing to interview photographer Will Yurman, who spent 2007 documenting the lives of all the murder victims in a single year in Rochester, NY.
Imagine. Everytime someone was murdered, Will drove his gear to the neighborhood, the house, the cemetery.
“She sang equally well lying on her back or kneeling atop her lover. This technique reduced Masetto to an obedient puppy – and probably many Eastman Theatre patrons as well.”
- the D & C’s Stuart Low, writing about Mercury Opera’s recent production of Don Giovanni
What do you want to read about in a review? Background info on the musicians? What about the hall, the crowds, or the color of the conductor’s hair? Critics debate about this stuff all the time. Some say they should stick to the music and only the music. Others want to capture the flavors, sights, and smells of the hall.
I’ve been trying to cozy up to Joseph Schwantner’s music in preparation for an hour-long, national special I’m producing about the composer. But it’s been harder than I expected, and recent blogs I’ve read about approaching classical music from the outside give me new sympathy for those who can’t drum up much enthusiasm for it.