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The Offensively Inoffensive

At a tandoori restaurant in Tel Aviv, an Israeli politician chastises a quixotic Norwegian diplomat: “When people talk to you, Terje, you should pay attention to what they actually say, and not just listen for what you want to hear.”  The scene is from “Oslo,” which began as a 2016 play and last weekend resurfaced […]

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Disregard All Information

Singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer introduces his 1965 song “So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)” in a style familiar to classical music fans. “This year we’ve been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and the twentieth anniversary of the end of […]

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Music, in Theory

In November 2019, music theorist Philip Ewell gave a plenary at the annual meeting for the Society for Music Theory. Titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame,” Ewell’s discussion of equity in American music theory was supported by the example of Heinrich Schenker, whose documented racist ideologies have historically been historically overlooked by scholars. Ewell, who […]

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Classical Complacency

For me, the most memorable part of Barack Obama’s first inauguration wasn’t the cold or the TV wheeled into the classroom or the flubbed administration of the oath of office or the supergroup of Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman taking the inaugural ceremony on a Thanksgiving detour. Somehow, the most memorable […]

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Winner Takes All

Title Image National Institutes of Health (Public domain) A bit of Beethoven here, a recital there—that doesn’t interest me,” the pianist Igor Levit said five years ago. Instead he wanted to become a thought leader, like Bob Dylan. Levit was reading Greil Marcus’s Like a Rolling Stone. “People like [Dylan] didn’t see music as a […]

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Complete Illusion

How Opera Can Learn from the Movies By · Title Image New York Public Library Digital Collections (Public Domain) · Datum 11/21/2019 When opera house directors and administrators go to the movies, what do they think about (and if they don’t go to the movies, what are they thinking)? Do they consider the box office […]

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Color Blind

We can’t cancel Anna Netrebko. But one of the Russian soprano’s recent Instagram posts, taken backstage during a performance of “Aida” at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and showing off the diva’s makeup-darkened skin, may have been enough to get most any other opera singer to file for moral bankruptcy. “Beautiful singing!” wrote one follower under […]

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The Mystic Void

Do we still need Bayreuth? By · Title Image © BAYREUTHER FESTSPIELE / ENRICO NAWRATH · Date 8/9/2018 The term Wagnerian never applied to me, though Bayreuth holds a special place in the family lore. In the 1950s, a rare honor was bestowed upon my grandfather: along with the other chosen ones, he was permitted […]

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Shush Money

James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera in Court By · Photography NYPL (Public Domain) · Date 5/24/2018 In December, James Levine was fired from his emeritus music directorship at the Metropolitan Opera, after five men stepped forward to credibly accuse him of sexual assault when they were teenagers and young adults, over a period ranging […]