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For Better, For Worse

At the beginning of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage,” we meet Marianne and Johan, a couple being interviewed for a magazine story about successful relationships. In the next scene, Marianne asks Johan, “Do you believe two people can spend a lifetime together?” “It’s a ridiculous convention passed down from God knows where,” he answers.“A […]

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The Dreams of Others

When you mention alto Dina König in front of her former colleagues, they insist on her musical excellence. That’s because, in September 2020, König gave up her burgeoning career as a singer of early music. Instead, she decided to become a tram driver with the local public transportation system in Basel, Switzerland.  Musicians often view […]

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“The Perfect Voice in the Wrong Body”

“A chubby bundle of puppy fat.” “Unsightly and unattractive.” “Repulsive figure.” These comments count as professional feedback in the world of opera. At first glance, they may appear to be isolated cases; only seldom does body shaming make headlines in the opera industry. The most prominent exception was the “little black dress” which did not […]

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Formed Under Pressure

In classical music, racism toward musicians of Asian heritage is as casual as it is pervasive. When I was in my first year of conservatory, at the Royal Academy of Music in London, a Korean composition student was late to a single lesson; the professor proceeded to do a disgustingly caricatured impression of his accent. […]

Posted inOpinion

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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The Audiencers

Illustrations Carine Kuntz We seldom pay attention to ushers. In “The Natural History of the Theatre,” Theodor Adorno’s otherwise extravagant sociology of concert-going, the usher receives only a glancing mention: a missed opportunity for a writer who discerned the ideological contradictions and atavistic energies of music in a thousand minor details, from gales of applause […]

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Physical Movement

In a 2015 Bloomberg article about Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on tour, reporter Joel Stein introduced an “impeccably dressed, handsome, long-haired” man, referred to by members of the orchestra as “the international man of mystery” or “the most interesting man in the world.” He didn’t mean Dudamel. Stein was referring to Guido […]

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Big Breaks

Early this summer, Polish pianist Elżbieta Bilicka got some exciting news. Bilicka is 28 and lives in Logan, Utah, where she is on the piano faculty at Utah State University. At the time, the novel coronavirus was spreading rapidly throughout the United States and Europe, wreaking financial havoc on the performing arts. In the midst […]

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Lived Experience

“I don’t know if you can hear the helicopters overhead,” guitarist Sean Shibe said as he introduced his encore. The helicopters were policing a Black Lives Matter demonstration just down the road from the Wigmore Hall. Shibe’s encore was a guitar arrangement of Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Farewell to Stromness,” a piece of protest music written […]