Actually, this is a little belated opera news. I just got the most recent issue of Opera News magazine where they give out the Opera News Awards of 2009. There's a thrift store in town which gives away outdated magazines for free and I always cruise their stack for the latest Opera News.
This year they gave them to mezzo Joyce DiDonato who they rightly describe as an artist in her prime, Gerald Finley about whom I know little aside from that he played Oppenheimer in the Doctor Atomic opera at the Met, and some kind of lifetime achievement award to Philip Glass. It's funny to me how almost across the board classical music writers fall all over themselves to explain to people that Glass really isn't difficult and really is a venerable and accomplished artist in the grand tradition. The classical music critics know their blue-haired audience well. And they are right. At this point Glass is about as establishment as they get. Also awarded were a few people I'd never heard of, but look forward to reading the rest of the article.
Also this week in opera news, the Los Angeles Opera is in a bit of trouble. As you well know, opera is tricky financially, requiring huge spectacle sets, top notch talent and the pay that that requires, all for an art form that is largely anachronistic. They rely on a very small and rabid fan base as well as appealing to the snob factor of the nouveau riche who think that they become more cultured by sitting in the same room as an opera whether they manage to stay conscious through it or not. Needless to say, times of severe economic crisis hit the opera house, as it does all of the arts, very hard.
The LA Opera's massive production of Wagner's Ring Cycle has been a bit like Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote or Orson Welles' Heart of Darkness for something like a decade now. Finally they are in production with Gotterdammerung to finish the cycle in April when this week the LA Opera came to LA County with hat in hand and asked for a loan of $14 million. The details are still unclear, but it's already shaping up to be kind of a sad story.
The BBC pointed me at this strange and fascinating study of some famous authors (Hardy, Melville and Lawrence are mentioned) whose works have been charts by vocabulary and word placement. The idea is that one can see distinctives of each individual author from the words they use and how they use them. Even more interesting is the hypothesis of a "meta-novel" which every author pulls from, which seems to be suggesting the author themself or, perhaps more accurately, the author's brain.
Some sad news in the publishing world this morning as the Kirkus Review has folded. Kirkus has been a major force in literary criticism since 1933. In a shrinking world of book reviews, this is heavy news. Well, why don't I let some quotes from some other news sources do the talking:
Washington Post Book World fiction editor: "You'd think w 3 newspapers still running book reviews & more than a dozen bookstores left in US, Kirkus would have been rolling in the dough...Every time we lose 1 of these rare independent voices we grow more dependent on publicists, authors' parents' friends clogging blogs [with] praise."
Literary blogger Edward Champion: "What happens to all the books that can't get coverage in the newspapers? Blogs can't come close to picking up the slack."
Soft Skull editor Denise Oswald: "Yikes, is this going to make it even harder to sell in."
Also, Editor & Publisher is being closed down by their owners The Nielsen Company. They are selling off several of their titles like Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. Editor & Publisher, the foremost publication on the journalism industry, has been publishing for 125 years.
You'll remember that Gourmet Magazine also just folded. It's not been a good year for publishing (nervously said by the man who is working on writing a book.)
Is there happy news this week?!!? I started focusing these things on the arts and sciences to avoid this kind of gloomy week. Is there any happy news? At the very least, is there anything funny this week?
Throwing Things At People News:
I'm sure you all remember the Iraqi reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi who threw his shoe at former US President George W. Bush during a press conference? Well, at a Paris news conference this past week, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoe at al-Zaidi. Apparently this particular, new shoe thrower was an exiled Iraqi journalist who spoke in defence of US policy and accused Zaidi of siding with a dictatorship. I really guess this shouldn't be that funny except that I immediately think of a variation on the old Gandhi quote, something about "leaving the whole world bruised and shoeless." I would direct your attention the video below where you can see as the new shoe thrower is being thrown out of the room, another man hits him in the head with a shoe. The commentators from the podcast The Bugle called it "the perfect metaphor for international relations, but with shoes" and then went on to suggest that someone needs to find the guy who hit the new shoe thrower with a shoe and throw a shoe at him.
Oh, boy, do I need to go for a walk after all of this.