A Baby Bell: No Josh?

While I’ve not seen this story confirmed in mainstream media, an online fan forum says violinist Joshua Bell is a father. Apparently, it was Josh Bell himself who posted this message:

“Many years ago I had a girlfriend named Lisa Matricardi. We were together for seven years, up until 1999. Although we are not together anymore as a couple, we have remained close and I think of her as family. A few years ago we discovered that we both had a keen interest in having a child. Of course having a child takes two people, and since neither of us had a proper ‘significant other’ up to the task, we arrived at an unconventional but certainly not unprecedented solution. We decided to try to have a child together, even though we both knew that we would be living our separate lives outside of sharing our parental responsibilities (and our deep friendship of course). I will keep the details to a minimum here, but to make a long story short, on July 31st Lisa gave birth to our baby boy.”

You can read the entire post here.

The Homer of Seville, or, Placido Domingo of The Simpsons

Plácido Domingo sings opera all over the world. He also runs two opera companies, and produces a singing competition. So why would he take on another new job?

Because it’s The Simpsons!!

He makes his debut this Sunday in “The Homer of Seville.” Domingo, playing himself, encourages Homer in his new career as an opera singer. Meanwhile, Marge is getting jealous of Homer’s middle-age groupies.

Look for it on The Simpsons this Sunday. BTW, Domingo is the first opera star to appear on the series. But it’s not the first time The Simpsons has had an opera theme:

You Can Catch Our Act at the Met

Last year at this time, one widely reported story was opening night at the Metropolitan Opera: a production of “Madam Butterfly” that made prominent use of puppets.

What does it take to handle a puppet on the Met stage? It turns out the auditions are rigorous; get a backstage glimpse here.

And for more backstage glimpses of this season’s opening night, listen to Performance Today on Monday.

Classical Flotsam and Jetsam

Rostropovich was not just a great cellist, but apparently one of the great collectors of Russian art. His collection will go back to Russia intact, thanks to a multi-million dollar purchase that went through, just before it was to be broken up and sold at auction. Sotheby’s auction house seems to have withdrawn information on the collection from their website, but you can bid on the very glossy catalog all the same (Ebay, not Sotheby’s)…..If you vaguely recollect hearing something about piano music, a hoax, and somebody named Joyce Hatto earlier this year, Mark Singer’s article in the New Yorker summarizes deftly……Has anyone noticed how opera, stealthily, bit by bit, is taking over the world of Twin Cities theater? First it was Mozart at Jeune Lune, then Puccini at Theater Latte Da. Next month it’s “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” as Minneapolis Musical Theatre blends the two emotion-packed, instant-confrontation genres.

Bicycle, with or without Icicle

She may not wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, but our very own classical host Alison Young is completely content with an orange safety vest as she cycles the streets of St. Paul. Read all about it here (video too) from St. Paul Pioneer Press.

BTW, Alison speaks the truth when she says she bikes to work every day. Somehow, she managed this feat all through last winter’s sub-zero snow and ice, requiring only minimal defrosting before going on the air…

This Tape Won't Self-Destruct in Five Seconds

On NPR’s Weekend Edition yesterday, what an interesting, wide-ranging interview with Lalo Schifrin.

He has considerable classical credentials going back to his childhood, when his father was a violinist in the Teatro Colon Orchestra. Lalo Schifrin studied with Olivier Messiaen and Charles Koechlin, composed for Dizzy Gillespie, and arranged for The Three Tenors (he tells a great story about Pavarotti in the NPR interview).

But of course, Lalo Schifrin will always be best remembered for composing this music (forever associated with Minneapolis native and former teen dj at WMIN, Peter Graves):

Pipe down!

Hasn’t it seemed that over the past decade or so the world is getting louder and louder? On my normally quiet street in St. Paul this summer, there were dueling renovation jobs on houses surrounding mine, Harley-Davidsons revved up for their seasonal runs, leaf-blowers, lawn-mowers, radios blaring, the party crowd hitting the bars, barking dogs – you get the picture.

The European Union has issued a noise abatement directive that helps limit the level of noise a person is exposed to at the workplace. This is to protect its citizens’ health since long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. This all makes perfectly good sense; the only catch is that symphony orchestras produce sound significantly above 85 db on a regular basis. Take a trumpet cranking out a fortissimo passage in Wagner. They can register around 110 decibels. A crashing cymbal can peak even higher and the mellow flute (my former instrument) puts out 118 dbs straight into the right ear of the player, about the same level of noise as a power drill.

The issue is whether a directive could be enforced and how it would affect an orchestra’s artistry. On the other hand, it might keep orchestras from playing very loud music in confined spaces, like an orchestra pit, without providing adequate protection to its members. Not too long ago, I played a run of performances of “The Rite of Spring.” I was the poster-child for noise-abatement with my ear-plugs supplemented by Industrial Ear-Muffs normally worn by airline crew. But I still have my hearing intact!

Pavarotti's Funeral on Internet TV

Luciano Pavarotti’s funeral can be seen online, thanks to Italian TV. (Go to “Addio a Pavarotti”.) But be aware of a few things–although it contains some music (Raina Kabaivanska singing Verdi at about 12 minutes in, Andrea Bocelli singing Mozart at 1 hour 16), it’s really a church service, not a musical event, and it’s in Italian. As a special commentator, they’ve invited Pavarotti’s friend Mirella Freni; at some points, she seems to be choked up with emotion. (But given that my Italian is of the opera-libretto variety, I could be misunderstanding completely.)

(Speaking of Italian: apparently Pavarotti’s nickname in Italy was “Big Luciano” — that is, using the English word “big.”)