Harvard’s Historic, Controversial Fisk Organ: Last Local Utterances


C. B Fisk (company archive)
C. B Fisk (company archive)

When Harvard University Organist, Christian Lane, lifts his hands from the four well used manuals of the 1967 C. B. Fisk opus 46 organ in Appleton Chapel for the final time, at 7:30 P.M., on Monday, May 3, [reviewed here] staff from the firm that built the instrument will be ready with tools, crating, and pipe trays. Dismantling and preparing it for a second stage of life in a reverberant new Presbyterian church in Austin, Texas, will be a brief interim chapter in a remarkable, and at times briskly controversial, experiment begun by the University in the 1960s.

A beautiful D.A. Flentrop organ across the way, in what was then Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum for Germanic art, had been dedicated in 1958 and was immediately propelled into national fame by organist E. Power Biggs and his high-profile series of recitals, Columbia LPs, and radio broadcasts. This Dutch organ benefited from the supportive, clear acoustic of a massive masonry structure with neither carpeting nor permanent furniture. The questing, experiment-ready University, encouraged by the Flentrop’s musical and social success, was next interested in seeking an American solution to its local acoustical challenge. All resoundingly agreed that providing a new organ for Memorial Church would present potent technical and æsthetic hurdles along the way. They entrusted the design, construction, and voicing to one of their own, Charles Brenton Fisk, ‘45. [continued]


Thoughts on Hearing Maurizio Pollini’s Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini in Concert


Maurizio Pollini’s touring Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini concert grand exhibits  exceptionally ravishing tonal and technical characteristics. The fact that this is a piano well outside our modern norm begs a number of questions, among which is, “Why don’t we regularly hear instruments of this subtlety and beauty?”

But first, what goes into the production of a Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini concert grand? Italian piano technician and entrepreneur Angelo Fabbrini, from Pescara, Abruzzo, purchases new Steinways from that firm’s celebrated Hamburg atelier and subjects them to minute technical fine-tuning, replaces or substantially rebuilds numerous crucial action components, and reworks the interaction between strings, bridges, and soundboard. The sound of the rebuilt instruments reminds one of the finest surviving pre-1912 Blüthner concert grands (from Leipzig) and of 19th-century concert instruments by Mason & Hamlin, the 19th-century Boston firm whose pianos were, by a comfortable margin, the highest-priced in this country.

The Fabbrini design does not sustain tone for quite as long as these older pianos and the treble is gleamingly dark rather than the ethereal shimmering silver of the Blüthner Aliquot design. Unlike a standard New York Steinway, in which shadings under mezzo-forte can be difficult to control, sometimes even to produce, the Fabbrini Steinways offer the easy, wide dynamic range typical of pre-1920 pianos by the great German, American, and Austrian builders. The Fabbrini fortissimo is magnificent, but it is not as loud as the brash New York roar. Its top dynamic reaches are capable of considerable variation, and the tone production can be built up to near-orchestral volume without strain. In the course of the Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Symphony Hall on April 25, [reviewed here] Maurizio Pollini time and again called forth ppp and fff trills in the bottom two octaves, as effortlessly and clearly as at middle dynamic levels. Forte in the right hand against piano and mezzo-piano in the left became part of this recital’s wide dynamic vocabulary. [continued]


A Call for Action: BMInt readers who care about the BPL are asked to stand up for it.


Ed. Note: Footnote updated

On April 14, the Boston City Council begins to take up the budget for FY 2011. Amidst the crisis of pending cuts are those for the Boston Public Library. Given these ominous prospects and leaving the concern over branch closings to others, BMInt has investigated what will happen specifically to the Music Department — whether there are to be cuts in staff and hours, curtailment of use of current collections and future acquisitions, cessation of  digitizing the card catalog, questionable  de-acquisitions, and further ill effects on the morale of department personnel.

Of course the BPL should assume its share of the budgetary crunches on local, state and national levels. But the BPL has taken an inordinate hit over the past seven years and should be somewhat spared at this juncture. The table, given to us through the courtesy of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau and analyzed by our leader, F. Lee Eiseman, shows:

First, the total City of Boston budget has increased 69% from 1995 to 2010, but that of the Boston Public Library has increased only 34% in the same period. That’s half as much.

Second, the percentage of the total City of Boston spending apportioned to the BPL was .8% in 2009 and .9% in 2010. The standard in the 1980s (and before and for some period after) was that the expenditures for the Boston Public Library not fall below 3% of the entire City expenditures. Extenuating facts are that more city departments have been formed in this period, and the funding to the library from one state source since 2001 goes directly to the library and is therefore not shown in the city’s budget figures. Nonetheless, as is evident, the library’s share of City funds is about one-quarter of what it had been.

How has the library been affected so far?* [continued]


A Force for Music Education Wears His Other Hat: Cortese and New England String Ensemble to Perform Tippett, Vivaldi, Purcell, Benjamin, Britten.


Conductor Federico Cortese is very well known and valued for one niche in classical-music Boston — teaching serious music students; but he is not adequately recognized in another, as Music Director of New England String Ensemble. His upcoming NESE concert on April 17 at Jordan Hall should help rectify that. The program includes Sir Michael Tippett, Concerto for Double String Orchestra; Antonio Vivaldi Stabat Mater; Henry Purcell, “When I am Laid in Earth” from Dido and Aeneas; George Benjamin, Upon Silence; and Benjamin Britten, Simple Symphony. Mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims is soloist in the Vivaldi, Purcell, and Benjamin.

For the program notes Cortese wrote, “Choosing a concert program is a rather enjoyable process that often results in some unforeseen fruits. The connections among the pieces of tonight ended up being, on many levels, even closer than I had imagined.  Like some other programs we performed this season, this program is a little journey around the baroque style. The other clearly noticeable common element in today’s varied repertory is that it is an almost entirely British concert, featuring mostly music written by very young English composers. … To break this British monopoly I inserted one of Vivaldi’s most beautiful sacred pieces. … A certain meditative depth and sadness are common to all the vocal pieces in the program and, I think, create a vibrant contrast with the rhythmic energy and liveliness of both Tippett’s and Britten’s music that frames them. After all, concerts, as all musical compositions, are built on the dialectics between affinity and contrast.”

Catherine Weiskel, executive director of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, when asked for her opinion of Cortese as music director of that organization, responded immediately, “That’s pretty easy. I have enormous respect and admiration for him. He transformed this institution in the last 10 years. We now have by far the largest budget and one of the most comprehensive programs in the United States. The orchestra now is at a completely different level than when he took it over. The kids adore him. I don’t think they would give him the level of commitment they do if they didn’t admire him. He identifies with the kids because that’s the kind of kid he was.” [continued]

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The “New” in NEC: The Buzz from New Faculty, New Programs, New Events


On April 7, New England Conservatory Philharmonia Orchestra is putting on a concert for what is believed to be the first time in Symphony Hall. Conducted by Chair of Orchestral Conducting Hugh Wolff, the concert features NEC’s Artist Diploma candidate cellist Narek Hakhnazarian in Schumann’s Cello Concerto, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. In light of the upcoming historic concert, BMInt conducted interviews with Wolff and then New England Conservatory President Tony Woodcock.

Interview with President Tony Woodcock:

BMInt: We have done two interviews with Gunther Schuller. He had interesting things to say about the institution, 20 to 40 years ago. Link here.

Woodcock: Gunther arrived at a period of existential crisis and left it a much better place.

Were there were any surprises when you came?

 There are always surprises. I think the greatest surprise was an organization unfettered by any type of creative restrictions, where you could have an idea …

 A pleasant surprise? [continued]

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Ghostwriter Honors Intelligencer


worthies-001cTo the esteemed editorial staff of the Boston Musical Intelligencer,

In the more than a century since my passing, not in my wildest dreams would I have contemplated a musical world that you now have in Boston. Some issues I do not comprehend, some fill me with great pride, some I note with concern. But overall, I must convey my deepest and heartfelt congratulations on Boston truly becoming what I sincerely hoped it would be, one of the most musical cities in the world.

From my distant place, far removed in space and time, I’m duly impressed by the passion and spirit of the auditors, the audiences of Boston. They are not enriched by the spectacle, by the cheap display, by the event that is poisoned by the desire of great remuneration. That this is so, even in your day where you have such access to music by so many means other than going to concert performances, speaks so well of how you have benefited from the many efforts of my and later generations.

Perhaps it is good that all of you don’t realize what it meant for even a good performance during my days on earth. We had orchestra concerts at the Boston Music Hall when there was only a single violoncello. Oh, how I wondered if we would ever see the day when a concert presented not just one, but two bassoons. By the same token, I continue to wonder about your historic ensembles of today; we wouldn’t think of presenting the great oratorios of Handel, Mendelssohn and Haydn with anything less than 200 voices, and didn’t do so after 1840. That, we saw as progress.

But I digress. What you routinely expect from your so-called Youth Orchestras would have driven my pen to declare a concert not unlike what I had heard in my lifetime. Add to this the wonderful renditions put forth by the many choruses, chamber ensembles and the like is something my colleagues during my day would have regarded as heaven.


WGBH to BMInt, “We decline to respond.”


Just released monthly (February) Arbitron ratings, respected indicators that track radio listenership, show that since the November changes, audience at the new all-talk WGBH has remained flat and at the new all-classical WCRB has declined. It seems timely therefore to revisit the issue of what is going on at these stations. BMInt recognizes WGBH management’s commitment to providing classical music broadcasting in Greater Lowell, Nantucket and Southern New Hampshire. BMInt also concurs with WGBH management that the programming on Lowell’s WCRB has continued to improve since the purchase by the WGBH Educational Foundation. There are some in the geographically diminished classical audience who agree, especially those who contributed the recent WCRB all-day-fundraiser which, according to our sources, set records for such an event.

But BMInt continues to have major misgivings about current operations at WCRB:

  • Large parts of Boston and South cannot receive the signal.
  • There’s too much airtime devoted to banal and relentless promercials
  • The music selection is still rather limited except during Cathy Fuller’s approximately 20 hours per week (12% of airtime)
  • But our major bugbear remains the cancellation of the 18 Friday afternoon BSO concerts.

Assuming the figures supplied by WGBH Radio General Manager John Voci at the BMInt sponsored panel discussion on January 5th are correct, the cost of producing the live Friday afternoon Boston Symphony broadcasts — which were suddenly discontinued after some 58 years — amounted to a minuscule fraction of the station’s budget. To be exact, $25,000 against some $13,000,000 or 0.2%.

Therefore Mr. Voci’s rationalization based on budgetary constraints begs the question: What is WGBH Radio doing with that $13,000,000? BMInt has been trying to find out what is the fiscal situation at WGBH/WCRB. It is, after all, a publicly-supported entity. And supporters should know how their contributions are used. [continued]


B S O Music Director James Levine withdraws from rest of season.


Maestro Levine will miss the remainder of the season, citing back problems for the cancellation. “This has been a difficult year for James Levine and we wish him the very best as he works with his doctors towards resolving his ongoing back problems,” said BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe. Jayce Ogren will conduct the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s Songs of Love and Sorrow on March 25, 26, and 27. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will conduct Mendelssohn’s Elijah on April 1,2, and 3. The conductor for the program on April 8, 9, and 10, featuring John Harbison’s Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with soloists Mira Wang and Jan Vogler and Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, will be announced later this week. [continued]




Richard Buell will be contributing a column from time to time on music in Boston. His first for BMInt features excerpts from Francis Poulenc, “‘Echo and Source’: Selected Correspondence 1915-1963,” translated and edited by Sidney Buckland; research consultant: Patrick Saul (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1991)

“What a dismal town” — Francis Poulenc, the  Gloria, and Boston

201. Francis Poulenc to Brigitte Manceaux
Boston, Tuesday evening, 3 January 1950

Ma bichette,

Well, that’s it … this morning we played through the Concerto [for piano] for the first time. The orchestration is excellent and Charloton [Charles Munch] is  delighted, delighted. So am I. Of course I played like a pig — my attention being mainly on my orchestration — but I will rectify that in the morning. Naturally, the first movement changes the most (and for the better): the second subject is ravishing and the two orchestral tutti, soli – hopeless when played on two pianos — are on the contrary quite perfect. The Andante is as I expected, the Finale very amusing. The whole bang lot is stunning. The orchestra was delighted. Thirty Frenchmen among them. Munch has conducted the Concerto for organ twice this autumn — it has had an incredible success here. It has been recorded and I am going to hear the test copies any day now.

I am leading an austere life in this very puritanical town. Fortunately the museum is fantastic, as much for painting as for Egypt, Asia, Greece, etc.

Charloton is a treasure, and as French as Maurice Chevalier when one sees him in this environment. He lives in a charming country house, half an hour from the town. Naturally Ginette [Neveu’s] death was a most dreadful blow to him.

I rehearse every morning. Light, easy piano, very pleasant hall. By the grace of God. I eagerly await your news. Give mine to everybody around you. Pierre [Bernac] has just phoned from New York, delighted with his trip and entirely rejuvenated by his success.

On that note I leave you to go and rehearse.

A thousand tender kisses.

Fr. [continued]


BMINT Has Productive Week


The Boston Musical Intelligencer has posted reviews of 17 concerts between March 10th and the 17th- way too many for our virtual front page. So we encourage you to click our “Reviews” and “News and Features” buttons and have a look at the older reviews and articles which have been pushed down below the break. You can also use the search box when looking for a specific keyword. We also wish to share with our readers that the site’s average daily hit rate for March stands at 10,577. Thanks to all our readers and writers. And if you hear something, write something! [continued]

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Remembering Lukas


To be at Tanglewood for six weeks in 1959 as a student at the Berkshire Music Center was not a bad way to spend a summer between sophomore and junior years of college. The Fromm Foundation had recently instituted its summer program in support of contemporary music; the Lenox Quartet was in residence, along with several other first-rate instrumentalists that included the pianist Paul Jacobs. The composition faculty consisted of Aaron Copland, Leon Kirchner, and Lukas Foss. At age 19 I was the youngest of the seven composers who wound up in Lukas Foss’s class, and certainly the least experienced; the others included recent college graduates (Lita Dubman, Bob Baksa, Alvin Lucier) and two DMAs (Michael Horvit of Boston University, Roger Hannay of Eastman), and Jacques Hétu from Canada. I hadn’t known before that Lukas had been associated with Tanglewood since the 1940s, when he had been Koussevitzky’s assistant and official pianist for the BSO.

Lukas met with us occasionally for individual lessons, but the heart and soul of his teaching was in the class with all of us. [continued]


Japan to Accept Britten Score, 70 Years after its Commission


The Consul General of Japan in Boston, Masaru Tsuji, will be the NEC Philharmonia concert at Jordan Hall this evening [March 10] to receive a copy of the Benjamin Britten score, Sinfonia da Requiem. Originally commissioned by the Japanese government in 1940 for a celebration of the 2600th anniversary of that country, the composition was, according to Ben Zander, rejected because of its Christian movement titles and was never performed in Japan.

Benjamin Zander, guest conductor of the NEC Philharmonia, notes, “We are deeply moved by Britten’s composition and by the grace of Japan’s esteemed diplomatic representative in receiving the score 70 years after the event.”

Dear Mr Tsuji,

I received your message through your assistant, Ms Hansen and I wish to reply with great respect and affection for a new friend.

I think I have managed to unravel the story of the Britten work. [continued]


Explanation of Clarity versus Reverberation in Concert Acoustics


In his review here in the Intelligencer of the recent recital by violinist Thomas Zehetmair at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Christoph Wolff mentioned that the acoustics in the Stephen D. Bechtel Auditorium, designed primarily for symposia and lectures, “…was remarkably good in every respect. ” Wolff’s comment deserves some expansion on the whole question of acoustics.

The Bechtel auditorium is very well designed for its purpose. The audience sits in semicircles around the podium, forming a wide fan. There is ample space behind the performer, and the back of the stage is filled by a moderately sound-absorbing projection screen. The seats are upholstered with sound-absorbing fabric, and there are carpets in the aisles. The high ceiling gives an unusually large internal volume for a speech auditorium, and the extra volume increases the reverberation time sufficiently that there is a noticeable, although quiet, reverberation — under one second. Reverberation is audible, but at a low enough sound pressure that it does not obscure the music in any way. The music, even eight rows back, is as clear as if one were standing next to the performer. The net result is an exciting, highly engaging, concert experience, increasingly unusual in concert venues. [continued]


Emmanuel Church Celebrates Institution of New Rector with Special Offering from Emmanuel Music


BMInt  interviewed composer and Emmanuel Music director, John Harbison, and the Rev. Pamela L. Werntz, who is to be instituted as rector this Sunday. The 10:00 AM regular service will include Bach’s Cantata No. 163 in English, and a motet by James Primosch.  The 3:00 PM special service of institution will feature a repeat of the Primosch. Your correspondents also recalled the Rev. Al Kershaw, Emmanuel Church’s rector enthusiastically encouraging the  founding of Emmanuel Music. The incoming rector is also deeply committed to music, especially the music of Bach.

The interview with John Harbison:

BMInt: We recall that a former rector, the Rev. Al Kershaw, presided over Emmanuel when Craig Smith conceived the idea of the special music program.

Craig was a tenor in the choir at the time. The music director faltered, radically, and Craig took over the choir. And within a few weeks, he went to Al with the idea of doing a Bach Cantata series.

He had been coming to Cantata Singers concerts — back when I was conducting, and I had just gotten to know him because he lived across the street from me. …

He got the series going in ’70 or ’71. At the first performance, Rosie [Harbison’s wife] and I both played. Jane Bryden sang… It was in a period when much of the time, the congregation was meeting at Lindsey [Chapel], very small-scale. Quite soon, I think the second year, Craig decided to do it every week. Al was fine with it.  Then Craig augmented the chorus quickly with some other singers.

BMInt: Do you think the Bach Cantatas have helped increase the congregation?

I think they did, I think Al thought they did, very much so.  Bach cantatas, and the Jazz ministry, were very beneficial.

BMInt: Al was a jazz musician, right? [continued]


The Monteverdi Orfeo Film: Spectacular, Surreal, Stylish


A film presentation of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, directed by René Jacobs and staged by the Trisha Brown Company at the Auditorium of the Louvre au Dimanche 21 février was sold out, my husband and I were told, but a quickly presented card from Boston Musical Intelligencer worked magic. The staff was delighted at the offer to write up something for Boston classical-music lovers.

So I was nonplussed to discover that this presentation was hardly au courant; it originally was seen at Théatre Royale de la Monnaie in Brussels under artistic director Bernard Foccroule in 1998, followed with a performance at the festival in Aix-en-Provence. Nonetheless, as it turns out when we returned to Boston and asked more than a dozen local music lovers (so far), almost no one even knew of it. Quele dommâge. [continued]


A Birthday Note


On February 22 I celebrate Chopin’s birthday, not George Washington’s.  Two hundred years ago today, one of the greatest Romantic geniuses was born near Warsaw, of French and Polish parentage.  His amazing talents were already apparent when he was eight years old.  By the time he was 16 he was writing music of permanent value, [continued]

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Is Classical Music Radio A Dying Technology?


WGBH’s spokesman, John Voci may be unintentionally right according to a BMInt commenter. The future for classical music broadcasting may be on the internet rather than from 100,000 watt radio towers, which, because of their cost of operation, require lowest common denominator programming. Richard Buell, a former Boston Globe critic, has a comprehensive website on streaming classical music here. His comment, which follows, is part of a lively discussion at the end of an earlier article .

Have you ever wondered what can classical music radio be like far, far away from dear provincial little Boston? If you’ll give me your attention …

Across the Channel from France Musique — which Joel Cohen rightly praises — you hear such offerings as BBC Radio 3’s CD Review, whose regular Building a Library feature amounts to a vivid critical discography in sound. Whose recording, say, of Schumann’s Kerner Lieder is THE one to have? One Saturday morning a few months back that wonderful writer Hilary Finch (of Gramophone and the Times) was on hand (and for an hour!) to go through the whole lot of available recordings.

There is nothing remotely like this on U.S. radio stations, and to the best of my knowledge there never has been. [continued]


Metropolis with Original Music, at the Berlin Film Festival


A Report from Europe: Will success spoil Gottfried Huppertz?

This was the question running through Trobador’s mind as he, along with a certain number of other European spectators, tuned in to an unusual television program last Friday on the Franco-German channel Arte. It transmitted the “première” of a legendary film, Metropolis (1927) of director Fritz Lang, restored to its original two-and-a-half hours. This was shown before a live audience, with a full, well-rehearsed orchestra performing from the original Gottfried Huppertz (1887-1937) score, edited by the German conductor-musicologist, Bernd Heller. Given the short run of the original film with its original score, in 1927,  more people have probably heard the music this week than at any time since its composition (although I am told on good authority that the score can be heard on two-year-old DVD produced by the Murnau Stifftung.) [continued]

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Davies Develops Young People, New Music at NEC Festival


The last weekend in January brought the 20th Annual Festival of Contemporary Music at the New England Conservatory, and this year’s guest composer was an old friend of Boston, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music in the United Kingdom and at 75 the most illustrious living British composer. I can only report on some Saturday afternoon events, and regret that I wasn’t able to come to the big schedule on Sunday, but what I saw and heard is strong evidence that good music for and by young people is going strong at NEC. Most Saturdays at NEC are likely a madhouse of bustling kids, teachers, and groups; there are, I was told, some 1,400 students of elementary through high-school age in NEC’s preparatory programs. Brown Hall, in the basement adjacent to Jordan Hall, was host to the first program, and it was filled to overflowing, with every chair occupied and 100 students and parents in standing-room-only. [continued]

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Latest Ratings Show WGBH Audience Flat and WCRB Down 14%


The changes in the formats of WGBH and WCRB, which hundreds of BMInt comments lambasted, have not produced results likely to please management. The latest Arbitron reports, the first to measure the response to the changes, show WGBH with the same listenership it had in October and WCRB with 14% less. On February 3rd this writer made a presentation on behalf of BMInt to a very courteous WGBH board board of directors:

Good Evening. I am like those at the table, a director of a Boston cultural non-profit. In my case it’s the Harvard Musical Association, where I have been director-at-large for twenty years and the chairman of the program committee for all of that time. So I can speak with authority on matters of classical music programming as well as fiduciary responsibility connected with a board seat. [continued]


Divorce, Paris Opera Style: A Conductor Leaves the Podium


Trobador’s Paris Diary

Rumor has it that they are a hardbitten bunch,  the players in the orchestra pit of the Paris Opera.  And Trobador can vouch,  from his couple of seasons of gigging  around in France with Paris-Conservatory-trained instrumentalists, that the men and women of that milieu are a no-nonsense crowd. They like things on the job to go quickly and efficiently,  and according to Hoyle.

Nonetheless there was an element of surprise in the news, first made public January 18,  that Emmanuelle Haim, a rising star in the French baroque music scene,  had walked away from the Paris Opera’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo,  for which she had been engaged as musical director,  to be replaced for the final rehearsals and the public run by the little-known Philippe Hui. [continued]

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Lost Innocence: Unfolding Horror in Turn of the Screw


“I seek a friend —Obedient to follow where I lead, Slick as a juggler’s mate to catch my thought… and in that hour ‘The ceremony of innocence is drowned’…” This ominous text is from the libretto to Benjamin Britten’s opera, Turn of the Screw, to be presented by Boston Lyric Opera as an Opera Annex production at the Park Plaza Castle on February 3, 5, and 6.

Loss of innocence was a theme of much of what Britten composed. Biographers have noted that his experience in his early teens, at the Gresham’s boarding school in England, at a formative time of his life, was partly the cause; Peter Pears later referred to this period for Britten as “two uneasy years.”

Death in Venice, Britten’s last opera, “was, in some sort of way, a summing up,” Pears has said, noting that its lead character questions what he had spent his life looking for: “Knowledge? A lost innocence? And must the pursuit of beauty, of love, lead only to chaos? All questions Ben constantly asked himself.”

The impression among Boston opera concert-goers in recent years was that Boston Lyric Opera had lost its edge; but in the past two years, under the skillful new management, BLO is once again back on track, offering fine, out-of-the-ordinary productions. BLO conceived of Opera Annex as an opportunity to experience opera outside the traditional theatre environment by creating a production that reflects the unique characteristics of its particular performance space. Under a partnership between BLO and Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, Turn of the Screw will be the first opera ever performed in the historic National Landmark Castle since it was built in 1891 as an armory for  the First Corps of Cadets. Stagehands are now at work at the Castle, creating a “pit” and stadium with 580 seats, all with unobstructed views and including ample wheelchair seating. [continued]

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UPDATE on WGBH Story: Ratings and Support Soar for DC’s WETA with Shift from All-talk to All-classical


BMInt Interview with Daniel C. DeVany, Vice President and General Manager, Classical WETA 90.9 FM, Washington,  DC

One of Daniel DeVany’s first acts, when he became general manager of Washington, DC’s WETA in 2000, was to encourage the staff and trustees to examine how their public was being served. WETA has a 75,000 watt transmitter, which is by a significant factor the most powerful in the DC area. Yet [just as at WGBH] listenership and contributions were ebbing.

The conclusion of the self-examination led the station to believe that its variety format of news, talk, and various types of music was to blame for failing to achieve listener loyalty. It was clear from their market research that when music ended and news began or vice versa, listeners would switch the dial. Thus they decided in 2005 to convert to a single unified all-talk format with an emphasis on international news, which they believed would be great service to the DC demographic and result in greater numbers of listeners with concomitantly greater loyalty and support. [continued]