- Remember the video we had last month of the incredibly inspiring orchestra in Kinshasa? 60 Minutes also got hep to them and went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to do a report.
- A woman tried to sue the Bolshoi Opera for 1 million rubles (about $33,600) over the "moral agony experienced when watching the performance" of Ruslan and Ludmilla that premiered in November to celebrate the reopening of the Bolshoi Theater. A Moscow court has denied the compensation.
- William de Pasquale, a Philadelphia Orchestra stalwart (he variously served as co-concertmaster, associate concertmaster, acting concertmaster and second concertmaster), died Sunday of complications related to prostate cancer. He was 78.
- June Taylor, the founding bassoonist of New York's Dorian Wind Quintet, died Sunday at age 79 of a heart attack. In 2002, she retired from the group she helped form; of the quintet, she once told the specialty magazine The Double Reed that she hoped "that people look to us through our recordings and our performances to say, 'Gee, I'd like to do that.'"
- And contralto Lili Chookasian, a principal singer with the Metropolitan Opera for 25 years, died Tuesday at her home in Connecticut. She was 90. A champion of Giancarlo Menotti's work, she had a wide repertoire that ranged from Ponchielli to Wagner. There's a great anecdote in the New York Times obituary: "By all accounts, Ms. Chookasian was upstaged only once, in 1967, while singing Madame Flora with the Cincinnati Opera. At the time, the company performed at the Cincinnati Zoo, a setting fraught with the potential for unintended consequences. In one of the opera's dramatic moments, Madame Flora, descending into madness, fears there is a ghost in her room. 'Who's there?' she cries. That night, as if on cue, a wandering peacock screamed back, 'Meeee!' At that point, Ms. Chookasian later said, she knew she had lost the audience for good."
- Congrats to soprano Ailyn Pérez, who this week won the prestigious Richard Tucker Award. The daughter of two factory workers, the 32-year-old — the first Latina winner of this award — has been singing of late with Plácido Domingo at La Scala, Rolando Villazón at Salzburg and her husband, tenor Stephen Costello, at Covent Garden. Oh, and how's this for a dynamic duo: Costello won the Tucker just two years ago.
- Is there a deal coming in Louisville? The musicians released a statement saying yes, but the orchestra's CEO dismissed the announcement as mere "game playing." Today, the musicians issued a riposte that says "yuh-huh, we are too in negotiations."
- And the Sacramento Philharmonic says that if it can't raise $150,000 in the next month, it will have to close — and it needs $300,000 to present programming for a 2012-13 season.
- A former cellist's bleak assessment of the orchestral scene got picked up by the Huffington Post, where a debate is underway among commenters.
- Also in bad news: it looks as if those rumblings last month about Minnesota's prospects might have been right. It's "a year of living dangerously," according to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "Last December, the organization reported its biggest annual deficit ever. In June, the band evacuates Orchestra Hall for a yearlong face-lift of its iconic home on Nicollet Mall. A shortened 2012-13 season opens in October in the acoustically challenged Minneapolis Convention Center. ... On Thursday, high-stakes negotiations begin on the musicians' contract, which expires in September."
- Have you heard that adolescence is coming at earlier ages for boys and girls? This trend has had some strange musical repercussions. The Washington Post says the lifespan of boy sopranos in Leipzig's venerable St. Thomas Boys Choir is shorter than it used to be: "Over recent decades, the already-short careers of their sopranos have started to end between six months and a year earlier, challenging them at times such as Easter, for which choral music such as J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion was written with difficult lines for boys free of hormonal woes."
- Der Spiegel has a Q&A (in English) with one of my musical heroes, Thomas Quasthoff, who recently retired from concert life. One of his memorable rants: "What's happened to all the classical music programming? Instead, we have that miserably moderated Echo Klassik award winner concert with (German television celebrity) Thomas Gottschalk. He's about as interested in classical music as I am in crocheting
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