Archive for the ‘An American in Paris’ Category

2024 International Classical Music Awards.

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

I don’t remember enjoying such a concert in a very long time. This is a YouTube video of a concert in Valencia which features winning artists from 2024 International Classical Music Awards. This gala concert was April 12 and posted on YouTube May 3.
There are big names performing and others that will be big names very soon. Soprano Aida Pascu is only one example of the latter.
I enjoyed the excellent artists who brought the music alive when performing. It was an amazing hour and a half.

Emilie Mayer, a Forgotten German Composer?

Friday, January 5th, 2024

By: Frank Cadenhead

Is the German composer Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) an important composer who has been wrongly forgotten?
Laurence Equilbey and her Insula Orchestra will be performing her First Symphony on 27 and 28 February 2024, sharing the program with works of Schubert. Plans are to record the work with Warner and to continue to explore her works.
She never married and lived on inherited wealth but devoted her entire life to music. Her output includes eight symphonies and a good number of works for chamber orchestra. She was applauded for her work when alive but the recognition declined in the following years.
For visitors to Paris, it would also be a good time to get to know the new and remarkable concert hall built on an island in the Seine River. Click on and look for the English version.

A New Vision for the festival in Evian

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Frank Cadenhead, Nov. 30, 2022

Starting with the opening on June 28, the Rencontres Musicales d’Evian will likely have a higher profile among festivals around Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French). The violin star Renaud Caupçon has just been named Artistic Director and it will take place in Evian-les-Bains. The hall, La Grange au Lac, is undergoing a seven month restoration and an enlargement of the stage. It will not be by accident that the first concert on the new stage will be by the Berlin Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta on the podium. This will begin the 30th year of the festival.

In an interview, Caupçon reflected on his first encounter, at 18, with the Rencontres Musicale, at the time directed by Mstislav Rostropovich. His master class with Jaime Laredo was an opportunity to enjoy the program, the location, the performers and the mix of generations. This experience Caupçon hopes to repeat with grand stars like Yo-Yo Ma, Leonidas Kavakos, Martha Argerich, Daniel Harding, Tugan Sokhiev and others to associate with the young performing talent in Andràs Schiff’s program, Building Bridges, the Menuhin Academy and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra among others. “For the public it will also be a pleasure to discover new faces and to see new talent emerging.” he said.

Caupçon is also Artistic Director of the Chamber Orchestre of Lausanne and the Sommets Musicaux in Gstaad, high in the Swiss Alps. Details of the 2023 festival in Evian can now be found at

First Concert in a Long While

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Oct. 27, 2022 – by Frank Cadenhead

A few months ago, I made my first musical outing in more than a year. (The next one is this Sunday – Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony appropriately). The first one was… ahh… problematic – not with musical issues but with my age and a new society. The concert was 11 June – the final one of the 2021-22 Paris season of the Vienna Philharmonic. It is always in the Theatre des Champs Elysees – their preferred venue in Paris.

Traveling there, I usually get off the Metro at the Etoile station. When you walk up the stairs, the Arc de Triomphe fills your entire view. I walk down the Champs-Elysees and turn on Ave. George V and pass the famed hotel. The theater is only a few blocks from there but it is maybe a 15 or 20 minute walk and I am getting old. I decide to take Uber instead.

The driver offered to be there after the end of the concert and ask me what was a good time. I looked at the program: Gubaidulina’s Märchen-poem, the Shostakovitch 9th Symphony and, after the intermission, Dvořák’s Sixth. It was certainly not more than two hours from the 8:30 start. My estimation was on the mark, the concert ended at 10:25.

The orchestra was, as usual, in fine form and obviously in rhythm with their guest conductor, Andris Nelsons. It ended with heavy applause and bravos – an applause that went on and on. After the forth bow, Nelsons turned and commenced an encore, some Viennese polka work I didn’t recognize. This went on and on. The applause at the end was even more celebratory until finally the orchestra stood as a group and began to leave the stage, some 30 minutes after the end of the program. It was my luck that my Uber driver had the patience to wait for me.

On the way out, which was crowded and took more time, I was surprised to see that my suit and tie was the rare exception in the audience. A few had ties and a sports jacket but even they were the exception. Even the women seemed to have dressed down… and this is for the Vienna Philharmonic!

When I brought the ticket for this event on the internet a few days before, I was surprised to find tickets available in the orchestra, row 7 center. It was 165 euros but I was happy to see them available. Before the concert commenced a teenager came in and sprawled next to me in one of those 5 remaining empty seats. I then remembered that the under 25 and over 65 set can often buy unsold tickets an hour before the concert for 20 euros. Unsold tickets for a Vienna Phil concert? Maybe I will try this the next time.

Nuremberg’s Temporary Opera House.

Saturday, February 19th, 2022

By: Frank Cadenhead
February 19, 2022

It was called “Starlight Bowl” and it was an outdoor performance space in the center of the vast Balboa Park in San Diego. I have so many memories of the San Diego Symphony and their Summer concerts. Mostly light fare but usually programmed with classics from Mozart symphonies to Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. As a young boy I was delighted to go on those warm nights. I remember a notable event, a single visit by the touring New York Philharmonic – I was probably 15 at the time. I had taken my copy of Mahler’s Fourth for Maestro Bernstein to sign. He did sign it and he asked me what I thought of Mahler and his interpretation of the symphony. I could not believe that this musical God, with his popular “Young People’s Concerts” a TV icon, was actually talking to me and wanting my views.

A recent photo of the Starlight Bowl indicates it is still there but abandoned, covered with vines and with grass poking through the cracks in the floor. It appears to be unused for some decades and the San Diego Symphony has recently inaugurated an impressive new outdoor summer home adjacent to, and with a wonderful view of, the harbor.

It was only a few years later, in the early 60s, that I was in the US Army and assigned to the European Army headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. One sunny summer day, high in the tree-covered mountains on the other side of the Neckar river, I was walking down an unmarked path and discovered a vast outdoor amphitheater, much like the Starlight Bowl, with a stage large enough for a full symphony orchestra and chorus. It wasn’t that old and could easily accommodate a summer calendar of events. But it had been abandoned with its own ivy vines and grass poking through holes in the cement floor. The story of this abandoned venue was whispered to me by a local a few days later… it was built for Nazi Party rallies and therefore this space, while impressive and still there, was put out of mind by the Heidelberg populace.

All this came back when reading about the dilemma of the people of Nuremberg and a vast arena still standing in their town. Nuremberg was not far to drive on those very efficient Autobahns and my army friends would visit the city to find those places where Nazi rallies were held. The principal one was just outside the city center but not a single sign identified where to turn or how to reach this place. A few in my military unit did research and any of us who wanted could visit the famed place and view that large field filled with thousands in those films of the rallies. But Nuremberg, like the rest of Germany, sees the period of Hitler as well in the past, unlike my time there in the early 60s where most around were alive during that period. The idea of using a vast Nazi space for opera, however provisionally, would have been inconceivable then. That is far in the past for most German citizens today and a major part is just a large, unused building available for temporary use by the local opera company.

Now, here is the news from December 16: “In Nuremberg, as expected, the city council officially approved the former Nazi site at Volkspark Dutzendteich as an alternative venue for the opera house. Now it can be understood how the horseshoe building from the time of National Socialism will be used exactly.”

“The Nuremberg Opera House will close in the Summer of 2025 and the work on the building is expected to take 10 years. the cost are currently estimated at 700 million euros with another 200 million to finance an alternative space. Since there is no alternative site available in the city, the former Nazi structure will be converted to a temporary facility for at least a decade while the opera house is under renovation. The initial planning has a performance hall of “lightweight” construction either in the inner courtyard or outside the horseshoe while the workshops, rehearsal rooms or offices will be created in the torso of the congress hall. After the opera renovation, these spaces should be able to continue to be used by the cultural scene.”

This has a sense of moving forward for the Germans. All students are extensively exposed to the history of the Nazi period and share the shame of history. All of those alive during that period are mostly gone and the new generations, while never forgetting the past, can begin to more forward. It’s better to spend money on music studies for the young than leave potentially useful structures abandoned and build new ones from the ground up. Hitler will always be part of German history but almost all other European countries have their own unpleasant histories to deal with. Never forget the history but understand that it is now the present and future to give to our children.

The New Virus Variant.

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

By: Frank Cadenhead, November 27, 2021

It was almost funny…. no actually it was laughable. At a Paris press conference at noon on November 25. Minister of Health Olivier Véran assured the performing arts sector that there would be no future closings of public venues and no other restrictions on the size of audiences. He might have been reading a speech written for him a few days ago, before the breaking news of a new virus variant who, most imagine, will have a significant and new impact on public activities.

In an article on the France Musique website, they do quote Michel Franck, director of the Théatre du Champs Elysees, who apparently has been reading the news. “There is indeed a fear, even if the government seeks to reassure us,” he explains. “The worst thing that could happen to us is the closing of the theater. Canceling shows is terrible. When you’ve been working on an opera project for three years and it doesn’t see the light of day, it’s heartbreaking. It would be difficult for the morale and for the health of the performing arts.”

The next day after Mr. Veran made his announcement, the US stock market had its biggest one day drop in over one year. The new upstart virus, now called Omicron, has caused the U.S. to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday but other European countries already have made the restrictions effective from Friday. Nobody yet knows the future for certain, but it is likely that this could be a part of a fifth wave which would impact the performing arts in all their public activities. There has been an effort to control the virus and masks and vaccination certificates are required for audiences but it will only be the next week or two before we have any real indication of how this will impact our lives and the performing arts.

New Directions for Opera in France?

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

Many years ago, my French wife was surprised when I explained that America does not have a Minister of Culture. “Who supports the arts?” she asked and I explained what donors contribute to performing arts functions. “Then the rich control the orchestras and operas?” “Ahhhh…. yes…” I admitted. And, since the rich do not necessarily promote diversity or change, this must affect our performing arts structure.

On the contrary, this is what is happening in France today. Roselyne Bachelot, the French Minister of Culture, has initiated a discussion by declaring five priority goals for “Opera in the 21st Century.” These goals follow from a mission entrusted to Caroline Sonrier, director of the Lille Opera, in October of last year and “proposes a frame of reference for lyrical practice in France.” Among them: widening audiences and providing more support for creation.

Five “priority areas” will define the contours of the opera of tomorrow. Bachelot received representatives of the sector on October 5 to present the conclusions of Ms Sonrier’s report and the mission to form a policy for the lyric arts in France.

The report mentions the positive efforts of lyric arts establishments on a certain number of points, but also underlines flaws, shortcomings and therefore the possible areas of progress for a sometimes stiff sector. The Ministry suggests that we can do better in terms of openness, diversity, and even creation – issues that are essential to the construction of a “unified and renewed framework for the opera of the 21st century.” The Ministry of Culture, on the basis of the conclusions delivered by the mission, proposes a broad reflection on five priority points.

A permanent observation system of the lyrical world is suggested by the Ministry and also by Ms Sonrier’s study. “A development of the means of expertise in connection with the opera houses and a “qualitative observation with a committee of experts brought together for three years.” The Ministry of Culture is also planning “a simplification of the labeling system” with the aim of “making the lyrical policy of the State more readable and more coherent.”

Second priority for the ministry: “supporting the careers of artists, which are less and less linear, is a necessity.” The report highlights in particular that “the longevity of careers for singers is uneven, and there are hardly any retraining plans, with strong inequalities between the public and private sectors.” It thus seems “essential to take better account of the plurality of statuses of permanent artists under public status”, to “put an end to the inequality of access to training, to improve support for artists” and “the establishment of a support structure at the level of the lyric sector” and the creation of a “legal framework allowing houses who wish to relaunch troupes of singers.”

The third priority for the Ministry is to attack one of the most crucial issues of opera: “the openness and accessibility of lyrical arts” to the greatest number, both with regard to the question of the larger public but also with forming links between opera houses and their region. While nearly 20% of the audience is under 30, social, cultural and geographic diversity must be further developed.” For this, “increasing the number of performances per production is a challenge which seems to constitute the best tool for widening the public, unlike the multiplication of productions per season which always attract the same spectators.” Other suggestions: stay open during weekends, school holidays and vary the repertoires more.

For the fourth priority, the Ministry of Culture calls for “the development of support for creation, in particular by strengthening residences.” Creation, “despite the success of several productions in the last thirty years, remains largely absent from opera houses,” observes Ms Sonrier’s report. “This position reinforces the image of opera houses which promote an art of the past frozen in the ‘golden age’.” The “obligations regarding creation” could be relaxed, recommends the report, and this could make it more possible to promote co-productions of new work. Opera teams are often “insufficiently prepared for the challenges of contemporary creation” and also have “the ‘fear of the empty room’.” This seems to be the main explanation for the absence of new opera creation.” However, asserts the report, ”creation can ‘make a splash’ and garner media attention if it is well planned.”

The fifth and final priority set out by the Ministry of Culture is a recommendation to act “in favor of diversity, equal treatment between women and men and the fight against all forms of discrimination.” There is some slow progress but even “if the situation tends to improve, the opera sector is not the image of French society, from the point of view of its geographical, social and cultural representation,” observes Sonrier and those consulted for the report. Also important, the creation of an “observatory to measure the diversity of the performing arts” and “encouraging the emergence of women, in particular in the management of opera houses and as composers.” Also, there should be programs to “promote diversity, and this from an early age. Developing choral singing in school helps foster this lasting link to lyrical art from childhood.” Also, “developing mechanisms to integrate higher education and professional integration.”

This report is expected to have an impact on future opera growth and diversity in France.

The French “Legion of Honor” Awards

Monday, July 19th, 2021

By: Frank Cadenhead, July 19, 2021

The Légion d’Honneur is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. It was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and has been retained by all later French governments and régimes. The seat of the order is the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, just next to the Musée d’Orsay on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. The honors in the field of classical music were numerous this 14th of July and has both new recipients and elevations.

The American-born dancer Carolyn Carlson, whose long and distinguished career in dance and choreography in France made her a member of the highly-select Académie des Beaux-Arts, now has the title of “Commandeur” next to her name.

Soprano and opera director Natalie Dessay, already a “Chevalier” in 2012, was upgraded to “Officer” as was Raymond Duffaut, former director of the Chorégies d’Orange and the Opéra d’Avignon. After 12 years at the helm of the orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, Philippe Jordan was designated “Chevalier,” as was the Romanian soprano Viorica Cortez. The director general of the Opéra de Montpellier, Valérie Chevalier, now has a repetitive title, “Chevalier,” after her name as also the French pianist Marie-Josèphe Jude.

French Minister of Culture and Covid

Monday, March 29th, 2021

By: Frank Cadenhead, Mar. 29,2021
Many in France were concerned in recent days after their popular Culture Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, 74, was hospitalized after contracting the Covid-19 virus. She had tested positive on the 20th of March and hospitalized on the 24th with oxygen therapy.
Her son, Pierre, in a statement on Sunday, was reassuring, indicating that she was doing better and “fighting it with courage,” He also thanked all of the medical staff who were attending her. He indicated that it will certainly be some days before she will leave the hospital as her health is still fragile.
Her positive test was the day after famed singer Michel Sardou was given the award, Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, by the minister in a ceremony which included a hug while wearing masks. The 74 year old icon has since tested negative and echoed concern for the health of Mme Bachelot, a friend of many in the performing arts scene, a regular at concerts and opera, and holding a high-profile image not seen in the ministry since Jack Lang’s several appointments during much of the 1990s.
Bachelot was also, that same day, in an empty Opera Bastille for a recorded performance of a new Faust at the Paris Opera. There were a few dozen other guests, including journalists, in the audience, and she was photographed with some of the performers at the end. There has been no notices of virus transmissions from this evening.

Notice of Cancellations at the Paris Opera

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

By: Frank Cadenhead
This is an update of the projections for the Opera National de Paris. It is probable that the cancellations until the end of January will continue well into 2021 as the virus will not be fully contained until appropriate general protection is gained with the vaccines. The same actions have been, or will be taken by the other 21 opera companies in France.


Since establishments receiving audiences must remain closed until the end of January 2021 at the earliest, the Paris Opera is once more compelled to cancel performances scheduled over this period and to review its artistic programme for the first half of the year.

The Palais Garnier remains closed to visits. All performances of Capriccio, which was to have premiered on 26 January, are cancelled, as is the concert by the Academy on 20 January.

At the Opéra Bastille, stage rehearsals for Il Trovatore have been discontinued and we are exploring the possibility of a number of concert version performances as of mid-February. All performances of The Magic Flute have been cancelled, but our platform “l’Opéra chez soi” will be proposing a live stream of the production on Friday 22 January, followed by VOD access.

The geographical dispersion of a number of artistic teams – directors and choreographers – has compromised certain projects and modifications are being made to this season, which has already been severely impacted by the spread of the pandemic.

In consequence, we have had to cancel the ballet Sadeh21 which was to have been created by Ohad Naharin and presented at the Palais Garnier. At the same venue and on the same dates, the Ballet invites you to an evening of dance bringing together three works from the House’s repertoire: In the night by Jerome Robbins, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by William Forsythe, and Harald Lander’s Études.

The new production of the opera The Queen of Spades, originally to have been directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov, will be performed in Lev Dodin’s staging, under the baton of Oksana Lyniv at the Opéra Bastille from 20 May to 12 June 2021.

The world premiere of Le Soulier de satin, composed and conducted by Marc-André Dalbavie, will be presented at the Palais Garnier from 29 May to 13 June 2021.

In addition to these changes, we are delighted to confirm an additional production: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final work, La Clemenza di Tito, directed by Willy Decker, at the end of June.

Furthermore we will be welcoming the Teatro Real de Madrid Orchestra under the baton of Ivor Bolton on 21 March, and postponing the recital by Julie Fuchs until 30 March.

All information concerning performances scheduled from February to July 2021 will be available in the near future on our website and on our mobile application.

In the coming days, we will be informing spectators with bookings on how to obtain a refund for their tickets. We will also get back to you as soon as we have better visibility regarding performances in the first quarter of 2021.

The motivation of the artists and teams of the Paris Opera remains unaltered, and we are doing our utmost to prepare for a brighter future. We look forward to seeing you again as soon as possible!

Alexander Neef
Managing Director