Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Little Cats Feet? .. U.S. Federal Government Said To Be Moving In On American Opera Terrain While Washington National Opera Abandons American Opera

(Old but new-to-me news -- as we were in the Virginia mountains last Wednesday and Thursday, following last Monday's final snowfall of the season ...)


"Think of American art forms, and opera doesn't typically spring to mind. But now the federal government is setting out to change that.

Yesterday the National Endowment for the Arts announced the four winners of the first annual NEA Opera Honors, the first new program of national arts awards since the Jazz Masters awards were established in 1982. The first opera honorees are the great soprano Leontyne Price, conductor James Levine (who has led the Metropolitan Opera for 32 years), composer Carlisle Floyd ("Susannah") and administrator Richard Gaddes, who will retire this year from the Santa Fe Opera. Each will receive $25,000 in a ceremony on Oct. 31 at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, since the Washington National Opera is the NEA's partner for this first presentation.

"I would say at the moment American opera is really second to none in the world," NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said in a telephone interview before yesterday's announcement." ...

Anne Midgette "NEA Launches National Opera Awards" Washington Post May 14, 2008


Let me guess. Next season, Placido Domingo will be one of the four winners of this award, and there will be a posthumous award honoring Beverly Sills ...


Despite its promise to the U.S. Congress to stage one American opera every season, the Washington National Opera is holding top secret the name of the American opera that it plans to stage next season, 2008-09.


Distinguished American writer and librettist John Updike to deliver the National Endowment for the Humanities 2008 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.

Marian Anderson in 1940; and John Updike today.

Photo credits: Carl Van Vechten and Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-42524; and Martha Updike. With thanks.


Blogger JW said...

Instead of awarding performers, they should be encouraging and awarding the creators of opera, and paying for the resuscitation and reexamination of America's great legacy of operas already written. They could start with Deems Taylor, William grant Still, Howard Hanson, Robert McBride, Nicolas Flagello... The list is not inexhaustible, but it certainly is substantial.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks, John.

As you probably noticed, the Washington National Opera may be trying to renege on its promise to Congress and the American people to produce one American opera each and every season. Or, again, they may be holding back on the title to the perhaps chamber opera that they may try to fit in to next season -- perhaps at the Nation's Capital's new Sidney and Jane Harmon Center for the Arts, in the old but newly revived downtown area (near where, in the late 1990's, the Washington [National] Opera considered building a new Opera House [and I proposed the adjacent construction of the Marian Anderson Conservatory of Music and the Arts].

Now, which American Operas -- by Taylor, Still, Hanson, McBride, Flagello, and others -- do you think that the Washingon NATIONAL Opera should be staging in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020?


10:03 AM  
Blogger JW said...

Taylor: Peter Ibbetson, Still: Troubled Island, Hanson: Merry Mount (of course!), Ward: The Crucible (I wrote Robert McBride mistakenly), Flagello: Mirra, The Sisters, The Judgement of St. Francis, Hadley: Cleopatra's Night, Giannini: Taming of the Shrew, Gruenberg: The Emperor Jones, Antony & Cleopatra.

This is a good start, but I'm afraid the default method of operation in most companies is best described as craven, so I hold out no hope. The performance culture in the states has declined so much that I believe we are now in a period where the best we can do is seek to preserve our heritage through recordings. This is the best chance for any of the above works to be heard properly, at least.

7:03 AM  

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