Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Opera Singer Performs During His Own Brain Surgery

The Slovenian tenor Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne was diagnosed last year with an aggressive malignant brain tumor immediately required surgery.
But it wasn't a conventional brain surgery: Doctors at the University Medical Center Utrecht kept the singer conscious under local anesthetic and asked him to perform. Recently, Bajec-Lapajne posted a video to YouTube of the operation.
Joined by a pianist in the operating room, the tenor delivers the first and last couplets of Schubert's "Gute Nacht" (in major and minor) so doctors could monitor his ability to sing and recognize key changes.
In the most dramatic moment of the video (at about the 2:40 mark), Bajec-Lapajne stops singing and appears to be drifting away, but he was able to restart his song from the beginning after a short break. watch here

Taking the Starch Out of Orchestra Attire

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Surgeons Perform Better with Music, Study Finds

Doctors doing a surgery. (Oleg Ivanov/Shutterstock)
When surgeons listen to music in the operating room, they're more efficient at closing incisions, and their technique improves, a small study has found.
Researchers asked 15 plastic surgery residents at the University of Texas Medical Branch to close incisions in pig's feet – which are widely accepted as similar to human skin – on two consecutive days. In the first trial, half the residents worked in a silent operating room, but the other half got to listen to music of their choice while they stitched. For the second trial, the two groups switched. more

As the Met Abandons Blackface, a Look at the Legacy of African Americans in Opera

A poster for Sissieretta Jones, 1889 (image courtesy Library of Congress) (click to enlarge)
A poster for Sissieretta Jones, 1889 (image courtesy Library of Congress)

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W.E.B. Du Bois portrays a newcomer to the world of opera, enthralled by the Prelude to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. John “sat in dreamland, and started when, after a hush, rose high and clear the music of Lohengrin’s swan. … Who had called him to be the slave and butt of all? And if he had called, what right had he to call when a world like this lay open before men?”  more

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Royal Opera House 'William Tell' with Gang-Rape Scene Draws 'Unprecedented' Booing

A scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera HouseA scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera House (ROH)
The opening night performance on Monday of a new production of William Tell at London's Royal Opera House was marked by loud and prolonged booing over a scene in which a woman is raped by soldiers.
The production, by Italian director Damiano Michieletto, updates Rossini's classic tale of the 14th-century Swiss hero William Tell to the 1990's Balkan conflict. Music critics – largely on the side of the booers – described the audience's reaction to the third-act ballet scene as unprecedented in the company's recent history  More

Q&A: Bartok's Biographer Addresses Questions of Asperger's Syndrome

Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk musicBela Bartok (center) collecting folk music (N/A)

Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk music Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk music (N/A)
Dvorak his Slavonic Rhapsodies, Brahms had his Hungarian Dances.

But few of history's major composers went as far to harvest melodies and rhythms as Béla Bartók (1881-1945), who published nearly 2,000 folk tunes and collected many more in journeys that spanned "awful roads and terrible carriages," as the composer once wrote during a visit to a small Transylvanian village.

Bartók lugged his primitive recording equipment across the countryside of Eastern European (including his native Hungary), collecting songs that were on the verge of extinction. He transformed many of them into string quartets, violin sonatas, dramatic works and orchestral pieces.

A new biography by musicologist David Cooper (Yale University Press) delves into the ethnic traditions that Bartók drew from and also explores his relationships with famous performers. It also raises some more disputed ideas. We spoke with Cooper about Béla Bartók.

Your book has generated some debate for its suggestions that Bartók may have had Asperger's Syndrome. How did this come to light?  More

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pride Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Gay Composers

Aaron Copland with Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti in Bernardsville, NJ, 1945 Aaron Copland with Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti in Bernardsville, NJ, 1945 (Victor Kraft/Library of Congress)
Twenty years ago, RCA caused a minor stir with "Out Classics," a CD of music by Schubert, Saint-Saens, Barber, Copland and Britten, among other composers who happened to be gay.The compilation topped the Billboard Classical Chart – aided by a racy cover and some criticism over its dubious choice of pieces. But even if smacked of a marketing ploy, it also highlighted a facet of composers that was historically repressed by the classical music establishment.  More