Met Opera putting audio and video online

The Metropolitan Opera plans to introduce an online service providing video and audio recordings of its operas. The service, Met Player, is scheduled to begin on Oct. 22. It will allow users to hear 120 audio recordings and watch 50 full-length operas collected from the Met’s archives, with more to be added in subsequent months. For a monthly subscription fee of $14.99 or an annual cost of $149.99, users will have access to the entire service. Individual videos and audio recordings can also be streamed for small fees. A preview of the service is available at

I’ve tested the preview and it looks pretty amazing, especially full-screen. You’ll need to install MetPlayer first, but this shouldn’t cause any headaches. I did find that it was happier with the Firefox browser than with Safari, which is the standard for the Mac. The actual preview consists of a six-minute video showing bits from several Met productions (some with the most amazing staging — watch out for Tan Dun’s The First Emperor!).

Vernon Handley RIP


Vernon Handley RIP

Vernon Handley, who died [on 10th September] aged 77, was one of the best-loved of conductors and a great champion of British orchestral music; a protégé of Sir Adrian Boult, he was renowned for holding fast to two principles – an undemonstrative technique and an unfashionable repertoire. While he was by no means alone in promoting the underdogs of British music, no one did more than ‘Tod’ Handley to bring them to the attention of the mainstream. His aim was to include at least one British work in all his concerts. Nevertheless, he would acknowledge that “One man can’t put it right,” adding: “But I’ve done as much as I could, and I’m going to keep trying.”

At the same time he would insist forcibly that he could – “and would” – conduct the whole repertoire. Like George Szell, his speciality was to specialise in nothing. Many of his concerts and recordings included such mainstream fare as violin concertos by Beethoven and Bruch, overtures by Dvo?ák and symphonies by Schubert.

Handley was principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra (1985-89) and principal guest conductor, later conductor emeritus, of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (1989-95) – he will be remembered particularly for his recordings of the complete symphonies of Vaughan Williams and of Herbert Howells’s Hymnus Paradisi, both with the RLPO. Although he had been associate conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra since 1994, he never held the top position with a London orchestra. Despite this – or perhaps because of it – he was a firm favourite among orchestral musicians, who valued his surefootedness, commitment and humanity. His good humour and self-effacing nature endeared him to his players as much as it did to his audience. When acknowledging the applause at the end of a concert he would often point to the score, as if to pass credit to the composer.

I missed this news at the time. Sad. This fine conductor will be sorely missed. The quote above is the beginning of an obituary in The Telegraph.

Lincoln Centre: bring your hard hat!

Finding your way around Lincoln Centre isn’t all that easy these days. A major reconstruction/renovation project is under way which won’t be finished until the first half of 2011.

For those going to New York in May, the advice from Bernard Gersten, the executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater, in the linked New York Times article, is: ‘Allow 15 minutes for picking up at the box office and 15 minutes to get lost’. Click on the image below for a map which may be of some help for opera- or concert-goers, while this page at the Lincoln Centre web site gives an interesting insight into what’s involved with the construction work.

Access map

Bayreuth succession decided

The favo[u]rites have won: Katharina Wagner and her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier will replace their father Wolfgang as directors of the Bayreuth Festival. The choice ends a long fight over who should take over leadership of the festival.

The Bayreuth Festival board named Katharina Wagner and her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier as new co-directors of the Bayreuth festival Monday. The decision will silence an extended quarrel over who should replace their aging father, Wolfgang Wagner, as head of the world-famous opera festival.

The quote is from an article in the international edition of Der Spiegel. So the last-minute alternative has lost out, and Katharina and Eva have got the nod. We’ll see how it pans out, I guess. Let’s just hope that Katharina doesn’t get the chance to come up with any more ridiculous productions to add to her nutty Meistersinger.