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Opera's Decision To Close Stuns Arts Community

By Brian McCreath & WGBH News   |   Friday, December 23, 2011
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Dec. 23, 2011

BOSTON — A mere eight months after a production that debuted on its stage won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Opera Boston announced on Dec. 27 that it’s shutting down for good on Jan. 1 of the new year.

A terse, one-paragraph press release cited an “insurmountable budget deficit” and “lackluster fundraising in a tough economic climate.”

Lloyd Schwartz, classical music editor for the Boston Phoenix and classical music critic for NPR's “Fresh Air,” talked with Classical New England about what led to the collapse of the adventurous opera company and what it means for subscribers and opera in Boston.

lloyd schwartz
Classical critic Lloyd Schwartz (K. Bonami)

“It was a surprise,” Schwartz said, sounding a little gobsmacked. “It sounded like things were going well.”

Boston Lyric Opera recently released a press release (pdf) saying it had had a banner year for fundraising. Schwartz couldn’t imagine that the BLO’s success didn’t hurt Opera Boston’s bottom line: “You probably wouldn’t support both of them.”

The remainder of the season has been canceled. Schwartz thought the subscribers would probably get their money back. “The people I feel the worst about are the musicians, who were certainly counting on a couple of good gigs — three performances of each opera plus rehearsals,” Schwartz said.

That said, Schwartz pointed out that Boston does have a somewhat checkered history of supporting the art form: “This is a city that tore down its great opera house” in the middle of the last century.

The company’s final performance will take place Dec. 31 as part of First Night Boston.

Hopper and Gershwin

By Cathy Fuller   |   Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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The Museum of Fine Arts opened their Art of the Americas Wing in November 2010, and out of sheer glee, I decided to feature one treasure from the new wing paired with music written in the same year.

Edward Hopper’s "Room in Brooklyn," (left) painted in 1932, is haunting. The signature sunlight which so intrigued Hopper is here given harsh geometry, and the woman seems starkly alone. Her isolation has emptied the city of its life.

This disconcerting canvas offers a vision of New York light years away from George Gershwin’s view. His is romantic, lush and complex -- full of the rhythms that he insisted “should be made to snap, and at times to crackle.”

In 1932 Gershwin’s publisher suggested that he write some keyboard versions of his own songs. "Playing my songs as frequently as I do at private parties," Gershwin said, "I have naturally been led to compose numerous variations upon them, and to indulge the desire for complication and variety that every composer feels when he manipulates the same material over and over again."

Here is a selection from Gershwin's songbook transcriptions for piano, played by William Bolcom:

Gershwin: Rialto Ripples (excerpt)


(image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts)


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