Monday, January 9, 2012

Death Knell for Opera? & The Cotton Bowl

"Fighting ever fighting", my Alma Mater lost the Cotton Bowl but I had a great time with my wife and family (pictures of our time are at the end of this post).   We went to the Cotton Bowl Classic at Cowboys Stadium, the JFK "6th Floor" museum from where JFK was assassinated, the "grassy knoll" outside the museum, the old Cotton Bowl stadium at the state fair - where we discovered and reported a gas leak, shopping malls, and in the end had a great time with my family.

My wife is sure to give me a hard time about this, but if you see "New Year's Eve", I am acting in a supporting role (as a crowd member) as it was filmed when I was in New York last year for the ball drop.  Beware, it has a 7% approval rating on  In one of the final scenes, you see the ball drop and when it hits zero, the numbers light up "2011".  Then the movie cuts to show two of the film's characters for a split second and when it cuts back to show Times Square with confetti and fireworks, the numbers say "2012".  I was surprised that in a movie about New Year's Eve in New York that they would forget to fix something like that!

I still have yet to see Tower Heist, where my wife and I play supporting roles as crowd members in the Macy's parade.  If anyone has seen it, let me know if you think it is worth watching or not.

In opera news, I am usually a very optimistic person about the medium that I love.  Recently, the music world has suffered several huge disappointments.  After seeing the stock market crash of 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession, the arts have held on, but last month was particularly difficult.

After staging the Pulitzer Prize-winning composition last year, composed by UMKC composer Zhou Long, Opera Boston has closed it's doors because of a budget deficit.

New York City Opera has recently had a tumultuous history and has barely stayed afloat.  Now they are suffering a musicians' lockout.  Part of the problem is that some of the musicians, who would earn around $40,000 for two productions, were offered only $5,000.  City Opera, previously one of the world's most prestigious operas, now looks like it will fold.  Ticket sales dropped from $12 million to just under $200,000. The general director has cut his own pay by 10% while cutting 90% of the musicians' pay.

Putting doubt on any future recovery, one of the greatest conductors on earth, James Levine, has withdrawn from all his scheduled conducting performances through May, 2013 after he is still suffering complications from an August surgery after he injured his spinal chord while on vacation.

In Kansas City, after building the world-famous Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, both the symphony and opera companies have left the old Lyric Opera house.  That performance venue, once deemed as a premiere spot for a downtown move by the UMKC Conservatory, now has its fate in the hands of a zoning committee as it decides whether an FAA training center should be built on the site.  Are these historic performance venues worth destroying for few jobs?  Sadly, this could be the case.

Kansas is now selling license plates saying "State of the Arts" (instead of the more appropriate "The State That Won't Fund the Arts" as the Manhattan Mercury put it) in order to provide money for grants through the Kansas Arts Commission.  Last year, Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback vetoed the continuation of the previous commission, for to him it cost the state too much money - .00005% of the state's budget or five-one-hundred-thousandths of a percent.  The National Endowment of the Arts has determined that Kansas does not meet the requirements to receive any funds, therefore organizations in the state cannot receive any federal artistic grants.  Here is one story about how Kansas is suffering from such dereliction.

I listened to an interview of a famous ballet dancer on NPR where she pronounced that her medium of ballet is effectively dead.  Here, one of the most passionate lovers of ballet mourns the popular loss of the art.  Her argument was that popular culture demonizes elitism and intelligence.  People only "dance what they feel" in her opinion, and the education required to understand artistic dance is shunned because ignorance is preferred when learning would be a struggle.  She has given up on the artistic and cultural future, and has left it to be determined by "corporate marketing."

I for one, completely understand how painful this argument is, because it is true in some respects.  There are many more Grammy Award categories for entertainment music than for artistic music.  People unknowingly make me feel insulted when they argue the artistic genius of their favorite pop singer while bashing the classical tradition, as if being "highbrow" is a negative thing.    I love that music is such an enormous part of our popular culture and I always hope that is the case.  But, for most people, including myself, there is so much more to learn and listen to.  As long as I am on this earth, there will be passionate people for opera and dance and the arts, because I am passionate for them.  And, there are many millions of others who are also passionate.

So, if you are depressed about where the arts are going, just remember that everything changes in time.  Change isn't necessarily a bad thing unless you wish to only live in the past.  Live passionately, teach others your passion, and be a motivator for something new in the world!

I'm still excited to see what lies ahead...


To view my upcoming schedule CLICK HERE

To bid on items for the KCVI charity auction CLICK HERE


Cotton Bowl pictures! 

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