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Want to sell out a classical-music concert? Just add the words "Downton Abbey" to the program. The Oratorio Society of Minnesota's Saturday performance of "The Music of Downton Abbey" at St. Mark's Cathedral has sold out, leaving artistic director Matthew Mehaffey concerned about the usual "150 to 200" walk-up ticket buyers who will have to be turned away.
A second St. Marks concert has been added at 7:30 p.m. on March 15.
The program features some compositions by John Lunn, an Emmy winner for the soundtrack of the popular drama about the high- and low-born residents of an estate in post-Edwardian England, as well as other pieces of the time that have been woven into a sort of musical narrative feauturing a long-lost relative of the Granthams. Some selections are intended to evoke memorable scenes from the series, such as Elgar's "The Snow" (the title of which any self-respecting Downton fan will instantly tie to the moment Matthew proposed to Lady Mary). The audience is invited to sing along on three well-known hymns, including -- of course -- Arne's "Rule, Britannia!."
For tickets to the added concert and more info, go to oratorio.org or call 612-432-7398.
Musicians performed Friday at Orchestra Hall./Photos David Joles
The weekend of events at the Minnesota Orchestra proves that healing takes time. Yes, Orchestra Hall was sold out Friday and nearly so on Saturday. And let it be stated unequivocally: everyone was glad to see the musicians back on stage making music in their house.
However, it was easy to see the divisions that linger from the 16-month lockout. Save Our Symphony Minnesota had distributed bright green “Homer Hankies” and patrons waved them furiously inside the hall. Green was the color of the musicians’ buttons, posters, t-shirts, posters and lawn signs during the lockout. This seemed an unmistakable gesture of support for the musicians and at the same time a reminder to the board and administration that they are being watched.
When Gordon Sprenger, the newly elected board chairman, took the stage at intermission with musician Douglas Wright, he was immediately met on Friday night with a few shouts of “Bring Back Osmo!” referring to the former music director Osmo Vanska. On Saturday night, the crowd was more raucous and emphatic with its challenge to Sprenger. In both cases, Sprenger acknowledged the sentiment but made no commitment other than to say, “We’re on it.”
There was at least one shout Saturday of “Fire Henson,” which reveals a deeper drama that is taking place within the organization. The unstated tension that exists between Vanska and CEO Michael Henson came out into the open when Vanska told MPR music host Brian Newhouse in a conversation Saturday that he feels Henson should resign. The statement became public and by the end of the night, Sprenger – who likely had hoped he’d get a chance to preach harmony and collaboration on this first weekend – found himself issuing a statement saying he was disappointed that Vanska had gone public with his opinions. Those comments will have an impact on delicate negotiations that were already going on within the board.
A contingent of fans who supported the musicians during the lockout feel Henson was the villain in the long lockout and want him fired. In large measure, they are drawing on popular support for Vanska (which is undeniably deep and substantial) as a lever to get Henson out the door – based on the notion that the price for Vanska’s return would be Henson’s departure. Vanska’s statement Saturday removed any doubts of where his head is at, even though he did not state it in "Him or Me" terms.
The board, however, clearly does not enjoy having the thinly veiled conflict (actually Osmo removed the veil) between its two most-public figures being turned into an ultimatum. This isn’t said to discount the validity or the sincerity of the opposition, only to state a fact of nonprofit leadership and human nature. The board is made up of volunteers who give large amounts of money to the orchestra, who endured 18 months under the critical public microscope and are now being told, “Fire this guy and hire this guy.”
Supporters of the musicians could legitimately respond, “Tough bounce, you deserve it for what you put your musicians through.”
And with those dynamics, the Minnesota Orchestra appears to be an institution at war with itself. How do you move forward under those circumstances?
Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director of Minnesota Orchestra in October of last year, showed up Friday morning at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This photo (above) from the musicians' Facebook page shows Vanska, right, talking with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who is conducting the orchestra this weekend in two homecoming concerts at the renovated hall. Principal cellist Tony Ross is at left.
Since the long labor dispute was settled last month, speculation has been rampant about whether Vanska would be asked to return to the orchestra. He resigned Oct. 1, 2013, when management and musicians failed to reach agreement on a new contract in time to permit the orchestra to keep two concert dates at Carnegie Hall last fall.
While Vanska gave a hint via Facebook a couple of weeks ago that he would consider coming back if invited, orchestra management has said only that it is considering its music-director options.
Vanska reportedly still has his residence in Minneapolis, but he has been guest-conducting all over, with recent stops in Lyon, France and at the San Francisco Symphony. He won rave reviews for his concerts in San Francisco, and Bay Area radio station KDFC-FM will rebroadcast (and stream) one of those shows (with music of Sibelius, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff) on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Pacific time.
Here in the Twin Cities, Friday night's concert, including music of Beethoven (Symphony No. 3), Bach (Toccata and Fugue in D minor, orch. Skrowaczewski) and Richard Strauss (Don Juan) will be simulcast
Some musicians will play twice on Saturday (Feb. 8), once at the memorial service for Joan Mondale, and again at the evening homecoming concert at Orchestra Hall.
Watch for full coverage of Friday's concert online at startribune.com and in print on Saturday. A concert review by Larry Fuchsberg will appear in the print edition on Sunday, and online Saturday afternoon.
Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra. Photo by Tom Wallace.
The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and countless of its patrons have repeatedly stressed that they want Osmo Vänskä back as their leader. Vänskä himself has said via Facebook he woud like to be asked back. Common sentiment among those in the know is that for Vänskä to return, MOA president Michael Henson must go. Now Vänskä has made at least an indirect statement to the same effect by publicly endorsing -- again on Facebook -- a blogger's "open letter" to new MOA board chair Gordon Sprenger listing reasons why, in his view, Henson must be dismissed, among them lack of outside support and musician hostility.
Scott Chamberlain, who blogs about the orchestra at Mask of the Flower Prince, posted the letter yesterday. Vänskä "liked" a link to the post on Chamberlain's Facebook page, and on another page linking to the blog, he wrote "Well said, again and again! Thanks Scott!"
Sprenger's comments in a recent interview on Minnesota Public Radio seem to indicate where he is throwing his support. He praised Henson, calling him a "very, very good leader for the orchestra," and noted that Vänskä "did resign during this time."
Soprano Renee Fleming and Piotr Beczała in "Rusalka," which is broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in HD on Saturday. Photo by Ken Howard for the Met.
More than 100 million saw her sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl recently. Now you can catch soprano Renee Fleming in Dvorak's "Rusalka," the opera that helped launch Fleming 25 years ago. That was when she won the Met's National Council Auditions singing the "Rusalka" aria "Song to the Moon."
The Met's HD livecast of "Rusalka" begins at 11:55 a.m. Sat., Feb. 8,at various Twin Cities movie theaters. Tickets and theater details are at the Fathom Events website.
The Met's revival of "Rusalka" with conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin received a mixed review in the New York Times. The story revolves around a water nymph who falls for a human. Uh-oh.
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