Stories This Just in 04.03.14

By Joe Sugarman

• If you don’t have eight-year-old kids or immature co-workers, you may have missed April Fool’s Day this past Tuesday. But National Public Radio never does. Continuing its annual tradition, NPR had some fun on April 1, including a story on its website about the fictitious Rio Grande Opera Co.’s and its last-ditch fundraising efforts. According to the story, the company plans to perform Wagner’sRing Cycle — nonstop — until it reaches its $8 million fundraising goal. “We thought about having some sort of benefit concert with, say, a Plácido Domingo or a Renée Fleming, but that's been done,” the article quotes Artistic Director Christopher Hewitt as saying. “We wanted to show people how much we care, that like Davy Crockett at the Alamo, we are literally going to do what we do or die trying.” Unfortunately, for struggling opera companies, this may not be such a foolish idea…

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Music School Rankings’ inaugural list of the country’s top schools of music is just one blogger’s quasi-scientific analysis, but it’s a pretty thorough one. Writer William Zuckerman ranks Juilliard No. 1 overall for its “unparalleled selectivity, and the greatest number of successful alumni.” (Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory comes in at No. 14, according to the list.) Where things really get interesting is Zuckerman’s take on the strength of individual departments, from piano instruction to oboe. Like many of these lists, there is a lot of subjective information involved, but it’s always fun to see how high your alma mater ranks. Or doesn’t.

• Speaking of rankings, London’s The Telegraph has had some fun recently with several articles ranking great composers. Well, actually, the first article was about one writer’s attempt at ranking them and the second article was about how upset readers got with the list.

• In the latest “women-shouldn’t-be-conductors” gaffe, Finish conductor Jorma Panula has come under fire for his remarks. “[Women] can come [to my masterclasses] and try,” Panula told Finnish broadcaster MTV in an interview. “It’s not a problem — if they choose the right pieces, if they take more feminine music. Bruckner or Stravinsky will not do, but Debussy is okay. This is purely an issue of biology.” In a related matter, classical-music.com is reporting that Alice Farnham, one of Britain’s top female conductors, is currently running afemale-only conducting course at Morley College in South London. The course is designed to help break down sexist barriers in the classical music industry and encourage more women to pick up the baton.

• Finally, Itzhak Perlman, who will join the BSO for three concerts, April 10-13, claims he was abandoned by a disability assistant after arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The violin virtuoso, who contracted polio at age four and needs crutches or a wheelchair to get around, was left to fend for himself with several suitcases, his violin and a pair of crutches. According to CBC News, Perlman says he’s speaking out in order to raise awareness about the needs of people with disabilities. Let’s just hope he doesn’t experience similar treatment at BWI.