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Historic Announcement at Seattle Opera


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#16 sandik

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 10:08 AM

 

Oh that would be fantastic -- I like that sculpture they've got hanging from the ceiling, but it doesn't really move -- such a waste.

Is that the chandelier with empty water bottles and rubber ducks that you are talking about? That made me laugh, because my mother could have made that! She is sort of a hoarder and then creates artwork that she hangs all over the house, and I keep telling her she should start going to art shows, because she makes things like that chandelier just to amuse herself and have some use of the plastic containers she won't throw away ever.

I'm a huge fan of Rube Goldberg projects, and this chandelier could have been a great kinetic mobile, but for whatever reason it didn't work out that way.



#17 sandik

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 10:09 AM

Well, if massive amounts of money are being thrown around, I'm hoping someone has endowed the Young Artists program with enough cash to run indefinitely, adding technical young artists into the mix, and that they'll name it all for Jenkins, including the space for them in the arena offices/shops building.

It would be really great if someone threw a pile of money at taping the Ring this summer.

Argh, at this rate Bill Gates couldn't fund all of the "really greats."

 

Either one of those projects would be a fabulous way to honor Jenkins as he retires.



#18 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 02:49 PM

I'm not getting the "historic" hype, but the announcement is Speight Jenkins' replacement:  Aidan Lang will be coming from New Zealand Opera, and before that, the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, the Buxton Festival and Opera Zuid:

 

http://www.seattleop...tle-operas.html

 

His accomplishments have been significant, and what I find most exciting are the number of collaborations he's fostered.  I love a lot of the rep he's produced elsewhere and that he'll bring both a musician's and a director's eye.



#19 sandik

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 02:56 PM

Wow -- this could be quite something.  I'm so glad that the company has got this part of the transition in place now, so that they can think forward.



#20 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 03:42 PM

The Seattle Symphony just posted their congratulations and this great photo of Jenkins and Lang to their Facebook Page:

 

https://www.facebook...54924433&type=1

 

 

Symphony musicians perform for Seattle Opera, and there's a family relationship between the two organizations.



#21 Helene

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 10:18 PM

Another sword photo of Jenkins and Lang, this time from Seattle Opera's Facebook page:

 

https://www.facebook...53776037&type=1

 

Here's a video of John Nesholm, the head of the search committee, introducing Lang, and Lang's statement:

 

 

I don't know if it's the video or my internet connection, but Nesholm doesn't appear to be moving during the audio at the very beginning of the video.



#22 Helene

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 07:55 AM

The NYT has reported the news with some info about the transition:

Mr. Lang will join the company as director designate next March and work with Mr. Jenkins, who will remain general director through August 2014. They will work together on the 2015-16 season; Mr. Langs first season solo will be 2016-17.

http://www.nytimes.c...ctor.html?_r=1

#23 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 11:36 AM

This remarkable interview article with Speight Jenkins about the transition was published yesterday in the "Puget Sound Business Journal.":
 
http://www.bizjourna...s.html?page=all
 
I thought it was interesting that he wasn't involved with the search process until the end, when the finalists each spent several days in Seattle.
 
Emphasis in the following quotes is mine:
 

There are many fans who say Speight Jenkins is Seattle Opera, the bigger-than-life face of it, the shaper of it for three decades, and that he will be a difficult act for anyone to follow. Well, says Jenkins, I think Aidan can handle it beautifully. Im sure he will be able to handle it. People say nice things like that, but in reality, its really a question of using your head in opera, and after two or three years of his own work style and his own casting, people will not think about me. They will think about him and what he is bringing to the company.
 

 

We will work together into the summer, says Jenkins, in order to have a smooth transition. This is very important that transition. And those months with two of us here will be interesting. The course of having two people in that position doesnt work out very well. A staff has to have one boss, so when he comes in March, it will be very hard for them not to pay attention to what I say. Then, after that transition period, what is most important is for him to take over, and thats it, he says adamantly. Period. Obviously, anything he wants to know I would answer, but I will not be around because that would be fatal. Well have this time together from March to when he officially starts, but then its his job. Its not mine.
 

 
 I understand that the opera works differently than ballet:  except for the Young Artists Program, which is closest to the Professional Division in the PNB school, the opera doesn't have performing "staff" -- it contracts singers on a per-show basis -- the General Director, except in rare cases isn't the composer/creator (although arguably, a Regie director at the helm might be considered a creator) and, it doesn't have schools, aside from a few older companies with conservatories, like the Mariinsky.  It's an art form where the base is the score and the libretto, not one where the text -- musical, literary, physical -- is passed almost entirely from creator/stager/interpreter to the performers, with help from video and notation that is not common ground for nearly all of its practitioners and relies upon a limited number of experts.
 
However, I can't but help thinking he's watched Peter Boal's situation at PNB, where Russell and Stowell are still continuously involved in the company through their choreography -- especially Stowell's "Nutcracker," "Swan Lake," and "Cinderella," -- and staging, and where Boal has bent over backwards to acknowledge Russell and Stowell. Asneighbor and early mentor to Boal, he must be thanking his lucky stars that he is an opera guy, not a ballet guy. 
 
While it's true that Lang will have to prove himself to some of the singers, directors, and conductors because of their loyalty to Jenkins who gave them early breaks, it's not like inheriting a fixed company of 40+ people who owe their careers to someone else.  Replacing singers or directors, or even productions, is not the same social animal as not re-signing a large number of contracts, and Peter Boal inherited a company.   Even if Boal had wanted to, he didn't/doesn't have the options of a General Director in opera.   An opera General Director is rarely entirely responsible for a creative person's career, especially over time, since, unless the person is under contract to a rep companies.  Creative people of all levels in opera are employed by a lot of different companies, recital series, (theater, for the direction and design teams), and a lot of the pressure is off any one GD, whereas in ballet, most dancers are employed by one company, there isn't much movement and opportunity to move between companies, guesting is generally limited to the stars or at hometown semi-professional companies, and the Artistic Director is the be-all and end-all of their artistic life.  They can either put up or stop dancing. 
 
All of the creative people who have signed for opera productions from 1 September 2014 did so knowing that Jenkins would be retired and not knowing who his successor would be, and as freelancers, they have little to risk in test-driving the company under Lang's administration.  Part of the success of Seattle Opera has been the way singers are treated by the administration, staff, and volunteers:  it's why they park themselves in Seattle for an entire summer to rehearse and perform The Ring instead of zipping in and out to rehearse and perform around other gigs, and while the artistic side might be planned in Lang's first season, I think it's how the administration and staff makes the transition that will have the most impact on whether the creative people will want to return several years down the road.  Jenkins was highly involved in SO productions; the designers and directors who haven't worked with Lang before will decide whether his approach, whatever it is, is fruitful for them.
 
Creative people who've worked with Jenkins might not like working with Lang or choose other contracts because they'd make trade-offs only for Jenkins -- not everyone likes everyone else and might choose to work with someone with a different style, if there are options  -- but Lang also would have a very long speed dial list, given his experience.

#24 Helene

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 10:43 AM

Here's an article from New Zealand, from te "National Business Review":

http://www.nbr.co.nz...iden.lang.41818

I find it interesting that the most interesting coverage -- not just the cut-and-paste from the press releases -- has been done by the business press. What I found most interesting about Stephen Manes' book on PNB was that it was about a workplace, and the business press understands this about arts organizations, and especially that it's not entirely about dollars and cents.



#25 Helene

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 08:36 AM

David Brewster, former head of Town Hall in Seattle and current publisher of crosscut.com, spoke to the search committee and wrote an article about the selection process, relevant history on Jenkins' early tenure and a little on how his taste shaped the rep, what Lang could mean artistically to Seattle Opera, and how Lang's selection fits in with other "third generation" selections and what those collective choices say about Seattle and the arts.
 
From the point of view of the latter, the title of the article seems odd, especially given the Mrs. Nesholm's involvement with Seattle Symphony and choosing its successor:
 

An unexpected choice to head Seattle Opera
 
Some excerpts:

 

This context helps explain why the board chose Lang, said by one search committee member to have been “by far the best” of the final four candidates. Lang has shown himself adept at getting struggling organizations back on their feet, artistically and financially. The other three finalists, according to sources, were an artistic director from a major American opera company (with little management experience) and two general directors from middling-reputation companies in mid-sized heartland American cities.

 

 

Now comes the third generation: Peter Boal at the Ballet, Ludovic Morlot and Simon Woods at the SSO,  Michelle Witt at Meany, Kimerly Rorschach at SAM, Wier Harman at Town Hall. These new leaders bring a greater openness, informality and youthfulness to Seattle arts, which may have become too traditionalist and too repetitive under the long tenures of the second generation. While most of the second-generation directors came from New York, with its big-production, big-splash traditions, the third generation hails from places like France (Morlot), Edinburgh (Woods), Duke (Rorschach), the Bay Area (Witt) and Glyndebourne/Maastricht/Auckland (Lang).  

 

It’s as if Seattle has come to understand that many of the energies of art come not from the more stodgy metropolitan capitals such as New York and London but from the upstart provincial capitals that are open to new influences, lie at the borderlands, and whose economics allow more adventuresome programming. In no longer slavishly wanting to be like New York, we have begun finding our own distinctive voices.

 



#26 SandyMcKean

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:23 AM

Wonderful analysis Helene.

 

If Lang is as solid as he seems to be, it will be exciting to experience the changes in tone, programming, style, rep, and all the other dimensions of opera that ultimately have their roots in the personal taste of the Director.  It's going to be weird not having Speight there -- kind of like San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge.  What I will miss most is his quirky but informative post performance Q&A sessions.  He is humorous, knowledgable, forthright, insighful and a bit contankerous in thoise sessions.  For me, in those sessions, he was a window into the inner workings of an opera company -- a window I could rely on since Speight wouldn't know how to "spin" something if he wanted to (at least IMHO).

 

P.S. The link you provided for the NZ business article didn't work for me, but I did find it here:

 

http://www.nbr.co.nz...den-lang-141818



#27 sandik

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 10:12 AM

One of the benefits of staying in the same place for a long time is being around for transitions like this.  I remember when Jenkins was the new kid in town, and people weren't sure if he'd be a good fit after Glynn Ross...

 

Helene is right, the closest thing the SO has to a traditional ballet company environment are the Ring summers, where people show up far in advance of opening night to put together the whole cycle.  Looking at it from the dance side, can you imagine running a ballet company like an opera company?  The closest I can think of is something like Morphoses, where they change out artistic leadership every year, and commit to an entirely new set of projects. 




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