Good Morning! It’s time for the Year in Review, where orchestras that were in the news in 2011 receive their year-end grades from SticksandDrones. In the Biz we would call them “Mid-Term Juries,” and I’m sure that expression just put a shiver up the spine of the two musicians who actually read this blog. “B” is considered a passing grade. Anything below that is suspect. A “B+” or above, in this day and age, is considered a miracle near the level of the loaves and fishes. So, in no particular order:
LOUISVILLE ORCHESTRA – FActally, if an orchestra could have received an “F-” this would be the one. In the most bone-headed move in modern symphonic history the bozos on the Board of Disruptors managed to destroy the ensemble AND simultaneously piss off the entire classical music industry, conservatories included. Frankly, these people should hide their heads in shame.
BOSTON SYMPHONY – BThe Grand Experiment mercifully fades into the distance but that still leaves them looking for an MD. Despite that they still have the twin Golden Calves of Tanglewood and the Boston Pops. Plus, there’s that ridiculously massive endowment.
DETROIT SYMPHONY – DWow. The only reason they didn’t get an F is because they’re still in existence. The bad press, bad blood, and bad mojo out of the Motor City made this last year particularly lousy. The good news – the only place to go is up.
OREGON SYMPHONY – A-Carnegie Hall, consistently decent fiscal news – plus you live in Portland. Could be they’ve turned that corner, whatever that corner is.
CINCINNATI SYMPHONY – A-/B+Either they’re really really lucky or they’re really really good. Of course, neither of those hurt. Angels keep falling from heaven and shoring up the financials, and it might (just might) happen that they finally make some long-awaited and desperately necessary changes to their hall. Still some issues (hey, what orchestra doesn’t have those?) but this CSO seems to be on the rise.
DALLAS SYMPHONY – CThere’s an old Texas expression, something about “more hat than cattle.” Great artistic reviews on one end, scary financials and attendance on the other, makes for a schizophrenic situation and puts them into the danger zone.
NEW YORK CITY OPERA – DIs there anyone CityOp hasn’t pissed off? Musicians, singers, welders, ticket buyers, ticket takers, bell hops…… Well, at least they play @ Lincoln Center……. ooopppsssssss….. Taxi?!
CHICAGO SYMPHONY – A-So far the mighty CSO seems to have sidestepped the issues in many of the other biggies. Plus, as long as Muti keeps his face out of the music stands they’ve got a good thing going.
LOS ANGELES PHIILHARMONIC – BWhy so low? Minor rumblings via the grapevine, or as a good friend put it “like Samson, big hair can only take you so far.”
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA – B-/C+And falling precipitously. Major issues have suddenly reared their ugly heads and there is credible evidence of intense dissatisfaction with the state of the M.O. This orchestra could very well end up in the D range by the end of 2012 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Vänskä pulls a Snagglepuss – “Exit, stage left!”
NAPLES PHILHARMONIC – A-Call it a hunch. Plus, one of my favorite people in this crazy business just took over as their Exec. I predict good things for this ensemble in the future.
COLORADO SYMPHONY – IncompleteThis could have gone in any direction, but then at the 11th hour a brand new plan was announced that seems to have the backing of the major constituencies. If it works it could be fantastic. If it doesn’t there will be a LOT of finger pointing.
PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA – C-The only reason the Fabulous Philadelphians didn’t join Detroit in the D grade is that they managed to avoid a season long strike. Barely. As for the rest – not good at all.
BUFFALO PHILHARMONIC – A-/B+After so many years on the precipice the news out of my home town has been consistently positive of late. Please keep the momentum going. Now, if the Sabres and Bills could get their acts together.
METROPOLITAN OPERA – YesEssentially, every grade in the book. This company is careening from one end of the spectrum to the other, with a disabled MD (but the sidekick saves the day!), bloated budget, strange PR stances, this, that, the other. Perhaps they should be in the “Incomplete” category as well. But hey!! It’s Opera!
THE ENTIRE CLASSICAL MUSIC INDUSTRY – CManaged to survive another year. Will miracles ever cease?