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Norman Lebrecht MY letter to the Luftwaffe came back stamped ‘no longer on active service’ – more’s the pity, since it offered the only holistic solution to London’s concert-hall woes. What I had proposed was that our German allies should mount a ceremonial fly-over in this Battle of Britain 60th-anniversary year, dropping precision bombs on the Royal Festival Hall and Barbican Centre, and thereby enabling us to build an acceptable symphonic environment. It was the Luftwaffe that, on May 10, 1941, knocked out London’s last acoustic marvel – the Queen’s Hall, on Upper Regent Street. Neither of its replacements is…

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Norman Lebrecht HERE are the latest additions to my forthcoming Dictionary of Musical Euphemisms and Factual Economies. A couple of weeks ago, a well-placed source in New York warned me that things were warming up at the Philharmonic. ‘You’ll know the foreplay’s over,’ he said, ‘when Kurt Masur cancels a bloc of concerts for some flimsy reason and the candidates to succeed him are lined up for audition.’ Barely had his words crossed cyberspace than it was announced that Masur was dropping out for a fortnight at the end of this month to undergo an unspecified minor surgical procedure (UMSP).…

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Norman Lebrecht HERE is a brief summary of the summer’s casualties. Two of America’s leading dance companies, the Martha Graham and the Cleveland Ballet, went belly-up as audiences slackened and funding ran dry. There is hope that the Cleveland troupe may survive by relocating to San José, in Silicon Valley. The authorities in the Netherlands have announced the abolition of three orchestras, two symphonic and one chamber. In Berlin, Daniel Barenboim has joined the exodus of top-flight conductors – Abbado, Thielemann, Kreizberg – as subsidy lakes freeze over and cuts appear inevitable. Canada’s orchestras are in chaos. Toronto is a…

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IT is just as well the fuel blockades have ended, because a new war is about to erupt under the awnings of our filling stations. A month from now, those neon-lit shops where you exchange a week’s wages for 10 litres of unleaded and a bunch of stale flowers are going to be swamped with classical CDs at an irresistible price. For the first time in motoring history, it is going to be cheaper to buy an opera than drive 30 miles in your car. Universal, the Hollywood group that for the moment controls the Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and down-winding…

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A FEW days after Michael Kaiser’s arrival as executive director in 1998, he and I had breakfast at the Waldorf Hotel. “This is a group of people that has gone through a war,” he said, “and I want to give them hope.” There was something admirable about his optimism, in view of the company’s rampant unpopularity. Kaiser was brisk and businesslike, courteous and attentive, yet he appeared self-effacing to the point that I could hardly identify a single personality trait. My mystification was widely shared. Casting around the American opera and orchestral sectors and their attendant media, I found that…

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Royal Opera House   In part two of The Daily Telegraph’s serialisation of his extraordinary book on the Royal Opera House, Norman Lebrecht recounts the explosive impact the young Rudolf Nureyev had on both the Royal Ballet and the flagging career of Margot Fonteyn Fonteyn’s secret pension Diana: the Royal Ballet’s biggest fan WHILE the Royal Ballet was dancing in Russia in June 1961, news broke that would change its destiny. A young soloist had broken free from the Kirov Ballet in Paris and requested political asylum. At the height of the Cold War, weeks before the Berlin Wall went…

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Royal Opera House   Arts Council of England   In his new book, serialised over three days in ‘The Telegraph’, Norman Lebrecht lifts the lid on the Royal Opera House’s turbulent history. Here, using unprecedented access to key players and private documents, he reveals what happened after Jeremy Isaacs let television cameras into the House The humiliation that forced Genista to resign Backstage, the death of a genius Three costly tenors At the end of 1995, the Royal Opera House stood at a crossroads. The flagship of Britain’s performing arts needed to close for reconstruction but had nowhere to go…

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WITH a week to go before the series goes on air, nothing has been fixed and no participants booked – which is just as I intended. Lebrecht.live, the new freespace on BBC Radio 3 for contentious issues in the arts, is designed to cut against the grain of all the over-scripted, pre-recorded, corporately manacled and politically neutered talk slots that clutter the public-service airwaves. Live, in my view, ought to mean live. In cultural radio, it is more often euphemistic, a cover for institutional cowardice. So-called “live” concert commentary, for instance, is typed up hours ahead for approval by presentation…

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The treatment of female conductors is unfair, counterproductive and must stop There was a woman conducting at English National Opera last June. Nothing unusual about that. There are now 64 orchestras in the United States with female music directors. The Berlin Philharmonic, which 17 years ago vehemently resisted Herbert von Karajan’s attempt to introduce a female clarinettist, has quietly accepted Graziella Contratto as assistant conductor. Both of London’s opera houses engaged women as music directors during the past decade and Simone Young has lately taken charge of Opera Australia. On paper, it all looks admirably equitable. Prejudice is a thing…

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WHEN Franz Welser-Möst last flew out of London in 1996, he was in no hurry ever to return. Installed as music director of the London Philharmonic at the tender age of 29, he found himself on a bucking horse that unseated three managing directors in his six years. Welser-Möst made matters no easier by riding bareback. He opened the LPO’s South Bank residency with a seven-work concert, more than it could afford to rehearse. He got rid of a popular chorus director and publicly sacked a front-desk violinist for not trying hard enough. Raised in Upper Austria, where a maestro’s…

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