Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The tsunami

Is this too Quixotic idea or could it be a triumph? It occurs to me that we might be able to take advantage of a sudden abundance (IMO) of striking new soprano talents today. We may not have a Callas, a Tebaldi, a Milanov, a Farrell, and so on, around, but the caliber and numbers of truly distinguished sopranos today strike me as greater than what we had, say, ten years ago.

So could it be possible that effective enough word-of-mouth, starting right here and assisted by readers here who are in more direct contact than I am with "movers and shakers" either at the Met or at Lincoln Center generally, or at opera centers around the world, could generate speedy enough plans to mount a special Gala all-soprano concert to help raise money for the tsunami victims on a date during the upcoming hiatus of the Met season?

This Gala could take place at the Met during its two "dark" weeks this month, and all its proceeds could go to the tsunami relief. It might generate significant publicity for itself by dint of its billing as a multi-soprano evening (an aura of friendly competition such as enhanced the extremely popular triumph of the Three Tenors concerts). That might serve as a good publicity hook to bring more than the usual opera crowd (hardly inconsiderable in New York as it is) to the event.

FWIW, if the planning is really successful, it could be either a salutary gesture of needed American generosity or, more broadly, an expression of tangible assistance from the entire opera or opera/classical music community. If the former, box-office American talent like Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Sondra Radvanovsky, Lauren Flanigan, Patricia Racette and Ruth Ann Swenson all gathered together on the same stage, might add some excitement -- the sense of an "occasion" -- to such a concert. If the latter, the occasion might be turned into a truly Gala occasion of worldwide soprano talent, with additional box-office stars like Karita Mattila, Angela Georghiu, Veronica Villaroel, Jane Eaglen and Hei Kyung Hong taking part as well.

A balance of the different kinds of soprano repertoire would be needed, and if all of the above names were not uniformly available, there would hardly be a paucity of distinguished artists who might be ready, for such an urgent cause, to step in at the last moment instead. Among lyric coloraturas, there might be Laura Claycomb, Marvis Martin, or Maureen O'Flynn. Among straight lirics, there might be Helen Donath. Among lirico spintos, there might be Twyla Robinson. Among heavier spintos, there might be Christine Goerke, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Krassimira Stoyanova, or Margaret Jane Wray. Among dramatics, there might be Andrea Gruber, Maria Guleghina, or Susan Neves. These may not all be box-office names, but a significant number now are, and a few of these, along with those cited in the previous paragraph, have been in the New York area relatively recently -- or are here right now.

Practically speaking, there might be logistical problems with having the Met Orchestra or even a pick-up orchestra donate their services to such an occasion at such short notice (the two-week Met hiatus is coming up _very_ soon, on January 10). So perhaps, piano accompaniment for such an occasion might be more feasible. That might mean shifting the venue to a place like Avery Fisher or even Carnegie Hall. But wherever its venue, the sponsor/producer of the concert might still remain the Metropolitan Opera or the general Lincoln Center axis.

This idea is simply the rough fleshing out of the ways in which such an occasion might work itself out in the New York area. There's no reason why such an idea might not take off in different permutations around the world using galaxies of stars from entirely different vocal categories (in this great mezzo age, one could put together, for example, a perfectly spectacular concert with mezzos like Stephanie Blythe, Olga Borodina, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Irina Mishura, Yvonne Naef and/or Dolora Zajick, and so on).

The notion of confining such concerts to one vocal category at a time is merely my provisional "hook" to get added publicity for an occasion where the chief need anyway would be excellent attendance and generous contributions to those afflicted in the twelve-nation(!) area where this disaster hit. There's no reason why such a Gala for such a fund-raising effort might not be built around some entirely different and equally intriguing idea/theme instead. But I believe, in this day and age, that a display of today's bumper crop of strikingly talented sopranos would constitute strong box-office.

In fact, one long-time Met patron donor, whom both Liz and I know quite well, may be broaching the notion of a fundraising Gala for the victims to someone higher up in the Met administration some time today. I hope that those reading this today who are in a similarly advantageous position with Met management, or even better placed, will be able to do the same, and soon.

This is a tragedy of global proportions.

I'm tilting at windmills, perhaps, but if the right people read this at the right time, enough of a groundswell may develop to turn this idea into a reality.

With hope in the midst of tragedy,

Geoffrey Riggs


At 1/05/2005 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought is that you might want to link this to a Web fundraising drive. Howard Dean had immense success by challenging his supporters to raise X number of dollars in X amount of time. The mode used was a symbol on his web site which filled up as the goal neared reality.

For example, toward the end of the first quarter of 2003 fundraising, Dean set a goal of raising six million dollars within the closing two weeks of that quarter. To visualize this attempt, a graphic of a baseball bat was placed on the web site. As the amount of money rose to the six million dollar goal, the bat filled up more and more with red. On the closing day of the quarter Dean made his six million dollars (actually he exceeded it by one and a half million) and the bat turned completely red.

One symbol of opera which could be used similarly might be a conductor's baton.

So, assuming a credible ad hoc board of directors were successfully assembled for this effort, one might announce, say two weeks prior to this event, that the goal is to raise 50 million dollars. The deadline would be the conclusion of the event itself. The final performer, or perhaps an emcee, at the conclusion of the event, would announce how much the final figure was.

This is very ambitious. Bush Sr. and Clinton are currently chairing a similar effort. They might be interested in adding this effort to their web site at http://usafreedomcorps.gov . This might give the opera event the needed boost in publicity. Their list of approved Tsunami Aid efforts to which this event would be added is located at http://usafreedomcorps.gov/content/about_usafc/newsroom/announcements_tsunami.asp#DONATIONS .

Happy listening,



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