Monday, July 13, 2009

Opera America Conference, April 2009

Somewhat late in posting about this great week in Houston but perhaps the time to reflect will improve my post… Houston as a city presented some challenges for this Berliner. The conference was held in the very nice Hyatt Regency, my room overlooking the famed (infamous) Enron buildings. However, the urban decay of downtown Houston was not hidden even by these massive glass towers. On my few excursions from the hotel and into the downtown area I was constantly approached by beggars of all sorts. It was not pleasant, really rather disconcerting regarding the actual economic state of affairs of the capital of Texas. There were also some unfortunate coincidences and acts of nature while there- fate, I suppose. The city experienced flooding during that week, with one news report commenting on alligators in the streets in some parts of town. To add to the fun, we had the Swine Flu outbreak- which had Houston firmly in its grips- as I was shaking hands all day with fellow delegates. I believe we all remained Swine-Flu-free and I did not actually experience any alligators on the streets myself, (just the panhandlers) but the news reports were enough to keep me happily in the hotel and the conference itself kept me quite busy.
I very much enjoyed experiencing the Houston Grand Opera. It is a wonderful house, big in the way that one would expect of a Texan opera house, really generous in space and feeling, excellent acoustics as well. Conference attendees were offered the opportunity to attend the premiere of the Andre Previn opera, Brief Encounter, beautifully composed and performed, a definite highlight.
The southern reputation for gracious hospitality was not tarnished by this week of ‘meet and greet’, quite the contrary, my (high) expectations there were exceeded. The very charming and classical music savvy mayor of Houston, Bill White, greeted the delegation at the opening session with an excellent address which was both humorous and interesting. One thing that did bother me in his remarks was a repeated reference to the European classical music world, inferring some sort of competition between it and the American classical music colleagues. I do not feel this at all, and did not receive this impression from other, American, delegates. Perhaps we should invite Mayor White for a visit to Berlin. Alex Ross, author of The Rest is Noise, made the opening keynote address which was fascinating and sent me running for more books by him- really an excellent mind there; a leading thinker on the classical music scene today, worldwide. And Opera America’s ebullient President and CEO, Marc A. Scorca, well known for his wit, energy and dedication to all things opera, got things going on an upbeat… (a terrible pun for musicians, forgive me!)… note. The long week-end was filled with fascinating seminars on the various aspects of keeping an opera company alive and well in today’s tough economic climate as well as artistic inspirations and a super exchange of ideas between professionals from around the world, opera companies small and large. The theme of ‘Making Opera Matter’, or the relevance of opera in today’s world, was widely explored. A special applause to the team (staff) of Opera America; those guys were so great- , helpful and a ton of fun. They organized a super convention and I am looking forward to the next one in LA.
Classictic attended the Opera American Convention as both delegate and sponsor and is happy to support the arts in America in this way.

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