WBEZ | opera http://www.wbez.org/tags/opera Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Long lost opera gets one-night only performance http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-17/long-lost-opera-gets-one-night-only-performance-112963 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/opera.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Filmmaker Arlen Parsa always knew his great grandfather was a composer, but he&rsquo;d never heard his music. Then, after digging around an aunt&rsquo;s basement, he discovered the work of Eustacia Rosales. One particular piece caught his attention: a Spanish opera. Parsa examined the crumbling sheet music and knew he had to get it to the stage before the music of what is to believed to be Chicago&rsquo;s first Hispanic music writer was lost forever.</p><p>That&#39;s happening Friday with a one-night only performance of <a href="http://andinalives.com/"><em>Andina</em></a>. Parsa&rsquo;s been filming the process of first discovering the music to Friday&rsquo;s performance for a documentary that he plans to release next year. Arlen Parsa joins us with more on his discovery.&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 17 Sep 2015 13:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-17/long-lost-opera-gets-one-night-only-performance-112963 Worldview: A history of racism and slavery in Brazil http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-03-02/worldview-history-racism-and-slavery-brazil-111643 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP978020942239_0.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a ceremony launching the Bem Simples program, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/193895570&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe><font color="#333333" face="Arial, sans-serif"><span style="font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px;">Racism and slavery in Brazil</span></font></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-393f7673-dc5d-d247-5a04-b5989fb01369">Brazil&rsquo;s Afro population has dealt with centuries of historic structural racism and disenfranchisement. One of these groups, known as Quilombolas or Quilombos, are landless and descend from escaped or former African slaves. The administration of current Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has been accused of &ldquo;dragging its feet&rdquo; on executing an already established &nbsp;reparations regime. We&rsquo;ll talk about racism in Brazil and current remedies with Ruth Needleman, professor emerita of Labor Studies at Indiana University. She&rsquo;s researched social justice issues, especially in the Americas and global South, for decades.&nbsp;</span></p><div><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-393f7673-dc5e-5fa1-0c20-dfc37e7b1fd0">Ruth Needleman is a p</span>rofessor emerita of Labor Studies at <a href="https://twitter.com/IUBloomington">Indiana University</a>.</em></div><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/193901611&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px;">The Passenger: Holocaust put to opera</span></div><div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d6991d7-dc5f-e79a-0848-6615da9d4d5a">An opera that&rsquo;s getting its Chicago premiere takes a look at a difficult subject through an unusual lens. &ldquo;The Passenger&rdquo; is set partly in Auschwitz during World War II. The opera was nearly lost to history. It was written behind the Iron Curtain, and never performed during the composer&rsquo;s lifetime. Mezzo soprano Daveda Karanas is part of the recent revival of this work. She&rsquo;s here to give us a unique glimpse into the history of this tragic period in history, and the twisting path of the opera itself.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/Louisianadiva">Daveda Karanas</a> is the messo soprano for &quot;<a href="http://www.lyricopera.org/passenger">The Passenger</a>.&quot;</em></p></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-03-02/worldview-history-racism-and-slavery-brazil-111643 Chicago’s Lyric Opera hosts costume sale http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago%E2%80%99s-lyric-opera-hosts-costume-sale-110751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Image6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Already on the lookout for a Halloween costume? Or possibly your next Comic Con or Renaissance Faire outfit? The Lyric Opera of Chicago has got your back.</p><p dir="ltr">This Saturday marks only the second time in Lyric history that the company will be selling some 3,000 pieces of their handmade costume collection to the public. Costume Director Maureen Reilly said the Lyric doesn&rsquo;t have enough room in their storage for all of the costumes - some dating back almost 100 years.</p><p dir="ltr">Some costumes, she said, have even become a bit repetitive.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think our Madame Butterfly and our Boehme are really gorgeous, but they&rsquo;re 30 and 40 years old. So if you&rsquo;ve been a season subscriber since you&rsquo;ve been 20 or something, you&rsquo;ve seen the same Boehme every 10 years or 8 years, so you want something new and different,&rdquo; Reilly said.</p><p dir="ltr">Prices range from $1 to $200, but Reilly said most garments are actually worth thousands of dollars. Some of the costumes come from as far away as Europe, while others were made in the United States. Shoppers will find items from operas like Pirates of Penzance, Voyages of Edgar Allen Poe, Anna Bolena, Otello, Flying Dutchman, Rigoletto, Don Carlo and more.</p><p dir="ltr">The last and only other time the Lyric held a sale like this was in 2004, when the company&rsquo;s warehouse in Pilsen was sold. They sold around the same amount of costumes, and brought in nearly $77,000. All the money goes back to the Lyric Opera.</p><p dir="ltr">This weekend&rsquo;s sale will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Grand Foyer of the Civic Opera House.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p><p><em>Andrew Gill is a WBEZ web producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/andrewgill">@andrewgill</a></em></p></p> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago%E2%80%99s-lyric-opera-hosts-costume-sale-110751 Chicago writer's passion for opera tied to memories of JFK's death http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-writers-passion-opera-tied-memories-jfks-death-109228 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Capture_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Richard Rothschild is a freelance writer and editor living in Oak Park, Illinois. On the night of November 22, 1963, Rothschild was supposed to see a performance of Richard Wagner&#39;s &quot;Götterdämmerung&quot; at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.</p><p>The performance was cancelled because of President John F. Kennedy&#39;s assassination. But as the weekend unfolded, the 13-year-old began to see parallels between the tragedy of the stage and the tragedy of real life.</p></p> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 16:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-writers-passion-opera-tied-memories-jfks-death-109228 Don't-Miss List: New musical approaches and an African-American classic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/dont-miss-list-new-musical-approaches-and-african-american-classic <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/suitcases%20flickr%20masochism%20tango.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px; " title="(Flickr/Tom Godber)" /></div><p><u><em>The Suitcase Opera Project</em>, <a href="http://www.chicagovanguard.org">Chicago Opera Vanguard</a> at Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph; free (donation suggested); Nov. 8-10 only, 7:30 p.m.</u></p><p>&quot;People tell me in 10 years I will be in the gutter. I&#39;m almost looking forward to the prospect,&quot; Jimmy writes to his friend Howard in 1948. Jimmy is eighteen, gay, dishonorably discharged from the Marines, and living in New York.&nbsp; In 49 letters he documents his pre-Stonewall life of cruising the bars and streets and partying with Gore Vidal, Anais Nin, and Truman Capote, while rhapsodizing on art, love, and sexuality. Sixty years later, famed monologist David Kodeski buys the letters at random in an online auction and discovers Jimmy&#39;s lost world. For two years Kodeski has been turning the material into a non-fiction chamber opera, <strong><em>The Suitcase Opera Project</em></strong>, with composer Eric Reda, artistic director of Chicago Opera Vanguard. These weekend performances at Pritzker Pavilion are the culminating workshops in the development of the piece. FYI: in the cold-weather off-season, the Pritzker Pavilion is sealed off from the rest of Millennium Park and you and the performers all will sit in cozy comfort on the Pavilion stage.</p><p><u><em>Ceremonies in Dark Old Men</em>, <a href="http://www.etacreativearts.org">eta Creative Arts Foundation</a>, 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue;&nbsp;1-773-792-3955; $30; through Dec. 23</u></p><p>Lonnie Elder III (1927-1996) was the first African-American writer nominated for an Academy Award (for the 1973 film <em>Sounder</em>), but before that this actor-turned-author had scored on Broadway in 1969 with <strong><em>Ceremonies in Dark Old Men</em></strong>, which ranks close to <em>A Raisin in the Sun</em> as &nbsp;a seminal drama of urban African-American life. Set in and around a Harlem barbershop, the play chronicles the disintegration of a Black family in the midst of the 1960&#39;s social revolution, with a particular focus on the disenfranchisement &mdash; real or imagined &mdash; of African-American men within their own community. Vaun Monroe is the director of this American classic. FYI: Be sure to check out the gallery exhibit at eta Creative Arts.</p><p><u><em>Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular</em>, <a href="http://www.circle-theatre.org">Circle Theatre</a>, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park; 1-708-660-9540; $27.90-$29.97 (with service fee); runs through Dec. 23</u></p><p>A young man goes in search of the world or at least some good sex and, like Candide, ultimately finds more satisfaction in simple things, perhaps. With a pop score by Stephen Schwartz and a polyglot, meta-theatrical book by Roger O. Hirson, <em>Pippin</em>, was a huge Broadway hit of the 1970s (ran for five years), bringing a contemporary anti-authoritarian vibe to its fictionalized story of the son of Charlemagne in the 9th Century. Many feel the show hasn&#39;t aged well, especially without the hip-grinding original staging of the legendary Bob Fosse. Circle Theatre proposed to restore the show&#39;s oomph by making it a Bollywood spectacular. Circle artistic director Kevin Bellie has successfully re-burnished many other shows after their luster has dulled, and he is both director and choreographers of <strong><em>Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular</em></strong>.</p></p> Thu, 08 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/dont-miss-list-new-musical-approaches-and-african-american-classic Opera comes to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/opera-comes-chicago-101189 <p><p>Chicago had 30,000 people in 1850. It was becoming a big city. Folks here were getting sophisticated. Women were even buying spittoons so their husbands didn&rsquo;t spit the tobacco juice on the floor any more.</p><p>And on July 29th, the world knew that Chicago wasn&rsquo;t just some backwater little village. An opera company had come to town!</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--1850s%2C%20Andreas.jpg" title="Chicago, circa 1850 (Andreas, 'History of Chicago')" /></div><p>Well, it wasn&rsquo;t exactly an opera company. It was actually four professional singers who&rsquo;d been performing in Milwaukee, a <em>real</em> backwater little village. Still, this was an actual opera. Opera was big news in 1850.</p><p>In New York, P.T. Barnum was paying Jenny Lind &ndash; &quot;The Swedish Nightingale&quot; &ndash; $1,000 a night to perform. Chicago&rsquo;s first opera didn&rsquo;t have Jenny Lind. But the local promoters were crafty enough to choose one of her biggest hits for their first show, at Rice&rsquo;s Theatre. The opera was Bellini&rsquo;s <em>La Sonnambula</em>.</p><p>Four singers are not enough for an opera. As a result, the Chicago cast was filled out with local amateurs. A few of them had good voices, most of them didn&rsquo;t. Rehearsals were &ndash; I think &ldquo;confused&rdquo; is a good word to describe them.</p><p>(<em>Does this sound like the plot of some bad old Hollywood movie yet?</em>)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--Jenny_Lind_in_La_Sonnambula.jpg" title="Jenny Lind in 'La Sonnambula'--she stayed in New York (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>In any event, the grand premiere went off on schedule. Rice&rsquo;s Theatre was jammed. And just like in 2012, the opening night crowd really dressed up. The men were wearing swallow-tail coats, the women had on long gowns and were carrying lorgnettes.</p><p>Just like in one of those bad old Hollywood movies, the show had problems. The audience kept applauding at the wrong time &ndash; whenever one of the hometown amateurs showed up on stage, friends in the audience would stand up and cheer. Meanwhile, one of the extras named James McVicker sang so loudly he drowned out the rest of the singers.</p><p>The cast slogged through to the finish. And everybody loved it! The whole town was talking about Chicago&rsquo;s first opera.</p><p>The next day&rsquo;s performance didn&rsquo;t fare as well. A fire in a livery stable across the alley halted the opera. &ldquo;Sit down!&rdquo; theater owner John Rice thundered at the nervous audience. &ldquo;Do you think I would permit a fire to occur in my theater?&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-30--John%20Rice.jpg" title="John Rice--some days nothing goes right (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>Then it became apparent that the blaze was spreading to the wooden theater. Despite some panic, everyone got out safely. Rice&rsquo;s Theatre burned to the ground.</p><p>So ended Chicago&rsquo;s first, abbreviated opera season. James McVicker, that booming-voice spear carrier, later built the city&rsquo;s finest theater. And though John Rice couldn&rsquo;t stop a fire, he found more success in politics. In 1865 he was elected Mayor of Chicago.</p></p> Mon, 30 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/opera-comes-chicago-101189 Renowned theater companies pair up for operatic laughs http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tragedina2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 327px; width: 225px;" title="Princess Tragedina (WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" />Two Chicago theater companies are joining forces in an unlikely double act.<p>The Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago announced Wednesday that cheeky comedy and classical singing will share the same stage in <em>The Second City Guide to Opera</em> this winter.</p><p>The Lyric&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud said the performance will not only appeal to opera fans, but also those who think &ldquo;an opera house was the last place in the world they would ever be entertained.&rdquo;</p><p>Second City spokesperson Alexandra Day said that each company will do what it does best, but with &ldquo;areas of what we hope will be hilarious overlap.&rdquo; &nbsp;The show will feature the celebrated soprano, Renee Fleming, and a comedy star to be announced at a later date.</p><p>Fleming is also the Lyric&rsquo;s creative consultant. She came up with the idea to unite Second City and the Lyric after hearing one of her recordings play during a Second City skit, Freud said. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;On behalf of everyone (at) The Second City I want to thank Renee for not suing us,&rdquo; Kelly Leonard, Second City&rsquo;s executive vice president said. &ldquo;We are obviously thrilled that our use of unaccredited sampling has become an opportunity rather than a cease-and-desist letter.&rdquo;</p><p>Leonard said the two companies make a surprising but natural partnership because of the experimental nature of Chicago&rsquo;s art scene.</p><p>&ldquo;The city has always thrived when it mixes high art and low art,&rdquo; Leonard said. &ldquo;We are at our best when we are not bound by categories.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyric Opera&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud says the collaboration is an effort to bring opera to audiences of different backgrounds.</p><p>&ldquo;You can ask, &lsquo;What possible relevance could it have to a very 21<sup>st</sup> century, very un-European city like Chicago?,&rsquo;&rdquo; Freud said. &ldquo;What I can say is that if you distill opera down to its basics, what is it? It&rsquo;s telling stories through words and music.&rdquo;</p><p>Freud said the collaboration is part of the company&rsquo;s recently announced effort to bring opera to a wider audience. Lyric Unlimited focuses on community partnerships, education and performances at the opera house and around the city.</p><p>&ldquo;Together I think we can try to explore how opera can find a way of becoming truly relevant to people and communities for whom it has had absolutely no relevance up to now,&rdquo; Freud said.</p><p>This year, the Lyric will unveil its first program specifically designed for families, he said. It&rsquo;s an interactive 70-minute version of the classic, <em>Don Pasquale</em>, called <em>Popcorn and Pasquale</em>. The theater is offering lower ticket prices for families and is also partnering with sponsors to provide free tickets to families in need. Lyric Unlimited is funded by a $2 million award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announced earlier this month.</p><p>The Lyric&#39;s upcoming collaboration with The Second City is an example of these efforts to connect with new audiences and art forms.</p><p>To demonstrate the point, two Second City e.t.c. performers, Tawny Newsome and Michael Kosinski, acted out a musical sketch at the press conference Wednesday. The skit parodied the unlikely flirtation between opera and improv, featuring the operatic caricature,&ldquo;Princess Tragedina,&rdquo; and the improv actor, &ldquo;Gary.&rdquo; The troubled princess remarked how their relationship was hopeless because she requires &ldquo;elaborate sets&rdquo; &ndash; not typically found on an improv stage.</p><p>The fate of the Lyric and the improv relationship will unfold on the Civic Opera House&#39;s stage on Jan. 5.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 An early exit interview --and duet-- with Chicago Opera Theater's Brian Dickie http://www.wbez.org/blogs/mark-bazer/2012-04/early-exit-interview-and-duet-chicago-opera-theaters-brian-dickie-98158 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/chicago opera theater.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I don't know much about opera, but I love it. And I owe that love almost entirely to Brian Dickie and the <a href="http://www.chicagooperatheater.org/">Chicago Opera Theater</a>. Dickie, the general director of the COT, is charming, passionate and funny. I don't like to think too much about the fact that this is his last season here.</p><p>Here's a conversation I had with Dickie, plus a wonderful duet from the COT's first production of the season, <em>Moscow Cheryomushki</em>, Dmitri Shostakovich's satire about a young couple trying to navigate the absurdities of housing in the Soviet Union. It premieres this Saturday at the Harris Theater.</p><p>My in-laws, who grew up in the Soviet Union, in Soviet-era housing, will be there, and afterward they'll be happy to separate fact from fiction if you buy them a drink.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/K5dXkeGRbyQ" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 12 Apr 2012 09:05:04 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/mark-bazer/2012-04/early-exit-interview-and-duet-chicago-opera-theaters-brian-dickie-98158 A case for government funding of the arts, part 2 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-23/case-government-funding-arts-part-2-90906 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/flickr theater umtad.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-23/flickr theater umtad.jpg" style="margin: 7px; float: right; width: 280px; height: 187px;" title="(Flickr/University of Minnesota Theatre Arts &amp; Dance)">In response to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-16/case-government-funding-arts-part-1-90649">my blog last week</a>, "A Case for Government Funding of the Arts, Part 1," several readers posted comments which decried any connection between the arts and government, even calling for the disestablishment of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).</p><p>These comments — which I expected — were posted by individuals who claimed to be ardent arts supporters, if not artists themselves. They were passionate yet intelligent statements that completely missed the point.</p><p>Here is the point: Whether artists like it or not, there ALWAYS has been interaction and interface between government and the arts, and there always will be. As a class of the governed, artists can choose to be part of the dialogue with those who govern, or artists can turn their backs and suffer the consequences of not representing their own interests in places of power. At present in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts is the best seat at the table that artists have.</p><p>Since the arts emerged in prehistoric primitive cultures, they've always had a social obligation to interpret the spiritual and secular worlds in which they exist. The plays of ancient Greece, especially the comedies, were expected to comment on political policies and governance. The history plays of Shakespeare legitimized the Tudor monarchy. The triumphs of Renaissance religious art glorified the business (Christianity) of the boss (the Pope). The music of Mozart or Hadyn added sophistication and status to the courts of the monarchs who paid for it. In the modern era, Communist governments have poured tons of money into the arts in order to earn international prestige and provide a facade of humanism for often-repressive regimes.</p><p>The arts represent national prestige and national culture and usually prove to be more powerful as a legacy to the world than vast armed forces and territorial conquest. Virtually alone among developed nations, the United States mostly ignored the arts in any national or Federal sense until the NEA was established in 1965.</p><p>Now, artists always have been suspicious or fearful of government and rightly so. Where politics and the arts meet, there often has been censorship or attempted censorship. But the NEA was designed to minimize that possibility and largely has succeeded for two reasons: our Federal government cannot censor the arts, nor does it throw enough money at the arts to control them.</p><p>Thanks to the First Amendment, no elected or appointed official can tell an artist what he can or cannot express (short of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater). If Congress or an administration is unhappy with the arts, all it can do is withdraw or reduce what little funding it provides, and this step has been taken several times.</p><p>The real magic, of course, is that it's not enough money to make a difference. A well-managed non-profit theater company, dance troupe, museum or arts academy will never depend on government funding for more than 5% of its total budget. But that 5% loosens the purse strings of far more generous foundation, corporate and individual donors who want to see that little statement: "Supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts." An NEA grant has become an imprimatur. It signals other potential funders that arts organization A or B or C meets certain standards of quality, innovation and business-like operation.</p><p>Some artists hate that part, too, believing that NEA bureaucrats decide which art is worthy and which is not, but that's not how it works. The NEA is organized around a system of peer review panels. For example, grants for non-profit theater companies aren't determined by full-time NEA employees but by a panel of artistic directors and managing directors assembled to review all grant applications in that category. They will come from theaters which are not themselves competing for money in that particular grant cycle. Museum grants will be reviewed by museum executives and curators, and so on.</p><p>These professionals work with sincere dedication to do the most with taxpayer resources. I know, because I've been an NEA panelist. In my case, we had 34 applications seeking $17.5 million in grants, but we only had $3.5 million to give out. We met for 12 hours a day over three hot, humid June days in Washington, D.C. in the NEA quarters in the Old Post Office Building. The air conditioning was shut off at 5 p.m., but we worked until 8:30 or 9 p.m. each night.</p><p>Our process determined that 31 of the 34 applications were worthy of support, so we prioritized them to receive a share of the $3.5 million. At the top of the list, a little-known institution requesting $20,000 received $17,500, the largest grant by percentage. At the bottom, a number of institutions received so-called entry level grants (which have varied yearly between $3,000 and $5,000). In between, several famous behemoth arts organizations requesting $350,000 received $150,000.</p><p>The work was hard and mentally demanding. For our labors, we panelists were flown to Washington economy class, put up in a modest hotel for three nights and given an honorarium of $150. We paid for our own meals. The vast bulk of NEA money goes to arts organizations and state arts agencies and not to bureaucracy, which is why I said last week that the NEA is a model of how a government agency should be run.</p><p>As modest as the NEA budget is, it provides an opportunity for artists to appear before Congress each year in a public forum to advocate on behalf of the arts, and to put elected officials on notice that culture matters. Even more, regional and national arts advocacy groups have sprung up to create an arts lobby at the Federal level and in statehouses, too.</p><p>Is the NEA ideal? No. Might there be better ways to fund the arts and protect them from censorship? Yes, but we don't have them and we probably won't get them. This is why the NEA is the best seat the arts have at the political table.</p><p>In its 46 year history, the NEA never has received more than $176 million, a mere 1/10,000th of the Federal budget at that time (the late 1980's). The same dollars today would be an even more infinitesimal fraction of the budget and purchase less. But the NEA hasn't received that much in over 20 years. The Obama request for Fiscal 2012 is $146 million, of which the House of Representatives has approved $135 million. The final number remains to be worked out between the Senate and the House.</p><p>The good news is that the Republican-controlled House has soundly rejected several Republican-sponsored proposals this summer to kill the NEA outright. Even GOPers seem to "get it" about the NEA and the arts, at least for the time being.<br> Now, if only all my blog readers — and my colleague Kelly Kleiman —&nbsp;got it, too!</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-23/case-government-funding-arts-part-2-90906 The show won't go on? Lyric Opera's singers, dancers threaten strike http://www.wbez.org/story/show-wont-go-lyric-operas-singers-dancers-threaten-strike-90475 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/Lyric Opera_Flickr_Michael Lehet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The union representing singers and dancers at Lyric Opera of Chicago is threatening to strike.</p><p>The American Guild of Musical Artists represents nearly everyone on stage at the Lyric: the singers, the dancers, the actors and the production staff. The union is telling its members to be prepared to picket the annual free concert next month and possibly strike on opening night.</p><p>Union Executive Director Alan Gordon said the Lyric threatened to lock out workers on Aug. 22 over contract negotiations.</p><p>"We've made sacrifice after sacrifice in an effort to help Lyric improve its fiscal position, and we do not expect to be paid back by threats," Gordon said. He said negotiations are stuck because the Lyric wants to cut pay and benefits.</p><p>A Lyric spokeswoman confirmed the company is in contract negotiations, but wouldn't comment because she said it's company policy not to negotiate in the media.</p><p>The Lyric orchestra threatened a strike on the opening night of an opera two years ago over similar issues, saying members couldn't agree to a pay freeze and shorter seasons that would essentially cut pay. The parties resolved that dispute and avoided a strike.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/show-wont-go-lyric-operas-singers-dancers-threaten-strike-90475