Spotlight: Nathan's on the Faculty, Emma's on the Television, Kristjan's on Big Brother's Territory

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Nathan's on the Faculty, Emma's on the Television, Kristjan's on Big Brother's Territory
What the stars are up to, on stage and off.

He's got brains as well as brawn. Buff baritone Nathan Gunn is about to become the newest member of the faculty at the University of Illinois School of Music. Gunn — recently anointed opera's latest superstar by The New York Times — begins his appointment as a professor of voice in mid-August. Gunn's wife Julie, who has a doctorate in accompaniment from U. Illinois, also joins the faculty, as an associate professor.

August also marks the release of Gunn's first solo CD under his new deal with Sony BMG Classical. Called Just Before Sunrise, the disc includes a variety of intimate numbers by songwriters and composers ranging from Tom Waits and Billy Joel to Ben Moore and Gene Scheer.

Gunn and his family are currently in France, staying in a sprawling 18th-century house while the singer performs in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. The baritone reports in his online journal that he has been contemplating the beauty of olive trees and trying some of the flexibility exercises that his young daughter's gymnastics coach assigned her. He returns to the U.S. to sing two August concerts dedicated to the Armed Forces at Chicago's Grant Park Festival, then heads to New York in September for Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera.

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Soprano Emma Kirkby, just named a Dame of the British Empire, is the subject of a documentary airing on Britain's ITV on July 22. The program, part of the series The South Bank Show, follows Kirkby through a wide range of engagements this past May. She can be seen coaching amateur singers in Monteverdi madrigals in Italy, performing Bach cantatas with the Purcell Quartet, and singing music of Hildegard von Bingen in St. Bartholomew's Church in London. The show also accompanies Kirkby to Sherborne Abbey in Dorset, where she sings Couperin and Purcell, and to Guildford and The Minstrel's Gallery in Rotherfield.

This fall, Kirkby heads to Beijing to sing in a performance of Bach's B minor Mass at the Forbidden City and give an English lute song recital with Jakob Lindberg; she continues to Korea with the lute song program and then sings Bach wedding cantatas with Toronto's Tafelmusik at the Seoul Bach Festival. Prior to that, the globe-hopping soprano performs in England, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and France; afterwards, she'll sing in England, Germany and Spain again as well as in Canada, Turkey, Italy and Poland. In all, Dame Emma has 53 concert appearances scheduled from July through December of this year.

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It's not just ballplayers' salaries that are skyrocketing. For the first time, two music directors of American orchestras have topped the $2 million mark in salary and other compensation. According to the music industry blog Adaptistration, in the 2004-05 season, Lorin Maazel, the music director of the New York Philharmonic, was paid was paid $2,638,940, while Daniel Barenboim, then the music director of the Chicago Symphony (from which he has since departed), pulled in $2,044,679. (2004-05 was the most recent season for which these numbers are available.)

The figures include only the compensation the conductors received with their orchestras and do not reflect guest-conducting fees earned elsewhere. Barenboim's total included pay for appearances as a piano soloist, according to the CSO, which confirmed the figure for The Chicago Tribune.

Here are all the other music directors in the United States who made more than $1 million in 2004-05: Michael Tilson Thomas of the San Francisco Symphony, $1,636,218; James Levine of the Boston Symphony, $1,592,000; Christoph Eschenbach of the Philadelphia Orchestra, $1,546,000; Esa-Pekka Salonen of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, $1,339,500; and Franz Welser-M‹st of the Cleveland Orchestra, $1,232,515.

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What's it like having three conductors in the same family? Kristjan J‹rvi, the brother of Paavo J‹rvi and the son of Neeme J‹rvi, jokes that "If they are living on different continents there's a lot of room." This month, though, Kristjan has been treading on Paavo's turf: he led the Cincinnati Opera in two performances of John Adams's Nixon in China, drawing considerable curiosity in the town — and hall — where his big brother presides as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Kristjan tells The Cincinnati Post that initially, he wasn't sure he wanted to join the family business: "It's an intimidating thing when you have a very well-known father and a brother who is following very successfully in his footsteps." But he eventually carved out his own niche as a founder of the innovative electro-acoustic chamber group the Absolute Ensemble.

And while the youngest conducting J‹rvi is, at 35, doing more mainstream classical performances, he hasn't strayed far from his avant-garde roots. New York-based Absolute is still going strong and J‹rvi recently began a Plugged-In Series with the Vienna Tonk‹nstler Orchestra, which he serves as chief conductor. The series, performed in the venerable Musikverein, features non-classical musicians performing moderately amplified works with the orchestra.

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Yefim Bronfman appears on July 30 as soloist in the European premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Piano Concerto, with the composer at the podium. The performance, part of the BBC Proms, follows the work's successful premiere with the New York Philharmonic in February ... Violinist/conductor Jaime Laredo and his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson, performed on Garrison Keillor's radio show A Prairie Home Companion on June 30. The program, which was broadcast live from Tanglewood, included movements from a work called Suite for Two, which was written for Laredo and Robinson in honor of their 30th wedding anniversary and their 30th year performing together. The composer of the piece, violinist Andy Stein, is a performer and arranger for Keillor's show ... How's this for youthful stamina? At this fall's Beijing International Festival, 25-year-old superstar pianist Lang Lang will play ten different piano concertos.

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