Spotlight: The Denyce Graves Workout; Pinchas Zukerman Returns to Ottawa

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: The Denyce Graves Workout; Pinchas Zukerman Returns to Ottawa
What the stars are up to, onstage and off.

Who says opera stars have to be, um, big-boned? Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves believes in working as hard on her figure as she does on her voice. The opera star, who owns a country house in northern Virginia, recently took viewers of a Washington, D.C. television station through her workout program, which she performs in her private gym. Graves is especially fond of the treadmill and relies on several cardiovascular exercises to burn off fat. When she is on the road and away from her equipment, she uses elastic resistance bands. Graves told NBC4 that she forces herself to keep up the routine no matter what: "It's like practicing [music]. Some days I don't like getting up to do it ... [But] I always feel better afterwards."

Graves, who had gained 70 pounds by the time she gave birth to her daughter Ella almost two years ago, has been working feverishly to ensure that she can fit into the costume for her next role. Beginning May 27, Graves will appear with the Los Angeles Opera in the title role of Grendel, a new opera based on the epic poem Beowulf and John Gardner's novel. Elliott Goldenthal wrote the music and Julie Taymor and poet J.D. McClatchy penned the libretto. After its run in Los Angeles, the production will move to New York for four performances in July as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.


Violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman was greeted warmly by audiences when he returned to the podium at Canada's National Arts Centre recently, but his relationship with the musicians of his Ottawa orchestra is evidently still strained: the National Arts Centre Orchestra's management has hired a pair of facilitators to try to smooth over the tensions that sprang up after Zukerman took a sudden sabbatical last December. About 2,000 people showed up for Zukerman's conductorial return, the first of four Zukermna-led concerts scheduled for May. Zukerman was actually supposed to remain away from the orchestra for the rest of the season; there was speculation in the Canadian press that his early return was influenced in part by his good friend Itzhak Perlman. The day before Zukerman returned as conductor, he and Perlman appeared at the National Arts Centre in a recital, the final stop on an eight-performance joint tour.

Shortly after his abrupt departure last year, Zukerman angered members of the orchestra by calling some of them "rotten apples" who have created a negative atmosphere that must be "eradicated." The facilitators, who have been asked to study the relationship between Zukerman and the musicians and to help broker peace, are expected to remain with the orchestra for months. Zukerman continued to perform outside Ottawa during his absence from the orchestra and he is maintaining his tour schedule now that he is back on the podium. Later this month, he is due to appear in Seoul for the first time in 10 years to perform as both a violinist and conductor.


Seven years ago, cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, launched an initiative aimed at getting young Russians vaccinated against hepatitis B. Since then, the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation has managed to obtain vaccinations for 1.8 million young people. Recently, the Russian government announced that it would take over the vaccination program, meaning that the foundation has achieved its major goal—ensuring that the initiative became a permanent part of Russian healthcare policy. Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya were honored in the city of Yaroslavl at a ceremony marking the completion of their program. It marked the second time this month that the musician was honored for his efforts to promote health; in early May, he was named a special representative of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. Although he no longer performs as a cellist, the grand old man of Russian music continues to conduct. His recent appearances have included performances in New York and concerts with Washington's National Symphony Orchestra, which he led from 1977-94.

Michael Tilson Thomas rarely performs on the piano these days, but the San Francisco Symphony music director took to the keyboard this month during a gala performance to celebrate the centennial of Cal Performances. "MTT" accompanied soprano Lisa Vronman in three songs, including one he wrote. The anniversary party for Berkeley-based Cal Performances—a presenting organization that traces its roots to the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—also featured composer John Adams, the contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and Mark Morris, who led his dance troupe ... The Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, now 87, has conducted on most of the world's great concert stages. Somehow, though, he never got a chance to work in Cleveland's Severance Hall. Late last month, the conductor made his belated Cleveland Orchestra debut, drawing stellar reviews for his performances of symphonies by Beethoven and Nielsen ... Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet was on his way to Vietnam in mid-May to perform a recital in Hanoi. Thibaudet was selected to give the 10th Hennessy Concert at the Hanoi Opera House, an event that is broadcast annually across Vietnam.

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