Last weekend I spent a few days in Dallas, Texas with about 30 other music critics. All of us are members of the Music Critics Association of North America, and we try to gather once a year to tune up our ears and compare notes. I find it very interesting to listen to orchestras, chamber ensembles, choirs, and opera companies that are not in Portland or do not come through Portland on tour. Through the MCANA's annual meetings I have heard the following:
- Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen (in Disney Hall) (2005)
- Los Angeles Opera Company with Kent Nagano conducting Falstaff (featuring Byrn Terffel) (2005)
- Canadian Opera in a complete Ring Cycle with Richard Bradshaw conducting in Toronto's new opera house (2006)
- Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra with conductor Emmanuel Villaume (2007)
- Spoleto Festival USA Opera's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Emmanuel Villaume conducting (2007)
- Spoleto Festival USA chamber music (including St. Lawrence String Quartet) (2007)
- Colorado Symphony Orchestra with Jeffrey Kahane conducting (2008)
- Colorado Opera with Marin Alsop conducting Nixon in China (2008)
- Central City Opera with Damian Iorio conducting The Rape of Lucretia (2008)
- Mostly Mozart Festival Opera with John Adams conducting A Flowering Tree (2009)
- Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra with Osmo Vänskä conducting (2009)
- Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Robin Ticciati (MM Fest 2009)
- Dallas Symphony Orchestra with Jaap van Zweden conducting (2010)
- Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting (2010)
- The Dallas Opera's production of Moby Dick (featuring Ben Heppner)(2010)
At the annual meetings, my colleagues and I get tours of halls (Disney Hall, Four Seasons Centre (Toronto), Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Meyerson Hall, Winspear Opera House, meet orchestra composers like John Adams, conductors like Jaap van Zweden and Graeme Jenkins, and administrators like Deborah Borda and Keith Cerny. This is really a terrific way to get a more in-depth and behind the scenes look at what it takes to create music. We usually get a number of recordings and sometimes books (eg., John Adams's Hallelujah Junction).
The MCANA also offers some opportunities (including travel, hotel, and meals) to cover festivals and competitions. I was selected to write about the Van Cliburn Competition last year. The critic's organization has also provided some excellent leads to written work for magazines, including a current opportunity to write a few things for the Grove Dictionary. The MCANA is also developing a new online magazine that will offer a lot of national exposure for its members.
All in all, MCANA is an organization that offers a lot to classical music writers. Next year, we are going to meet in June in San Francisco during San Francisco Opera's production of the Ring Cycle.
PS: For my reviews of this year's music in Dallas and Fort Worth, go to Oregon Music News.