Nickel in the Slot

I was out of town last week, so I’m a little late to Steve Hicken’s quiz.

1) What five operas would you most like to see performed?

1. Schoenberg: Von Heute auf Morgen. Believe it or not, Schoenberg was actually offered an awful lot of money by a publisher for this piece, but his wife Gertrude thought the publisher was being annoyingly pushy, so Schoenberg turned it down. He credited the refusal with saving his life—had he taken the money, he said, he might have ended up too comfortable to flee the Nazis in time. So how come no publishers are offering to save my life in this way?
2. Britten: Owen Wingrave. His second-to-last opera, a brilliant anti-war ghost story, originally written for television. Just don’t let premium cable near it, or Owen will face his family’s demons buck-naked. And the demons will be played by B-list starlets. I spoke too soon: that’s a travesty I’d actually watch.
3. Tippett: The Ice Break. Some people are vaguely embarrassed by Tippett’s self-written libretti, but is there anybody else, in any genre, who goes where he goes? I mean, besides Pink Floyd?
4. Babbitt: Fabulous Voyage. Uncle Milton’s 1946 Broadway musical, based on Homer’s Odyssey. If Babbitt had gone on to have Jerry-Herman-esque success on the Great White Way, would the alleged serialist hegemony in 1950s and 60s America still have come about? If not, would all those people continually complaining about said alleged hegemony find something else to complain about? Yeah, probably.
5. Stockhausen: Licht: Die sieben Tage der Woche. Bonus points if the production is financed via a series of high-tech international jewel heists.

2) What five pieces would you most like to hear performed?

1. Busoni: Piano Concerto. Anybody who looks at a draft of a massive, late-Romantic concerto and thinks, “You know what this thing needs? A men’s chorus!” is my kind of guy.
2. Barraque: Piano Sonata. I’ve never heard it live.
3. Ives: Symphony no. 4. See above. Might as well throw in Gruppen while we’re at it. Think of how many freelancers you could feed with a program like that.
4. R. Murray Schafer: No Longer Than Ten (10) Minutes. For reasons previously noted.
5. Nam June Paik: Danger Music #5. You’re going into that whale’s vagina a nobody, but you’re coming back a star!

3) What five living performers would you most like to meet?

1. Riccardo Muti. I’ll invite him over, put on a Pavarotti record, and hide behind the furniture.
2. Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I could use a makeover.
3. Placido Domingo. Mr. Domingo, I have this album you recorded with John Denver that I’d love for you to sign… Mr. Domingo? Where are you going?
4. Jessye Norman. I’d just keep giving her money until she agreed to record the outgoing message on my voicemail.
5. Oscar Peterson.
OP: Hi, I’m Oscar Peterson.

4) What five living composers would you most like to meet?

After ten minutes of thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’d like to meet him/her; oh, wait a minute, I already did,” I gave up. Hanging around Tanglewood for the better part of seven summers will do that. Not that any of them would remember me, anyway. (Five that are fun to meet, if you haven’t already: Steven Mackey, Marjorie Merryman, Tan Dun, Andre Previn, Osvaldo Golijov.)

5) What five living musicians (composers, performers, writers, scholars, etc) would you most like to play three-on-three basketball with/against?

My team:
Michael Daugherty
Tommy Tune
Other team:
Alicia de Larrocha
Jimmy Scott

I like those odds.


  1. I meant to add: I’m still amazed of how good the performance was given the skepticism of some in the orchestra. My happy memory is slightly marred by Alan Gilbert holding a moment of silence at the very end as violinst Enrico DiCecco (yeah that’s right Enrico, I’m calling you out) starts impatiently fidgeting as if to say “Look, I played all the goddamn notes, can I go home now?”

  2. david: Well, that certainly makes me even more curious about Gilbert, who I’ve never heard live. (And it’s nice to see that there’s still a few in the band who haven’t lost their petulant-second-grader attitude. Time to program Cage again.)greg: I’ve heard that, too. My plan was to spend the entire game standing on Tommy Tune’s shoulders. (Probably the only way I could reliably hit shots from the corners anyway.)

  3. You’re in luck with <>Von Heute auf Morgen<>! Oper Leipzig is doing a Schoenberg triple bill: <>Die Gluckliche Hand > Erwartung > Von Heute auf Morgen<> on 4/5, 13, 20, 23, 26/08. Go! Chances of this ever happening in the US: -0.0000000000000000001%. As for Stockhausen’s <>Licht<>, more good news! From Wikipedia:<>Still, early plans have been announced to perform <>Licht<> in its entirety in Dresden in 2008 (celebrating Stockhausen’s 80th birthday) and Essen in 2010<>.Well, Matthew, make sure your passport is in order and that your publisher is prompt with your royalty payments, I see opera in the former East Germany in your future. 🙂I went to O(+>’s <>Lovesexy<> tour back in the day and for parts of the show, he was shooting hoops with Sheila E. on a court set up to a side of the stage; his Purple Badness had a good jumpshot to about 15 feet. He’s short though, just post up on him. Um, unless you’re about 5’2″, in which case he’ll post up on you.

  4. I’m very much with you on the Busoni Piano Concerto! There’s an amazing live recording from the Proms with Peter Donohoe and Mark Elder — a performance I really wish I’d been at. I would also like to hear live performances of “Gruppen,” “Der ferne Klang,” Georg Friedirch Haas’s “in vain,” Eduard Tubin’s Sixth Symphony, Popov’s First Symphony (missed the Botstein version), Stravinsky’s “Threni” … OK I’ll make my own list.

  5. Regarding Babbitt and the voyage. I remember having a conversation with him about a dozen years ago at Rutgers, when my oboe quartet was being played. There was a Antheil festival going on, including a performance of the Ballet Mechanique. He’d found out I was the classical manager of the Princeton Record Exchange, and we were having a sort of can-you-top-this on obscure classical labels. After he lightly dismissed the Antheil–and had a slight dig, for some forgotten reason, at Honegger–we somehow went from Antheil’s apparently consummated (according to Charles Amarkhanian) acquaintance with Hedy Lamarr, to a considerable discussion with Uncle Milt about the curvaceous talents of Rita Hayworth (!). I mentioned that I’d once done a painting called “The Second New England School Makes Fun of My Music,” in which the ghosts of Foote, Chadwick, Carpenter, Paine, and Bird are looking over my music on the piano and laughing like hell at it. Babbitt looked at me in surprise and cried “I *knew* Arthur Bird!” All in all, it was a pretty fascinating afternoon for a 25-year-old composer. -robert bonotto

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