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Article Published: 14 Jul 2021


Knowing Britten
By Steuart Bedford with Christopher Gillett
Bittern Press

The late conductor and pianist Steuart Bedford offers a vivid account of his long association with Benjamin Britten, which began in the late 1940s when Bedford’s mother sang in the premieres of The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring. Bedford describes his work with Britten’s English Opera Group and tenure as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, his central role in the premiere performances of Death in Venice as Britten’s health was failing, and his 2013 recordings of Britten’s works for the composer’s centenary.

Singing Sappho: Improvisation and Authority in 19th-Century Opera
By Melina Esse
University of Chicago Press

The author considers how the ancient poet Sappho, an icon of feminine creativity, influenced the intertwining histories of improvisation, text, and performance in the 19th century. Her study looks at connections between operatic and poetic improvisation in Italy and the role of virtuosic female improvisers in shaping operatic compositions. Among the works considered are Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Bellini’s Norma.

Modern Theatres: 1950–2020
Edited by David Staples

This essay collection surveys 30 of the most significant theaters, concert halls, and opera houses constructed between 1950 and 2010 in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. An additional 20 theaters that opened between 2011 and 2020 are concisely reviewed and illustrated. The individual essays discuss the role of performing arts buildings in cities, describe their public and performance spaces, and explore the technologies and acoustics needed in a great building.

Giving USA 2021

Giving USA’s 2021 Annual Report confirms the 2020 boom in American philanthropy. Contributions to charities rose 5.1 percent to over $471 billion from individuals, foundations, bequests, and corporations — making 2020 the highest year of charitable giving ever recorded. Much of this activity reacted to the extraordinary events of the year — a circumstance that had an unfortunate effect on the cultural sector.

The human toll of the pandemic and the fervency of the racial justice movement make it no surprise that human services, education, and public-society organizations were among the charitable sectors that benefited the most. Meanwhile, the study found that overall giving to arts, culture, and humanities reversed course in 2020. After increasing 11.3 percent from 2018 to an all-time high in 2019, the cultural sector fell 7.5 percent into 2020, earning just 4 percent of all contributions.

While local economies shut down, the rebound of the stock markets allowed foundations to come to the rescue, increasing their distributions by 17 percent. Meanwhile, corporations, already the smallest sliver of the pie, decreased their giving by 6.1%, falling to a near 20-year low.

This article was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Opera America Magazine.