Thursday, February 24, 2011

A beatle comes to New York City Ballet,nytimes,2/23/11.

February 23, 2011, 2:17 pm
Paul McCartney Collaborates With City Ballet
In an unexpected intersection of celebrity pop music and ballet, that most refined of the performing arts, Paul McCartney has written a major orchestral work for New York City Ballet.

Richard Perry/The New York Times Paul McCartney, above at the Apollo Theater in December, has written an orchestral work for New York City Ballet.
It is a love story titled “Ocean’s Kingdom” and will be performed at the company’s fall gala on Sept. 22 and on other yet-to-be determined dates next season, Mr. McCartney and company officials said. Peter Martins, the company’s ballet master in chief, will create the choreography.

In its current state, the ballet lasts about 45 to 50 minutes, is divided into four acts and will feature a cast of about 40 to 45, including four or five main roles. A composer, John Wilson, is helping with the final orchestration, and the first act is to be played through at the David H. Koch Theater, the company’s home, on Thursday.

The other half of the gala program will consist of George Balanchine’s “Union Jack,” a sprawling work that Mr. Martins said would be a tribute to City Ballet’s latest Liverpudlian contributor.

Mr. McCartney first mentioned that he was working on a ballet score in an interview with the BBC in June, then set off speculative babble among balletomanes and pop music fans this month when he said at an awards ceremony in London that an announcement about the piece was coming soon.

In his first interview about the work, Mr. McCartney on Wednesday called it “basically a romantic story” involving two worlds — the ocean kingdom, representing purity, and the earth kingdom, “the sort of baddies.” The daughter of the ocean king falls in love with the brother of the earth king, and “you’ll have to see whether the couple make it,” Mr. McCartney said. “There’s all sort of troubles along the way.”

Mr. McCartney has long staked a claim in the world of classical music, and branching out into ballet music is just his latest foray into other realms. He has published books of poetry and children’s literature, and mounted shows of his paintings.

Mr. Martins said the idea of a collaboration popped into his head when he ran into Mr. McCartney at a fund-raiser for the School of American Ballet, the company’s training ground, a year ago.

“Of course, being a Beatles fan — because that’s my generation — I was very intrigued,” Mr. Martins said. “I knew of course about his foray into classical music and his interest in it. I said to him, ‘Maybe we could do something together.’ ”

The two men said that over the course of the year they consulted regularly.

“This is Paul’s baby,” Mr. Martins said, adding with tongue in cheek, “The only thing he has left to do is choreograph.” He said Mr. McCartney created the libretto on his own.

“He knows exactly what this is going to look like,” Mr. Martins said. “He even has choreographic suggestions. He did a nice little jump for me. I said, ‘To me, Paul, that needs work.’ ”

Mr. McCartney said he took up the suggestion because “I can’t refuse an offer,” especially one to do something fresh and challenging.

“I’ve come to love working with orchestras,” he said. “It’s a great palette.”

He wrote some “speculative” music and began reading about dance and attending ballet performances.

“For me, the sheer athleticism is the most astounding thing about what I’m seeing,” he said. “It’s like a meeting of the Olympic games and art, and I find that fascinating and challenging for me, to see what can be done.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Opera Saratoga announces 2011 schedule. Tra-la, can Spring be far behind?

Opera Saratoga reveals season
By Michael Janairo Arts And Entertainment Editor
Published: 12:00 a.m., Thursday, February 10, 2011

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Opera Saratoga, which was formerly known as Lake George Opera, will be celebrating its 50th season this summer with a special anniversary concert and two operas produced in its first year: Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" and Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte."

This season marks the company's 14th summer at the Spa Little Theater at the Saratoga Spa State Park. In addition to the performances, the company also offers pre-performance talks about the operas (free for ticketholders), a free concert outdoors, the annual ball and a family-friendly opera to be performed during SaratogaArtsFest.

Subscriptions range in price from $130 to $190 and are now available at 584-6018. Single tickets go on sale mid-February. Visit the Opera's website at for additional information.

Here are the main events of the season:

Main Stage Productions at Spa Little Theater

"Die Fledermaus": 7:30 p.m. June 29, July 2; 2 p.m. July 5, 10. Performed in English and featuring Kyle Pfortmiller ("The Barber of Seville," 2006; "Don Pasquale," 2009) as Eisenstein; Curt Olds ("The Pirate of Penzance," 2008) as Dr. Falke; Elizabeth Pojanowski, a 2010 apprentice artist, as Prince Orlofsky; and Metropolitan Opera soprano Emily Pulley as Rosalinda. Opera Artistic Director Curtis Tucker will conduct and Nelson Sheeley will direct.

"Cosi Fan Tutte": 7:30 p.m. June 30, July 9; 2 p.m. July 3, 6. In Italian with English titles features John Stephens ("Don Pasquale," 2009) as Don Alfonso; Adriana Zabala ("The Barber of Seville," 2006) as Dorabella; and Andrew Garland ("La Boheme," 2007) as Guglielmo. David Lefkowich, who directed the 2008 production of "La Traviata," returns to direct and Albany Symphony Orchestra's Music Director David Alan Miller will conduct.

50th Anniversary Concert: 7:30 p.m. July 8. Artistic Director Curtis Tucker and returning guest conductor Mark Flint will take the audience on a musical journey through the company's first 50 years, with returning guest artists accompanied by the Opera Saratoga Orchestra. Flint has conducted more performances for the company than any other conductor.

Free Opera Insights: There will be free pre-performance opera talks for ticket holders one hour before each performance in the Spa Little Theater. Patrons will hear the history and stories behind each opera, as well as information regarding the casts and director.

Other events

"The Trial of BB Wolf": June 10-12. Opera Artistic Director Curtis Tucker has composed a new family-friendly opera that will be performed during SaratogaArtsFest weekend. The opera features elements of favorite children's stories set to music composed by Curtis Tucker with libretto by Nelson Sheeley. Tickets are available through

2011 50th Anniversary Opera Ball: 7 p.m. July 1. The Saratoga Hilton Hotel. Opera Saratoga's gala will feature Albany band Spare Parts and will take place for the first time at the Saratoga Hilton Hotel. Ted and Carol Newlin serve as the 50th anniversary chairpersons and Helen Mastrion and Courtney Smith are auction co-chairs. Proceeds will benefit Opera Saratoga's numerous educational programs.

Free Concert in Congress Park: 5 p.m. July 4. Opera Saratoga will perform a free concert as part of Saratoga's annual Independence Day celebration. Listen to arias prior to the city's firework display.

Reach Janairo at or 454-5629.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Hoping for no pool/park closures this year! times union 2/9/11.

ALBANY -- Don't expect a repeat of last spring's budget-driven threats to close state parks, the acting head of the park system told a panel of state lawmakers Tuesday during a hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2010-11 budget.

But get ready for a different kind of drama around the beginning of June, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation is slated to release proposed rules to regulate the controversial natural gas drilling technique called hydrofracking.

Andy Beers, acting commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, credited layoffs during the waning days of the Paterson administration with giving the park system breathing room to absorb the additional spending cut of 6.2 percent, or $19 million, sought by Cuomo.

"We will not be repeating last year's scenario," Beers said during a hearing of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. The budget also contains no changes in park fees, with Beers saying fee hikes last year have brought the parks "up to market rates."

A park advocacy group that includes former parks commissioner Carol Ash, who went through the political firestorm that followed last year's closure threats, took Beers' announcement with a grain of salt.

"While it may be reassuring to hear that the agency has no plans to close parks at this time, it is difficult to see how they will be able to achieve required savings without serious service reductions and even closure of some park operations," said Erik Kulleseid, director of the Alliance for New York State Parks.

His group called for the state to impose a 1-cent fee on disposable plastic grocery store shopping bags that would yield $60 million a year help pay for the parks. The group released a poll of 1,000 registered state voters that found 73 percent supported the idea of the bag fee.

"The crisis facing New York's state parks goes far beyond this year's budget proposal. Although parks may be open, there are pools and campsites not open due to the continuing deterioration of the system," Kulleseid said.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Saratoga Spa State Park attendance up almost 500,000 in 2010. Victoria Pool attendance way up. Umbrella fundraiser being considered.

State parks see rise in attendance, but lose budget money
Story Discussion State parks see rise in attendance, but lose budget money
DREW KERR - The Post-Star | Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 11:45 am | (3) Comments

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Jason McKibben
Jason McKibben - Moreau Lake State Park nature educator Rebecca Mullins, center, leads a snowshoe hike through the park's Red Oak Ridge trail Tuesday, January 25, 2011. The park maintains an active calendar with events targeting people of all ages. Attendance at state parks in the Saratoga-Capital region jumped significantly last year.

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Snowshoe through Moreau Lake State Park
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Parks attendance by the numbers
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2011-12 budget proposal calls for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to cut spending by more than 8 percent in the next budget cycle.

The total budget would fall from $228 million to $209 million. The proposed reduction comes as attendance at state parks reaches record highs.

In 2010, officials reported that attendance at state parks topped 56.9 million, up more than 1 million visitors from the year before.

Attendance is also growing locally.

A look at the numbers:

Saratoga Spa State Park

2010 - 1,948,587

2009 - 1,480,000

2008 - 1,449,000

2007 - 1,742,545

2006 - 1,483,000

2005 - 835,000

Moreau Lake State Park

2010 - 425,167

2009 - 396,000

2008 - 368,000

2007 - 357,000

2006 - 268,000

2005 - 338,000
Hard hit over the last several budget cycles, New York's state parks and historical sites are facing another austere year, even as the number of visitors coming to the venues grows.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2011-12 budget proposal, released Tuesday, calls for a more than 8 percent cut in spending at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The department's budget would fall from $228 million to $209 million under the proposal.

Supporters say the parks have absorbed severe cuts each of the last two years and further reductions could compromise infrastructure and deter visitors.

"The integrity of the system that's been built up over generations, really the fabric of our state park system, is just going to be torn," said Robin Dropkin, executive director at Parks and Trails New York.

Dropkin said she has been told that no parks or historic sites are expected to close, but parks officials on Wednesday refused to say how they would absorb the funding cuts, if approved by state lawmakers.

Testimony from parks leaders is due Feb. 8, and more details should be revealed about the budget impact at that time, officials said.

Last year, asked to cut $11 million from their budget, state parks officials said they would need to close more than 50 state parks and historic sites, while cutting back at another 24 parks.

The John Brown Historical Site near Lake Placid, where the abolitionist lived and is buried, was among the sites threatened with closure. Officials also considered shuttering the Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park.

Fierce opposition led to the withdrawal of the closure plans, but supporters say the parks system is, nonetheless, suffering from a lack of state support.

Even if no parks are closed this year, Dropkin and others say they are concerned that infrastructure is not being maintained and that putting off repairs could lead to more costly work in the future.

"The bottom line is parks are still hurting, they're still operating on a shoestring budget and they're in trouble," Dropkin said.

The cuts are surprising, supporters say, because attendance at parks is at an all-time high and parks have been shown to generate tax revenue for the communities where they're located.

In 2010, officials reported that 56.9 million visitors visited the state's 213 parks and historic sites, up by more than 1 million visitors from 2009.

Locally, Saratoga Spa State Park and Moreau Lake State Park drew more than 2.37 million visitors last year - up

more than 27 percent from 2009.

Parks supporters say they might have to begin augmenting the state budget with outside dollars.

Corporate donors or foundation money should be sought, or a dedicated funding stream created to help offset losses in state aid, they say.

The funding stream could come from a voluntary surcharge on motor vehicle registrations or a penny tax on plastic bags, according to Erik Kulleseid, the director of a new parks advocacy group, the Alliance for New York State Parks.

"You can debate whether the state should or should not be paying for these things, but at the end of the day if you want things to change we have to start looking elsewhere," he said.

Louise Goldstien of Saratoga Springs, a leader of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, said group members are considering an money-raising effort to support a project unlikely to get state support.

Group members want to bring in as many as 40 new umbrellas they believe are needed at the pool but which could cost up to $15,000, and they are thinking about holding a fundraiser to support the effort.

"We always felt like we were paying for the parks already with our tax dollars," she said. "But this year I don't think we have a chance. These are different times."

Not everyone is on board with the idea of expanding public-private partnerships.

Martha Swan, director of John Brown Lives, which supports education efforts at the John Brown Historic Site, said she is uncomfortable with the idea of raising money for the site.

The site, which will be particularly important this year as the country celebrates the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, should be supported by the state, she said.

"It's a very troubling scenario for me because I feel like parks and historic sites are a part of the public good, they're part of what makes people feel like part of this place," Swan said. "And it feels like the state is diminishing their commitment to the common good."

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Posted in Local, Saratoga on Thursday, February 3, 2011 11:45 am Updated: 5:11 pm. | Tags: New York, Andrew Cuo