Music


Sergey Brin, a Google founder, takes issue with people who say Google has failed to gain a foothold in social networking. Google has had successes, he often says, especially with Orkut, the dominant service in Brazil and India.

Mr. Brin may soon have to revise his answer.

Facebook, the social network service that started in a Harvard dorm room just six years ago, is growing at a dizzying rate around the globe, surging to nearly 500 million users, from 200 million users just 15 months ago.


It is pulling even with Orkut in India, where only a year ago, Orkut was more than twice as large as Facebook. In the last year, Facebook has grown eightfold, to eight million users, in Brazil, where Orkut has 28 million.


In country after country, Facebook is cementing itself as the leader and often displacing other social networks, much as it outflanked MySpace in the United States. In Britain, for example, Facebook made the formerly popular Bebo all but irrelevant, forcing AOL to sell the site at a huge loss two years after it bought it for $850 million. In Germany, Facebook surpassed StudiVZ, which until February was the dominant social network there.

With his typical self-confidence, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old chief executive, recently said it was “almost guaranteed” that the company would reach a billion users.


Though he did not say when it would reach that mark, the prediction was not greeted with the skepticism that had met his previous boasts of fast growth.
“They have been more innovative than any other social network, and they are going to continue to grow,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “Facebook wants to be ubiquitous, and they are being successful for now.”


The rapid ascent of Facebook has no company more worried than Google, which sees the social networking giant as a threat on multiple fronts. Much of the activity on Facebook is invisible to Google’s search engine, which makes it less useful over time. What’s more, the billions of links posted by users on Facebook have turned the social network into an important driver of users to sites across the Web. That has been Google’s role.


Google has tried time and again to break into social networking not only with Orkut, but also with user profiles, with an industrywide initiative called OpenSocial, and, most recently, with Buzz, a social network that mixes elements of Facebook and Twitter with Gmail. But none of those initiatives have made a dent in Facebook.


Google is said to be trying again with a secret project for a service called Google Me, according to several reports. Google declined to comment for this article.
Google makes its money from advertising, and even here, Facebook poses a challenge.


“There is nothing more threatening to Google than a company that has 500 million subscribers and knows a lot about them and places targeted advertisements in front of them,” said Todd Dagres, a partner at Spark Capital, a venture firm that has invested in Twitter and other social networking companies. “For every second that people are on Facebook and for every ad that Facebook puts in front of their face, it is one less second they are on Google and one less ad that Google puts in front of their face.”


With nearly two-thirds of all Internet users in the United States signed up on Facebook, the company has focused on international expansion.
Just over two years ago, Facebook was available only in English. Still, nearly half of its users were outside the United States, and its presence was particularly strong in Britain, Australia and other English-speaking countries.


The task of expanding the site overseas fell on Javier Olivan, a 33-year-old Spaniard who joined Facebook three years ago, when the site had 30 million users. Mr. Olivan led an innovative effort by Facebook to have its users translate the site into more than 80 languages. Other Web sites and technology companies, notably Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, had used volunteers to translate their sites or programs.


But with 300,000 words on Facebook’s site — not counting material posted by users — the task was immense. Facebook not only encouraged users to translate parts of the site, but also let other users fine-tune those translations or pick among multiple translations. Nearly 300,000 users participated.

“Nobody had done it at the scale that we were doing it,” Mr. Olivan said.
The effort paid off. Now about 70 percent of Facebook’s users are outside the United States. And while the number of users in the United States doubled in the last year, to 123 million, according to comScore, the number more than tripled in Mexico, to 11 million, and it more than quadrupled in Germany, to 19 million.


With every new translation, Facebook pushed into a new country or region, and its spread often mirrored the ties between nations or the movement of people across borders. After becoming popular in Italy, for example, Facebook spread to the Italian-speaking portions of Switzerland. But in German-speaking areas of Switzerland, adoption of Facebook lagged. When Facebook began to gain momentum in Brazil, the activity was most intense in southern parts of the country that border on neighboring Argentina, where Facebook was already popular.
“It’s a mapping of the real world,” Mr. Olivan said.


Facebook is not popular everywhere. The Web site is largely blocked in China. And with fewer than a million users each in Japan, South Korea and Russia, it lags far behind home-grown social networks in those major markets.


Mr. Olivan, who leads a team of just 12 people, hopes to change that. Facebook recently sent some of its best engineers to a new office in Tokyo, where they are working to fine-tune searches so they work with all three Japanese scripts. In South Korea, as well as in Japan, where users post to their social networks on mobile phones more than on PCs, the company is working with network operators to ensure distribution of its service.


Industry insiders say that, most of all, Facebook is benefiting from a cycle where success breeds more success. In particular, its growing revenue, estimated at $1 billion annually, allows the company to invest in improving its product and keep competitors at bay.


“I think that Facebook is winning for two reasons,” said Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a board member of Zynga, the maker of popular Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Mr. Gordon said that Facebook had hired some of the best engineers in Silicon Valley, and he said that the company’s strategy to create a platform for other software developers had played a critical role.
“They have opened up a platform, and they have the best apps on that platform,” Mr. Gordon said.


With Facebook’s social networking lead growing, it is not clear whether Google, or any other company, will succeed in derailing its march forward.
Says Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land, an industry blog, “Google can’t even get to the first base of social networks, which is people interacting with each other, much less to second or third base, which is people interacting with each other through games and applications.”


By MIGUEL HELFT (NYT. July 7, 2010)

Tim Westergren recently sat in a Las Vegas penthouse suite, a glass of red wine in one hand and a truffle-infused Kobe beef burger in the other, courtesy of the investment bankers who were throwing a party to court him.

It was a surreal moment for Mr. Westergren, who founded Pandora, the Internet radio station. For most of its 10 years, it has been on the verge of death, struggling to find investors and battling record labels over royalties.

Had Pandora died, it would have joined myriad music start-ups in the tech company graveyard, like SpiralFrog and the original Napster. Instead, with a successful iPhone app fueling interest, Pandora is attracting attention from investment bankers who think it could go public, the pinnacle of success for a start-up.
Pandora’s 48 million users tune in an average 11.6 hours a month. That could increase as Pandora strikes deals with the makers of cars, televisions and stereos that could one day, Pandora hopes, make it as ubiquitous as AM/FM radio.
“We were in a pretty deep dark hole for a long time,” said Mr. Westergren, who is now the company’s chief strategy officer.. “But now it’s a pretty out-of-body experience.”

At the end of 2009, Pandora reported its first profitable quarter and $50 million in annual revenue — mostly from ads and the rest from subscriptions and payments from iTunes and Amazon.com when people buy music. Revenue will probably be $100 million this year, said Ralph Schackart, a digital media analyst at William Blair.
Pandora’s success can be credited to old-fashioned perseverance, its ability to harness intense loyalty from users and a willingness to shift directions — from business to consumer, from subscription to free, from computer to mobile — when its fortunes flagged.
Its library now has 700,000 songs, each categorized by an employee based on 400 musical attributes, like whether the voice is breathy, like Charlotte Gainsbourg, or gravelly like Tom Waits. Listeners pick a song or musician they like, and Pandora serves up songs with similar qualities — Charlotte Gainsbourg to Feist to Viva Voce to Belle and Sebastian. Unlike other music services like MySpace Music or Spotify, now available in parts of Europe, listeners cannot request specific songs.
Though Pandora’s executives say it is focusing on growth, not a public offering, the company is taking steps to make it possible. Last month, it hired a chief financial officer, Steve Cakebread, who had that job at Salesforce.com when it went public.

It is all a long way from January 2000, when Mr. Westergren founded the company. Trained as a jazz pianist, he spent a decade playing in rock bands before taking a job as a film composer. While analyzing the construction of music to figure out what film directors would like, he came up with an idea to create a music genome.
This being 1999, he turned the idea into a Web start-up and raised $1.5 million from angel investors. It was originally called Savage Beast Technologies and sold music recommendation services to businesses like Best Buy.

By the end of 2001, he had 50 employees and no money. Every two weeks, he held all-hands meetings to beg people to work, unpaid, for another two weeks. That went on for two years.

Meanwhile, he appealed to venture capitalists, charged up 11 credit cards and considered a company trip to Reno to gamble for more money. The dot-com bubble had burst, and shell-shocked investors were not interested in a company that relied on people, who required salaries and health insurance, instead of computers.
In March 2004, he made his 348th pitch seeking backers. Larry Marcus, a venture capitalist at Walden Venture Capital and a musician, decided to lead a $9 million investment.
“The pitch that he gave wasn’t that interesting,” Mr. Marcus said. “But what was incredibly interesting was Tim himself. We could tell he was an entrepreneur who wasn’t going to fail.”

Mr. Westergren took $2 million of it and called another all-hands meeting to pay everyone back. The next order of business: focus the service on consumers instead of businesses, change the name and replace Mr. Westergren as chief executive with Joe Kennedy, who had experience building consumer products at E-Loan and Saturn. Pandora’s listenership climbed, and in December 2005, it sold its first ad.
But in 2007, Pandora got news that threatened most of its revenue. A federal royalty board had raised the fee that online radio stations had to pay to record labels for each song. “Overnight our business was broken,” Mr. Westergren said. “We contemplated pulling the plug.”
Instead, Pandora hired a lobbyist in Washington and recruited its listeners to write to their representatives. “A lot of these users think they’re customers of the cause rather than users per se,” said Willy C. Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School who has written a case study on Pandora. “It’s a different spin on marketing.” The board agreed to negotiations and after two years settled on a lower rate.
Some music lovers dislike Pandora’s approach to choosing music based on its characteristics rather than cultural associations. Slacker Radio, a competitor with three times as many songs but less than a third of Pandora’s listeners, takes a different approach. A ’90s alternative station should be informed by Seattle grunge, said Jonathan Sasse, senior vice president for marketing at Slacker. “It’s not just that this has an 80-beat-a-minute guitar riff,” he said. “It’s that this band toured with Eddie Vedder.”

Yet in 2008, Pandora built an iPhone app that let people stream music. Almost immediately, 35,000 new users a day joined Pandora from their cellphones, doubling the number of daily signups.
For Pandora and its listeners, it was a revelation. Internet radio was not just for the computer. People could listen to their phone on the treadmill or plug it into their car or living room speakers.

In January, Pandora announced a deal with Ford to include Pandora in its voice-activated Sync system, so drivers will be able to say, “Launch my Lady Gaga station” to play their personalized station based on the music of that performer. Consumer electronics companies like Samsung, Vizio and Sonos are also integrating Pandora into their Blu-ray players, TVs and music systems.

“Think about what made AM/FM radio so accessible,” said Mr. Kennedy, Pandora’s chief. “You get into the car or buy a clock for your nightstand and push a button and radio comes out,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping to match.”

By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER-NYT (OAKLAND, California—March 7, 2010)

When the great orchestras of Europe glide through the United States on tour, they stay at elegant hotels like Le Parker Meridien near Carnegie Hall, play in grand spaces like Symphony Hall in Boston and can receive more than $100 a day in meal money.

Then there is the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra.


On their nine-week tour, these Muscovites are slogging to Ashland, Ky.; Quincy, Ill.; and Zanesville, Ohio, often riding buses for up to seven hours, moving from highway to budget hotel to concert hall, and then all over again the next morning. They have a day off every two weeks, on average.
The pay? About $40 a concert in most cases, the musicians said. Per diems? Zero, making “breakfast included” the sweetest of words. The bus drivers often stop at malls to let them shop for food at a Wal-Mart. Many of them double up in hotel rooms.
“Musicians are human beings too, and they should be treated like humans,” one disgusted musician wrote in an e-mail message. Like most of the orchestra members who were contacted, this one spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing being blacklisted from future jobs.
The conditions are tough — akin to the grinding travel of low-level minor league baseball teams or striving rock bands or the barnstorming jazz orchestras of yore — and a little unexpected for a group of highly trained classical musicians. Yet they are not uncommon.
Performing arts centers and concert halls in smaller cities and towns around the country are hungry for classical music programming. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or Berlin Symphony is well beyond their means. So lesser known, and lower priced, foreign orchestras provide a solution.
Presenters on the Moscow orchestra’s tour said it cost from $50,000 to $75,000 to engage it, compared to $100,000 and up for a well known orchestra, or twice that for one of the elite, like the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic.
Foreign orchestras, no matter the level, provide a lure of the exotic.

“There’s a cachet there,” said Wesley O. Brustad, the president and chief executive of the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J. “American orchestras are tough to sell,” he said. They are also more expensive because of union rules. As a bonus, presenters of foreign groups benefit from a built-in audience: ethnic groups that live in the area. Russians are especially enthusiastic concertgoers.
The State Theater played host to the Muscovites on Feb. 14, a day after they performed at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where the musicians plowed through a preconcert buffet.

“It’s not the best orchestra in the world,” Mr. Brustad said. “The winds were a little weak.” But the musicians played with emotion, he said. (When told the Moscow players generally made $40 for the concert, Mr. Brustad said: “Oh, my goodness. No kidding. Wow. I had no idea.”)
The Moscow State Radio Symphony’s biography says it was founded in 1978 to give broadcast performances. It toured the United States once before, in 2004, and has made recent trips to China and Italy. It has made several dozen recordings, including a number for the Naxos label.
Anatoli Nemudrov, the orchestra’s artistic director, declined to discuss financial arrangements, saying they were confidential. But, he noted, touring “is hard work for all musicians, Russians and Americans.” He said the tour had been going well, adding, “We have good concerts.”
The producer of the tour, Andrew S. Grossman of Columbia Artists Management, did not respond to phone messages left at his office, on his cellphone and with his assistant, and did not respond to an e-mail query.


The Columbia Artists chairman, Ronald A. Wilford, said he was not familiar with the details of the contract. But he said that typically Columbia Artists, as a producer, receives fees from the presenters, who keep the box office receipts. Columbia Artists arranges travel inside the country and lodging, and guarantees the orchestra a set fee. “We have no idea what they’re paying their orchestra,” Mr. Wilford said of Moscow State Radio Symphony’s management.
The orchestra began its latest American tour on Jan. 13, when it arrived in Atlanta, and is due in St. Louis on Wednesday. After an original itinerary of 53 concerts in 67 days, it leaves from Los Angeles on March 22. The trip began in the deep South, worked its way north, swung through southern New England, is now in the Midwest and heads out to Arizona, Nevada and California.
On Feb. 17 the tour brought the group to Worcester, Mass. This season’s schedule of the presenter there, Music Worcester, also includes the Odessa Philharmonic, the Orquestra de São Paulo, the Shanghai Symphony and I Musici de Montréal.

“It was an all-Tchaikovsky program, which is a win-win to begin with,” Stasia Hovenesian, the executive director of Worcester Music, said of the Moscow group’s appearance. “No one but no one plays Tchaikovsky as well as the Russians do.”
And Russians they are, including conductor and soloists (except for several last-minute American substitutes). Whether they were actually members of the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra is another question. A half-dozen players interviewed said they were students or freelancers hired for the tour. One musician who did allow his name to be used, Vladimir Prikhodko, a double bassist, estimated that only about 20 to 30 players in the 90-piece group were full-time members.
Mr. Nemudrov, the artistic director, said that only about a half-dozen were not regulars.
On Feb. 21 the orchestra played a concert at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. Eva Bornstein, the center’s executive director, introduced it as “one of the finest orchestras of Europe.”

A few days before the Lehman concert a Russian mechanical engineer living in Manhattan, Sergei Levitan, contacted The New York Times to denounce what he said was mistreatment of the players. He said he knew several through mutual friends. “It’s demeaning,” he said of the conditions. “I got upset.”
After the Lehman concert a player said he grew dizzy and tumbled over a railing into a stairwell, cracking his skull. The player was interviewed by telephone at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where he was admitted with a head injury.
The conditions are “very bad,” said another member. “I wouldn’t do this trip again. They should pay us at least twice as much,” the player said. Others lamented that they had come to see the United States but had little opportunity. Several said that a kindly bus driver had taken them into New York on a day off while they were staying in New Jersey.

Rehearsals are relentless even though they are not paid for, some musicians said, but pride in their craft pushed them to attend anyway.
Others welcomed the chance to gain concert experience, and said that the money was not bad by Russian standards. Mr. Prikhodko, 31, the double bass player, called the tour a “difficult experience, but a very useful one.” Besides, he added, “I like traveling.”
The e-mailing orchestra member, in a separate interview at Lehman, acknowledged that the performance level was not the highest. “There’s a direct relationship between how we play and how much we get paid,” he said. As for the rigors of the tour, he shrugged them off.
“I am strong man, and I am Russian,” he said. “So I can do this.”

By DANIEL J. WAKIN -NYT (March 4, 2010)

I WAS driving home listening to the radio on Thursday when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead. I turned it off and thought about my brother. It’s not that I don’t think about him — I suppose I could say that though he’s only sometimes on my mind, he’s always in it. He moves, or I move him, from an impressionistic figure in a background to a man in sharp focus.

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He is in trouble and, now that I think about it, has been for the better part of a quarter-century. Over that time we’ve become strangers. We haven’t had a substantive conversation in years — not about my marriage, my children, our father’s death, or why we’ve grown apart. It has, of course, something to do with logistics, geography, the complications of growing up and old, but it’s mostly because we don’t trust each other, and perhaps never have. I know he’s a liar, and he knows I don’t care about him, or what he thinks of me, what he thinks of anything.


I can’t remember in my adult life when I’ve thought of him fairly: He’s in jail now, far away from home, and it’s difficult to imagine that, now that he’s 46, there’s much more in his future than more of the same. And so I have, unfairly — though for me, practically — decided what remains for him so that I may rationalize, sanctimoniously, how I’ll continue to reject him.

I’ve allowed his troubles, though, to affect how I think about our pasts. Because of who I am now, my troubles as a boy, adolescent, young adult and man are things I’ve overcome: that makes me good, strong. Looking back through the lens of my current success ennobles my past — how I failed, or was failed — to the same degree my brother’s failure derides his.

And as liberal or dynamic-thinking as I’m supposed to be, my decision to reject him is informed by the inhumane notion of tough love: he had his chances, more than I, and look what he’s done with them.

What does this have to do with Michael Jackson? Grimly, I’ve been waiting for — through the hair relaxer, the surgeries, the blanching, the eccentricities and the fall into madness — that news flash. Just as I’ve been waiting for a phone call telling me my brother is dead, or at least, far beyond any possible care — our gap ever widening, irreconcilable.

The Jackson 5 — not the Jacksons, or any other iteration — were like family. My brother, sister, cousins and I grew up with them. When we were young and together, they were all we’d listen to, and really, in pop-culture terms, all we really knew about. They were a conduit — unlike the dead, white authors we were told to read and emulate, and the dead, black martyrs we were to told to mimic and revere — to a larger world. His death, as I’m sure is the case for many others, makes me scan time backward and forward in order to understand, how he, we, came to be here now. My backward trek — unlike my children’s relationship to their time capsule discovery of “Thriller” and “Beat It,” unlike my white high school friends and their adoration of “Billie Jean” — has little connection to those periods, that person.

My Michael — not M. J., or Jacko — has an Afro, a broad nose and deep brown skin. His voice, rather than clipped and formulaic, is clear, ringing and bright. His vocalizations aren’t clicks and chirps, but screeches and moans.

I never believed in anything he sang as an adult. He never seemed to understand, or be convinced himself. But now, listening to him sing as a child, even though I know he was too young to have a clue as to what he was singing about, I feel, just as I felt when I was a boy, that he knew and he felt exactly what he was singing.

Do you remember those Polaroid Instamatics? The ones with the accordion muzzle? With the hot popping one-time flash, the chemical smell of that toxic magic jelly? You had to pull the print from the side of the camera by the tab of the cellophane it was wrapped in, and wait 60 seconds before peeling it open like a Kraft single. I remember counting down, or up, the time, and then adding extra seconds, and still more by shaking the package, or wiping my fingers — “Come on! Come on!” — before looking. There’d been, even in my young life, too many blotchy prints, ghost images, lost moments.

I have a framed photograph in my bedroom. It’s of my brother, David, my sister, Tracey, my two first cousins — Lisa and Russell — and me. It’s at my aunt and uncle’s house. We’re all very young. We’re all dressed in fantastic early-’70s gear. (I’m wearing a bright red long-sleeve jersey with a blue collar, bellbottoms with wide white and blue vertical stripes and moccasins.) We are dancing. I’m doing — although some years before it was named — what can only be called the rock.

Tracey has her arms stretched high and spread wide. Russell, I think, would’ve twirled had he not looked up and seen the camera. Most people who see this photo have the same reaction — a melancholic smile — and then they guess, not the group, because everyone knows, but the song.

I tell them that we were the Cousin 5. Then they state: “You’re Michael.” I tell them no. They scan the 3×5, confused. I point to David, the oldest. He looks, from how the picture was taken, to be on the periphery, but he’s really up front, while we other four are gathered in support. “Who are you, then?”
“I’m Jermaine.”

They snicker. My brother, to most of my friends, has always seemed ridiculous. To me, David’s a combination of all the things I despise in people. I’ve always thought him to be narcissistic, self-serving and grandiose. He took the qualities that made our father charismatic, and made them petty. And although even as a boy I sensed my father was both delusional and a liar, his performances — where we’d go, what we’d do, how we’d make it — were inspirational. My brother sounded like a petty dictator, or a bad con.

After our father left, David — four years older than I — tried to fill that void. He wasn’t good at it. The space was too big and most of what he did for or to me was wrong. I knew I was smarter than him, I knew I’d be bigger than him, and I didn’t understand why I didn’t outrank him. It seemed absurd that he had authority over me in anything.

But I never, fairly, tried to understand — who he was, what he was asked to do — by our parents, by himself. And he was just a boy, how would he even know the question to ask? The accident of his birth threw him into his role — front man — and he assumed it, whether he had the talent or stomach to fit. So I can look at the Polaroid, and snort or rage. I can construct a narrative from that moment onward that conveniently depicts his demise. But I’ve never thought about, for long, why he’s dancing alone.

The photo must have been taken in Waltham, Mass., because there’s a house directly outside the window, and my aunt and uncle’s next place had more space between it and the neighbors. But we’re in that blurred time — ’73 to ’75 — before they left the duplex rental across the street from the railroad tracks, and before my father left home for good.

He never came with us. Sometimes he’d drop us off, or pick us up. When the car worked my mother drove, but usually my uncle made the round trip. Just as I never understood, because my uncle was always very kind to us, that those Saturday trips in and out of Boston — three exits east and west on the turnpike — probably were a pain for him, they were escapes for my mother. Perhaps she spent her time there confiding in her sister, perhaps it was simply that she didn’t want to cook. Whatever the case, we all knew — intellectually or viscerally — that my family was ending. There was no place else for my mother to go.

AND so while my father was off chasing who knows what, or who, wherever, we were there, at my aunt and uncle’s, or on our way there. And winding along the Charles River and approaching the left turn onto their street I’d begin to feel the awful convergence of all the reasons we were rolling up onto the crabgrass and gravel of the curb-less sidewalk in front of their house, the walk along the driveway to the side door, and then my aunt holding the screen door, or the storm door open at the top of the four-step porch. My mother’s tired, familiar greeting. My aunt’s mid-sized smile. She was one of the few people who was truly happy to share, unconditionally, what she had.

Tracey and my cousin Lisa were best friends, 19 days apart in age. Russell, 18 months younger than I, and with our affections, secrets and rivalries, was much more like a brother to me than David. Even with this, there was always an awkward moment at the threshold that could stretch through dinner and into the evening. It could’ve been as simple as that they were engaged in something before we came, and most young children are terrible with transition. It could’ve been that we outnumbered them. I see it now when a large family is at our door. My children take pause and wonder how the people on the stoop will fit.

But I also know that we must have seemed like wild children. At home our mother was outnumbered. Our neighborhood was full of kids, and we’d roam the streets, parks and yards, and she couldn’t keep up. At home I could sleep in gym shorts, or long underwear. I could sneak into the bathroom, or hide under the covers with a flashlight and read as late as I wanted. In the morning I could shuffle around barefoot. Sleeping over at my aunt and uncle’s I had to wear pajamas. Lights-out wasn’t debatable. And in the morning my uncle would make me wear a robe and slippers around the house.

And we, as families, were going in different directions. There’d always been a rift between the adults — real-world practicality versus altruistic erudition. My father read books, argued Socratically, haunted jazz bars, and never saved a cent. My uncle worked hard, and kept whatever fanciful notions he might have had to himself, and had reasonable expectations of the future. They were soon to move from a blue-collar town to a wealthy Boston suburb. We would soon lose our house and our private school scholarships, and have to use their address to attend the good public schools. They had stuff, were getting more, but something we thought we had, every day, disappeared.

Finally, though, there was music. I don’t fully remember, but I think our cousins had a portable stereo. Lisa would get it out and the party would start. The Jackson 5 was the only music we’d play. My family had 45’s, but my cousins had albums. I’d stare at them, read the tiny print, feel the wax paper sleeve to see if it was real. All of the album covers, like the days, have combined into one emblematic memory. And I’m not one to dissect the converged body of the past into pre-gestalt moments.

I don’t know if it was the “Greatest Hits,” but one cover was the color of midnight, and one was like a Creamsicle, but they all had bright photographs of the Jackson 5: Afros, bellbottoms, suede boots, tasseled nubuck vests, stripes, stars and peace signs. Then the crackle of the grooves, then my aunt from the next room: “Not too loud.” The music: piano glissando, guitar, bass — bum bum, bum bum, bum bah bump. Michael: “Uh-huh … let me tell you now…” and we were up — snapping, clapping and rocking. Trying to do twirls and splits barefoot on the thick-pile wall-to-wall. No one would feel those burns until bedtime.

“I Want You Back.” I’d lose track of where I was, whom I was with. Heat, sound and movement, until the song faded. But even then I’d be part lost. I’d construct the pop of tires on gravel, the heavy door slam, footsteps up the porch, the first door whine, the second door jingle, and see my father enter, call for my mother and sing: “I want you back! I want you back!” But my father’s voice, I knew, was coarse-grit baritone, better suited for brooding and regret, rather than epiphany and hope.

“Michael.” David would snap. I’d come back from wherever I was to find everyone staring at me. He’d shrug his shoulders, raise his eyebrows and tap on his temple with his index finger. “We need to do that again.” He’d say at the player, holding the arm, looking at us four, now, flatly. I’d hate him for doing this, for wanting to control those moments, make them his, take them from me.

“Ready?” And we’d pick up our imaginary instruments, take our places and wait. He’d drop the needle and rush to the front.
We’d rehearse until we were soaked. We always did the same routines to the same songs, and David would ignore our ideas about new choreography. Start with “ABC,” slow it down with “I’ll Be There,” blow it out with “Going Back to Indiana.”

It never failed: we’d be set to call the adults in to watch our performance, just as they were getting up to go. We’d have to plead with them to let us do it. We worked so hard: just once, maybe twice, O.K., three times. I’ve conveniently forgotten, but in those moments, and the ones to follow, I felt protected — a part. I forgot about my resentment of my brother. Rather than being alone in my individual reveries, I was with my family.

The role of front man — because of who David was, who we were, and what we, at that time, faced — was his. He was a child and I was a younger child, and in some ways he stopped being one so I wouldn’t have to. I’ve never thanked David for that. I know that the time I’ve wasted ridiculing and shunning him, watching him fall, waiting for that call rather than helping to keep it from coming, can’t be regained, or undone in the years to come by re-rationalizing, glorifying or erasing his actions, but it’s a place to start.

People will point to Michael Jackson’s discography, his surgeries, madness, all that he’s been given, earned and squandered. Many will testify about what he’s given, but I, in this moment, can only think of what he’s, we’ve, lost. The price he’s paid for where he’s been is his life. And I think about David in much the same way — the wake behind, and his narrowing future — where he is now, and how it cost him me.


*Text By MICHAEL THOMAS; NYT, June 28, 2009
Michael Thomas is the author of the novel “Man Gone Down.”

For all the talk of his sustained adolescence, no performer made a more compelling entrance into manhood than Michael Jackson did with the release of his 1979 album, “Off the Wall” just a couple of weeks before his 21st birthday.

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It was all the more stunning because we had watched his childhood and adolescence. He wasn’t an apparition rising out of obscurity, like Elvis Presley. To become who he was in “Off the Wall,” he had to annul — if not destroy — the performer he had been in the Jackson 5.

And yet the change was organic as well as deliberate. Michael Jackson grew into his body, and out of that new body emerged a wholly new idea of what pop music, and the movement it generates, might be. It can be hard to remember now, 30 years later, just how ubiquitous the hits from that album, especially “Rock With You,” really were.

In soul, in rock ’n’ roll, and in pop, there is a long tradition of men singing in high voices, the height of the voice suggesting the pitch of the singer’s fervor. Michael Jackson made the sweetness of that high voice guttural and demanding. He showed that it was rooted in his feet and hips and hands. He re-sexualized it in a way that you could never really mistake — then — as androgynous.


Very few artists — certainly very few child stars — have ever redefined themselves as thoroughly or as successfully as Michael Jackson did. His second act was better than any number of first acts put together. The uncanny thing wasn’t just his physical transformation, his hypnotic new ability to move. It was the certainty of “Off the Wall” and its sequel “Thriller” that this was the music we wanted to hear. He knew, too, that this was a music we wanted to visualize, to see formalized and set loose in dance. In a sense, he was loosing his transformation upon the rest of us, expecting us to be caught up in the excitement the music caused in him. And we were.
Michael Jackson came to be synonymous with transformation — ultimately, with an eerie stasis that comes from seeking transformation all the time. The alchemy of change worked longer and better for him — through the ’80s and into the early ’90s — than it has for almost any other artist. And yet somehow all the changes always take us back to the album in which Michael Jackson grew up.


By VERLYN KLINKENBORG , NYT, Editorial, June 27, 2009

On Monday nights in Brooklyn, a band of Frenchmen and Americans play Peruvian music.

“I know that sounds a bit absurd,” said Olivier Conan, lead singer of the band, Chicha Libre, whose name is a tribute to the craze for a style of music called Chicha that took root in the Peruvian Amazon in the early 1970s.

“But we take the music very seriously, and we do it justice,” said Mr. Conan, 46, as he sat last Monday with a drink and several band members at a table outside Barbès, a bistro in Park Slope. Later, people flocked to the bistro to hear him play the cuatro, a South American guitar he uses to strum the perky blend of Latin rhythms, surf music and psychedelic pop he first heard three years ago while vacationing in Lima, Peru.

“All the street vendors were playing Chicha on their boomboxes,” said Mr. Conan, fiddling with his cuatro as the sun began to sink behind rows of neatly lined brownstones. “I just fell in love with it.”

Mr. Conan was then in a French band named Bébé Eiffel, and he was determined to change its cultural and ethnic tunes after returning from Peru. He sat down with Vincent Douglas, a longtime friend and member of the band — Mr. Douglas and Mr. Conan own Barbès — to discuss the possibility of putting a Spanish accent on a new act.

Mr. Douglas, an electric guitarist, said he was “immediately blown away” by the recordings that Mr. Conan had brought back from South America.

“Olivier had me listen to this music, and it was just incredible,” said Mr. Douglas, 41, who has been a friend of Mr. Conan’s since they were teenagers growing up in Paris. “It had a real Latin vibe. It was very groove- and dance-oriented, and at the same time it was very rockish and surfy. I told him we should definitely start playing it.”

Chicha, which fuses traditional music from various parts of Peru with musical styles from Colombia and Venezuela, was played and danced to mostly in Lima’s poor suburbs by people who had migrated from the Amazon and the Andes in search of a better way of life.

Mr. Conan said that the band recently released a CD called “Sonido Amazonico” (Sound of the Amazon) and would perform at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on Wednesday.

Dressed in a cowboy hat and a dark blazer he described as “vintage Salvation Army,” he said he “could not imagine anyone else in New York, or anywhere in America, playing Chicha music.”

“If we weren’t playing it here,” he claimed, “you couldn’t hear it anywhere.”

Mr. Conan then got up and opened a cellar door to fetch the instruments, amplifiers and other equipment that belong to the six-man band. The other members are Nicholas Cudahy (bass), Greg Burrows and Timothy Quigley (percussion), and Joshua Camp, who plays an Electrovox, which Mr. Olivier described as an instrument that looks like an accordion but functions as an organ.

“We start our show at 9:30, and we get more artsy types than stockbrokers in here, people from their 20s to their 40s,” Mr. Conan said. “Of course, we get a lot of Peruvians from all around the city, but not many middle- or upper-class Peruvians because Chicha is mostly associated with the ghetto slums of Lima, so some people look down upon it.”

About an hour after sunset, Chicha Libre’s first set was under way. A dozen chairs in the bistro’s back room were quickly filled, and the band began by playing a number laced with enough spaghetti western strains to create the feeling that Charles Bronson, six-gun in hand, was about to walk into the room.

“They are an amazing band,” said Morgan Stoffregen, 29, who makes the short trip from Flatbush to the bistro, at Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue, every Monday to hear Chicha Libre play.

Ms. Stoffregen fell in love with Chicha music during a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she happened to hear it played in a bar.

“One night I was home about 8:30, searching the Internet for a place where I could hear Chicha,” Ms. Stoffregen said. “I came across these guys, and about an hour later that same night, I was sitting here, listening to them perform.”

Elise Marafioti, a 27-year-old waitress, was busy running drinks to the dimly lighted tables and to a few dozen people dancing along the walls. “Monday nights can get kind of crazy in here,” she said. “Especially when the place gets packed and the floors start shaking.”

By Chicha Libre’s second set, the tiny room was indeed packed, and the floors were shaking, a tribute to a Latin band with nary an ounce of Latin blood coursing through their musical veins.

“Hey, if six Latinos want to start up a French band, I think that would be a great thing,” Mr. Douglas said. “I don’t think music belongs to anyone; in fact, it belongs to everyone.”

 

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI (NYT)

Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian singer whose ringing, pristine sound set a standard for operatic tenors of the postwar era, has died. He was 71.

His death was announced by his manager. The cause was pancreatic cancer. In July 2006 he underwent surgery for the cancer in New York and had made no public appearances since then. He was hospitalized again this summer and released on Aug. 25.

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Like Enrico Caruso and Jenny Lind before him, Mr. Pavarotti extended his presence far beyond the limits of Italian opera. He became a titan of pop culture. Millions saw him on television and found in his expansive personality, childlike charm and generous figure a link to an art form with which many had only a glancing familiarity.


Early in his career and into the 1970s he devoted himself with single-mindedness to his serious opera and recital career, quickly establishing his rich sound as the great male operatic voice of his generation — the “King of the High Cs,” as his popular nickname had it.
By the 1980s he expanded his franchise exponentially with the Three Tenors projects, in which he shared the stage with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, first in concerts associated with the World Cup and later in world tours. Most critics agreed that it was Mr. Pavarotti’s charisma that made the collaboration such a success. The Three Tenors phenomenon only broadened his already huge audience and sold millions of recordings and videos.

And in the early 1990s he began staging Pavarotti and Friends charity concerts, performing side by side with rock stars like Elton John, Sting and Bono and making recordings from these shows.
Throughout these years, despite his busy and vocally demanding schedule, his voice remained in unusually good condition well into middle age.

Even so, as his stadium concerts and pop collaborations brought him fame well beyond what contemporary opera stars have come to expect, Mr. Pavarotti seemed increasingly willing to accept pedestrian musical standards. By the 1980s he found it difficult to learn new opera roles or even new song repertory for his recitals.

And although he planned to spent his final years, in the operatic tradition, performing in a grand worldwide farewell tour, he completed only about half the tour, which began in 2004. Physical ailments, many occasioned by his weight and girth, limited his movement on stage and regularly forced him to cancel performances. By 1995, when he was at the Metropolitan Opera singing one of his favorite roles, Tonio in Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment,” high notes sometimes failed him, and there were controversies over downward transpositions of a notoriously dangerous and high-flying part.

Yet his wholly natural stage manner and his wonderful way with the Italian language were completely intact. Mr. Pavarotti remained a darling of Met audiences until his retirement from that company’s roster in 2004, an occasion celebrated with a string of “Tosca” performances. At the last of them, on March 13, 2004, he received a 15-minute standing ovation and 10 curtain calls. All told, he sang 379 performances at the Met, of which 357 were in fully staged opera productions. In the late 1960s and 70s, when Mr. Pavarotti was at his best, he possessed a sound remarkable for its ability to penetrate large spaces easily. Yet he was able to encase that powerful sound in elegant, brilliant colors. His recordings of the Donizetti repertory are still models of natural grace and pristine sound. The clear Italian diction and his understanding of the emotional power of words in music were exemplary.

Mr. Pavarotti was perhaps the mirror opposite of his great rival among tenors, Mr. Domingo. Five years Mr. Domingo’s senior, Mr. Pavarotti had the natural range of a tenor, leaving him exposed to the stress and wear that ruin so many tenors’ careers before they have barely started. Mr. Pavarotti’s confidence and naturalness in the face of these dangers made his longevity all the more noteworthy.

Mr. Domingo, on the other hand, began his musical life as a baritone and later manufactured a tenor range above it through hard work and scrupulous intelligence. Mr. Pavarotti, although he could find the heart of a character, was not an intellectual presence. His ability to read music in the true sense of the word was in question. Mr. Domingo, in contrast, is an excellent pianist with an analytical mind and the ability to learn and retain scores by quiet reading.

Yet in the late 1980s, when both Mr. Pavarotti and Mr. Domingo were pursuing superstardom, it was Mr. Pavarotti who showed the dominant gift for soliciting adoration from large numbers of people. He joked on talk shows, rode horses on parade and played, improbably, a sex symbol in the movie “Yes, Giorgio.” In a series of concerts, some held in stadiums, Mr. Pavarotti entertained tens of thousands and earned six-figure fees. Presenters, who were able to tie a Pavarotti appearance to a subscription package of less glamorous concerts, found him a valuable loss leader.
The most enduring symbol of Mr. Pavarotti’s Midas touch, as a concert attraction and a recording artist, was the popular and profitable Three Tenors act created with Mr. Domingo and Mr. Carreras. Some praised these concerts and recordings as popularizers of opera for mass audiences. But most classical music critics dismissed them as unworthy of the performers’ talents.

Ailments and Accusations
Mr. Pavarotti had his uncomfortable moments in recent years. His proclivity for gaining weight became a topic of public discussion. He was caught lip-synching a recorded aria at a concert in Modena, his hometown. He was booed off the stage at La Scala during 1992 appearance. No one characterized his lapses as sinister; they were attributed, rather, to a happy-go-lucky style, a large ego and a certain carelessness.
His frequent withdrawals from prominent events at opera houses like the Met and Covent Garden in London, often from productions created with him in mind, caused administrative consternation in many places. A series of cancellations at Lyric Opera of Chicago — 26 out of 41 scheduled dates — moved Lyric’s general director in 1989, Ardis Krainik, to declare Mr. Pavarotti persona non grata at her company.

A similar banishment nearly happened at the Met in 2002. He was scheduled to sing two performances of “Tosca” — one a gala concert with prices as high as $1,875 a ticket, which led to reports that the performances may be a quiet farewell. Mr. Pavarotti arrived in New York only a few days before the first, barely in time for the dress rehearsal. The day of the first performance, though, he had developed a cold and withdrew. That was on a Wednesday.

From then until the second scheduled performance, on Saturday, everyone, from the Met’s managers to casual opera fans, debated the probability of his appearing. The New York Post ran the headline “Fat Man Won’t Sing.” The demand to see the performance was so great, however, that the Met set up 3,000 seats for a closed-circuit broadcast on the Lincoln Center Plaza. Still, at the last minute, Mr. Pavarotti stayed in bed.
Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, on Oct. 12, 1935. His father was a baker and an amateur tenor; his mother worked at a cigar factory. As a child he listened to opera recordings, singing along with tenor stars of a previous era, like Beniamino Gigli and Tito Schipa. He professed an early weakness for the movies of Mario Lanza, whose image he would imitate before a mirror.

As a teenager he followed studies that led to a teaching position; during these student days he met his future wife. He taught for two years before deciding to become a singer. His first teachers were Arrigo Pola and Ettore Campogalliani, and his first breakthrough came in 1961 when he won an international competition at the Teatro Reggio Emilia. He made his debut as Rodolfo in Puccini’s “Bohème” later that year.

In 1963 Mr. Pavarotti’s international career began: first as Edgardo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, and then in Vienna and Zurich. His Covent Garden debut also came in 1963, when he substituted for and Giuseppe di Stefano in “La Bohème.” His reputation in Britain grew even more the next year, when he sang at the Glyndebourne Festival, taking the part of Idamante in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

A turning point in Mr. Pavarotti’s career was his association with the soprano Joan Sutherland. In 1965 he joined the Sutherland-Williamson company on an Australian tour during which he sang Edgardo to Ms. Sutherland’s Lucia. He later credited Ms. Sutherland’s advice, encouragement and example as a major factor in the development of his technique.

Further career milestones came in 1967, with Mr. Pavarotti’s first appearances at La Scala in Milan and his participation in a performance of the Verdi Requiem under Herbert von Karajan. He came to the Metropolitan Opera a year later, singing with Mirella Freni, a childhood friend, in a production of “La Bohème.”
A series of recordings with London Records had also begun, and these excursions through the Italian repertory remain some of Mr. Pavarotti’s lasting contributions to his generation. The recordings included “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “La Favorita,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “La Fille du Régiment” by Donizetti; “Madama Butterfly,” “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Turandot” by Puccini; “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” “La Traviata” and the Requiem by Verdi; and scattered operas by Bellini, Rossini and Mascagni. There were also solo albums of arias and songs.
In 1981 Mr. Pavarotti established a voice competition in Philadelphia and was active in its operation. Young, talented singers from around the world were auditioned in preliminary rounds before the final selections. High among the prizes for winners was an appearance in a staged opera in Philadelphia in which Mr. Pavarotti would also appear.

He also gave master classes, many of which were shown on public television in the United States. Mr. Pavarotti’s forays into teaching became stage appearances in themselves, and ultimately had more to do with the teacher than those being taught.

An Outsize Personality
In his later years Mr. Pavarotti became as much an attraction as an opera singer. Hardly a week passed in the 1990s when his name did not surface in at least two gossip columns. He could be found unveiling postage stamps depicting old opera stars or singing in Red Square in Moscow. His outsize personality remained a strong drawing card, and even his lifelong battle with his circumference guaranteed headlines: a Pavarotti diet or a Pavarotti binge provided high-octane fuel for reporters.
In 1997 Mr. Pavarotti joined Sting for the opening of the Pavarotti Music Center in war-torn Mostar, Bosnia, and Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney on a CD tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2005 he was granted Freedom of the City of London for his fund-raising concerts for the Red Cross. He also received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2001, and holds two spots in the Guinness Book of World Records — one for the greatest number of curtain calls (165), the other, held jointly with Mr. Domingo and Mr. Carreras, for the best-selling classical album of all time, the first Three Tenors album (“Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti: The Three Tenors in Concert”). But for all that, he knew where his true appeal was centered.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a musician,” he told the BBC Music Magazine in an April 1998 article about his efforts for Bosnia. “I care about giving people a place where they can go to enjoy themselves and to begin to live again. To the man you have to give the spirit, and when you give him the spirit, you have done everything.”Mr. Pavarotti’s health became an issue in the late 1990s. His mobility onstage was sometimes severely limited because of leg problems, and at a 1997 “Turandot” performance at the Met, extras onstage surrounded him and literally helped him up and down steps. In January 1998, at a Met gala with two other singers, Mr. Pavarotti became lost in a trio from “Luisa Miller” despite having the music in front of him. He complained of dizziness and withdrew. Rumors flew alleging on one side a serious health problem and, on the other, a smoke screen for Mr. Pavarotti’s unpreparedness.

The latter was not a new accusation during the 1990s. In a 1997 review for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini accused Mr. Pavarotti of “shamelessly coasting” through a recital, using music instead of his memory, and still losing his place. Words were always a problem, and he cheerfully admitted to using cue cards as reminders.

A Box-Office Powerhouse
It was a tribute to Mr. Pavarotti’s box-office power that when, in 1997, he announced he could not or would not learn his part for a new “Forza del Destino” at the Met, the house scrapped its scheduled production and substituted “Un Ballo in Maschera,” a piece he was ready to sing.
Around that time Mr. Pavarotti also made news by leaving his wife of more than three decades, Adua, to live with his 26-year-old assistant, Nicoletta Mantovani, and filing for divorce, which was finalized in October 2002. He married Ms. Mantovani in 2003. She survives him, as do three daughters from his marriage to the former Adua Veroni: Lorenza, Christina and Giuliana; and a daughter with Ms. Mantovani, Alice.
Mr. Pavarotti had a home in Manhattan but also maintained ties to his hometown, living when time permitted in a villa outside Modena.

He published two autobiographies, both written with William Wright: “Pavarotti: My Own Story” in 1981, and “Pavarotti: My World” in 1995.
In interviews Mr. Pavarotti could turn on a disarming charm, and if he invariably dismissed concerns about his pop projects, technical problems and even his health, he made a strong case for what his fame could do for opera itself.

“I remember when I began singing, in 1961,” he told Opera News in 1998, “one person said, ‘run quick, because opera is going to have at maximum 10 years of life.’ At the time it was really going down. But then, I was lucky enough to make the first ‘Live From the Met’ telecast. And the day after, people stopped me on the street. So I realized the importance of bringing opera to the masses. I think there were people who didn’t know what opera was before. And they say ‘Bohème,’ and of course ‘Bohème’ is so good.’ ”

About his own drawing power, his analysis was simple and on the mark.
“I think an important quality that I have is that if you turn on the radio and hear somebody sing, you know it’s me.” he said. “You don’t confuse my voice with another voice.”

By BERNARD HOLLAND
New York Times
September 6, 2007

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John Lennon portrays Private Gripweed in How I Won the War (1967), which is of interest to technological historians chiefly for its extensive use of authentic British World War II helmets.

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Hi, it’s Tim from Pandora,

I’m sorry to say that today Pandora, along with most Internet radio sites, is going off the air in observance of a Day Of Silence. We are doing this to bring to your attention a disastrous turn of events that threatens the existence of Pandora and all of internet radio. We need your help.

Ignoring all rationality and responding only to the lobbying of the RIAA, an arbitration committee in Washington DC has drastically increased the licensing fees Internet radio sites must pay to stream songs. Pandora’s fees will triple, and are retroactive for eighteen months! Left unchanged by Congress, every day will be like today as internet radio sites start shutting down and the music dies.

A bill called the “Internet Radio Equality Act” has already been introduced in both the Senate (S. 1353) and House of Representatives (H.R. 2060) to fix the problem and save Internet radio – and Pandora – from obliteration.

I’d like to ask you to call your Congressional representatives today and ask them to become co-sponsors of the bill. It will only take a few minutes and you can find your Congresspersons and their phone numbers by entering your zip code here.

Your opinion matters to your representatives – so please take just a minute to call.

Visit http://www.savenetradio.org to continue following the fight to Save Internet Radio.

As always, and now more than ever, thank you for your support.

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)

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Biography
Juan Diego Flórez was born in Lima, Peru on January 13, 1973 where his father, Rubén Flórez, was a noted guitarist and singer of Peruvian popular and criolla music. In an interview in the Peruvian newspaper Ojo, Flórez recounted his early days when his mother managed a pub with live music and he worked as a replacement singer whenever the main attraction called in sick. “It was a tremendous experience for me, since most of those who were regulars at the pub were of a certain age, so I had to be ready to sing anything from huaynos to Elvis Presley music and, in my mind, that served me a great deal because, in the final analysis, any music that is well structured – whether it is jazz, opera, or pop – is good music”. 
Initially intending to pursue a career in popular music, he entered the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima at the age of 17. His classical voice emerged in the course of his studies there under Maestro Andrés Santa María. During this time, he became a member of the Coro Nacional of Peru and sang as a soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.

He received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where he studied from 1993 to 1996 and began singing in student opera productions in the repertory which is still his specialty today, Rossini and the Bel Canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti. During this period, he also studied with Marilyn Horne at the Santa Barbara Academy Summer School. In 1994 the Peruvian tenor, Ernesto Palacio invited him to Italy to work on a recording of Vicente Martín y Soler’s opera Il Tutore Burlato and subsequently became Flórez’s teacher and mentor.

Flórez’s first big breakthrough and professional debut came at the Rossini Festival in 1996. At the age of 23, he stepped in to take the leading tenor role in Matilde di Shabran when Bruce Ford became ill. He made his debut at La Scala in the same year as the Chevalier danois in Gluck’s Armide. His Covent Garden debut followed in 1997 where he sang the role of Count Potoski in a concert performance (and the first modern performance) of Donizetti’s Elisabetta. Debuts followed at the Vienna Staatsoper in 2000 as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi and at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2002 as Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. On February 20, 2007, the opening night of Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment at La Scala, Flórez broke the theater’s 74 year old tradition of no encores when he reprised “Ah! mes amis” with its nine high Cs following an “overwhelming” ovation from the audience.

Flórez is also active on the concert stages of Europe, North America, and South America. Amongst the many venues in which he has given concerts and recitals are the Wigmore Hall in London, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Palau de la Música in Barcelona and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In a departure from his usual repertoire, he sang ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from the Broadway musical, Carousel, at the Berlin Live 8 concert in 2005.

Flórez is the possessor of a light lyric tenor voice of exceptional beauty which, while not of great size, is nevertheless audible in even the largest houses due to its unusual harmonic structure. Its compass is two octaves, up to and including the high D natural, the higher part of its range being particularly strong and brilliant, with almost no sense of effort, while the lowest notes are comparatively weak. The head and chest registers are perfectly integrated, with no audible break in the passaggio. 

His breath control is impeccable, allowing the longest phrases to be sustained with apparent ease. The ornaments of bel canto, including the trill, are well executed, and stylistic errors such as intrusive aspirates generally eschewed.

Perhaps the most distinctive technical accomplishment is the singer’s total mastery of coloratura to a degree probably not matched by any other tenor who has recorded, and to be heard to best effect in his Idreno (Semiramide) and Corradino (Matilde di Shabran).

He was signed by Decca in 2001 and since then has released four solo recital CD’s on the Decca label: Rossini Arias which won the 2003 Cannes Classical Award; Una Furtiva Lagrima, which won the 2004 Cannes Classical Award; Great Tenor Arias which won the 2005 Echo Klassik award for the best arias and duets recital; and most recently Sentimiento Latino. In addition to his official discography, almost all his professionally performed roles have been preserved in radio broadcasts, and many also by television.

Juan Diego Flórez has been awarded the Premio Abbiati 2000 (awarded by Italian critics for the best singer of the year), the Rossini d’oro, the Bellini d’oro, the Premio Aureliano Pertile, the Tamagno Prize and the L’Opera award (Migliore Tenore) for his 2001 performance in La Sonnambula at La Scala.

[YOUTUBE=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp0ccQVy1og]

Time to say goodbye
———————-

When Im alone
I dream on the horizon
And words fail;
Yes, I know there is no light
In a room
Where the sun is not there
If you are not with me.
At the windows
Show everyone my heart
Which you set alight;
Enclose within me
The light you
Encountered on the street.

Time to say goodbye,
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
Now, yes, I shall experience them,
Ill go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
With you I shall experience them.

When you are far away
I dream on the horizon
And words fail,
And yes, I know
That you are with me;
You, my moon, are here with me,
My sun, you are here with me.
With me, with me, with me,

Time to say goodbye,
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
Now, yes, I shall experience them,
Ill go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
With you I shall re-experience them.
Ill go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
With you I shall re-experience them.
Ill go with you,
I with you.

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Elvis Presley is the most popular collected stamp of all time. More than 124 million of the Elvis stamps have been collected, according to a survey of 10,000 household conducted by the postal  Service.

  

  • U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT, January 8, 2007

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The Paul McCartney divorce is chugging along in real life and in the tabloid press.  There is a lot of back and forth between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills about the divorce settlement. 

According to a Reuters story their divorce has turned deteriorated into a battle for sympathy fought out under a glaring media spotlight.

She is on the attack and he is on the defense,” public relations supremo Max Clifford told Reuters on Tuesday. “He is the one trying to settle as quietly and quickly as possible.”

“He doesn’t want his dirty washing aired in public and she knows that. The more that appears in the papers about her being locked out of the house and the bank accounts frozen, the more embarrassed he becomes and the more pressure he is under.” That got a bit of a boost as financial icon Donald Trump is now weighing in according to Contact music UK.

According to the web site McCartney has been labeled “idiotic” by property tycoon Donald Trump for not writing up a prenuptial agreement before marrying Heather Mills.Twice-divorced Trump, who married for the third time to model Melina Knauss last year, has criticized McCartney for allowing romance to cloud his judgment, insisting business should always come before love.He says: “I know I sound like a broken record, but get a prenup.

I don’t care how much you love your fiancé; it’s just idiotic to get married without one.“Don’t believe me? Ask Paul McCartney what he thinks. I know he wishes he had one.”

McCartney and Mills separated in May and are currently in the process of getting a divorce. 

*** By Jennifer Cox; Sep 12, 2006