Classical Beat: Andrea Bocelli, Opera Pacific, Thea Dispeker-Greig ...

Tenor cancels concert; Opera Pacific celebrates 15th anniversary; famed manager dies.

Superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli canceled a sold-out performance Monday (July 24) at the Greek Acropolis because of ill health. Tickets are being refunded. According to a Universal Music spokesperson, Bocelli has "not [been] in a good way, healthwise" for some time. The spokesperson did not disclose details of Bocelli's condition or indicate whether any other concerts would be canceled. They noted that Bocelli's condition wasn't serious and was probably due to his busy touring schedule. ...

Opera Pacific is celebrating its 15th anniversary this season and has announced a performance series devoted to new American operas. Kicking off the series will be a production of Mark Adamo's Little Women in May. Little Women, based on the Louisa May Alcott novel, was first produced by the Houston Grand Opera and is Adamo's first opera. Other productions during the next few seasons include Jack Heggie's Dead Man Walking (which gets its premiere at the San Francisco Opera in October), William Bolcom's A View From a Bridge, based on the Arthur Miller play (which also premieres this October at the Lyric Opera of Chicago), and a workshop production of Hector Armienta's River of Women. ...

Thea Dispeker-Greig, who for more than 50 years managed the careers of many classical artists, including Pablo Casals and Roberta Peters, died July 17. In addition to running her own talent agency, she helped found the Little Orchestra Society, founded and produced the New York University Chamber Series, and served as executive secretary for the prestigious Leventritt Foundation and managing director of the Casals Festival. Dispeker was 97. ... Hong Kong-based HNH International, which owns the Naxos and Marco Polo classical labels, is putting its musical catalogs online. Users will be able to purchase and download music from the company's library of titles, which contains more than 4,000 hours of music. The tracks will be available in the next few months from its Web site (www.naxos.com). ...

While moviegoers this summer are being treated to the spectacle of Roman gladiators battling it out in a digitally re-created version of the famed Roman Colosseum, the restored Colosseum is offering its own spectacles for the first time in 1,500 years. Sunday (July 23) featured the premiere of conductor/composer Franco Mannino's Missa Solemnis pro Jubileo Domini Nostri Tertio Millennio. Mannino conducted the Rome Opera Theatre Orchestra in the work dedicated to Mother Teresa. A two-week festival of music and performance kicked off Wednesday (July 19), marking the completion of an eight-year restoration of the monument, which was built in 80 A.D. The opening featured a performance by the Greek National Theatre of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex....

A man who donated more than $250,000 to New York's Metropolitan Opera was charged with swindling more than $10 million from investors in a wire-fraud scheme. Robert Whitehead, 57, had fraud arrests dating back 30 years and was arrested Friday (July 21) at Rikers Island, where he has been imprisoned for parole violation. Investors said they believed they were putting their money in no-risk Brazilian bonds. Whitehead was a member of the Met's "Golden Circle," restricted to those who have donated at least $250,000. "He did live pretty large," Assistant District Attorney Andrew Hruska told the New York Post. "He's a big opera fan." Whitehead faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Met officials were unavailable for comment. ...

According to a report in Gramophone, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra are apparently running into problems in the impending merger of their administrations. They have not announced a business plan, joint board of directors, approved budget, completed season schedule or agreement as to whether concerts will be marketed together. Negotiations are reportedly sluggish, and several key players from both organizations are expected to leave. The organizations moved to join forces and create Australia's third-largest orchestra following budgetary cuts and a recommendation from a government inquiry. Swedish conductor Ola Rudner has been appointed artistic director to oversee the merger. ...

Italian composer Ivan Fedele has received one of the highest French cultural honors — a Chevalier in the Order of the Arts and Letters. Fedele, 47, first gained international attention winning Amsterdam's Gaudeamus Prize in 1981 for his works Primo Quartetto and Chiari. In 1989, he took first prize in the Goffredo Petrassi Competition in Parma, Italy for his orchestral piece Epos. Fedele teaches at the Conservatory Guisseppe Verdi and in the contemporary music section of the Civica Scuola, both in Milan, Italy. Other musicians who have achieved this honor include Jose Carreras, Bob Dylan, Philip Glass, Lalo Shifrin and Dexter Gordon. ...

According to a report from the Finnish Music Information Center, 16 new operas from Finnish composers will premiere in 2000. In a country with a population of about 5 million, that's considered quite an achievement. The impressive showing has been linked to a strong commitment to musical education in the nation's schools. Highlights include Kaija Saariaho's "L'Amour de Loin," which sees its opening at Austria's Salzburg Festival next month in a production by Peter Sellars. In the fall, the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki will present Aulis Sallinen's "King Lear." ...

As part of a tribute to the 50th-season opening of Vermont's Marlboro Festival on (Tuesday) July 18, Sony Classical has released a new two-CD set of archival recordings from the 1970s through 1980s featuring Rudolf Serkin's Marlboro recordings of Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" and Piano Concerto No. 4 coupled with a CD devoted to chamber music, including Dvorák's String Quintet, Op. 18 (Op. 77) and Janacek's "Mladi" Suite for Winds. Ten years ago, Sony released a similar collection of archived performances from the renowned festival. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report