CLASSICAL BEAT: St. Louis Symphony, Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma ...

Cellist promoted latest album, soundtrack for film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

The St. Louis Symphony has received the largest personal contribution ever made to an American orchestra to the tune of $40 million. The money was a gift from Enterprise Rent-A-Car owner Jack Taylor and his family. The $40 million challenge grant is structured with $5 million allocated to operating expenses and the remaining $35 million for increasing the Symphony''s endowment, which is currently about $22 million. The challenge grant will be in effect over a four-year period, with at least a one-for-one matching requirement. The St. Louis Symphony is the second-oldest orchestra in the U.S...

If you're looking for a nice gift this season and don't mind spending $550, you could buy a ticket to tenor Andrea Bocelli's April 6 solo concert at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The price sets a record in the city, beating previous top dollar star Placido Domingo by $50. Lesser-priced tickets are also available for the show ranging from $85 to $325. The highest ticket price in Toronto's history is still held by the Three Tenors 1997 performance at $2099. ...

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma made an appearance at a Costco discount store in San Francisco on Monday (Dec. 4). Ma, who said he was a Costco member, signed several hundred autographs and talked with throng of fans who were there to meet him. "I really enjoy this," Ma told the San Jose Mercury News. "After a performance, the talk is limited to the complimentary remark, to the `This is wonderful.' But this is people coming to say something. . . . One mother came asking about schools for her 13-year-old-daughter, so we were trading info back and forth." The appearance was arranged by Sony Records to promote his latest album, the soundtrack by Tan Dun for the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." ...

Classical crossover artist Vanessa Mae, 22, has sacked her manager Mel Bush, just a year after firing her own mother from the same job. The Singapore-born Mae has been involved in a dispute with Bush over his latest act, the string quartet Bond. Like Mae, Bond features four 20-somethings who have posed in bikinis to promote their music. "I don't want to be part of a quintet," Mae was quoted to have said by the London newspaper, the Mirror. Mae was the youngest artist to ever record Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos and has reportedly earned $50 million over the last 10 years. ...

The winners of this year's Operalia competition will perform with Placido Domingo on Friday (December 8) in Los Angeles. The six winners — Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, Argentinean soprano Virginia Tola, Chinese soprano He Hui, Russian tenor Daniil Shtoda, Ukrainian tenor Konstyantyn Andreyev and Canadian bass Robert Pomakov — will join Domingo and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra conducted by Giovanni Reggioli at UCLA's Royce Hall. Domingo began the competition eight years ago and cash prizes of over $200,000 will be handed out to the winners at the gala concert, all funded by philanthropist Alberto Vilar. ...

While hundreds of items once belonging to diva Maria Callas garnered $1.25 million in auction over the weekend, perhaps the strangest purchase of all were 13 lots of undergarments worn by the singer, who died 23 years ago. The items, including a black lace slip and pink satin slip, were picked up by the Athenaeum Foundation (sponsors of the Maria Callas opera prize), which stated its intention to burn them out of respect for the artist. "We came to buy Maria Callas' underwear so that we could burn it and cast the ashes into the sea," foundation president Louli Psichuli told Agence France-Presse. "It was unbearable for us, in Greece, to think of Callas' image, which had nothing to do with sex, being exploited so sordidly." ...

Attempting to put an end to ongoing rumors that the 56-year old Dame Kiri Te Kanawa plans to retire from singing in the next few years, her representative told Opera News recently that there is "no plan afoot" for her to retire. "We are actively seeking engagements, and opportunities for her well into 2001 and beyond," Elizabeth Sobol of IMG Artists told the magazine. Te Kanawa, a native of New Zealand, is a member of the Maori tribe. She was given her royal title in 1982, shortly after performing at Prince Charles' wedding. On September 20, she opened the New York Philharmonic season in a live telecast singing Mozart and Strauss arias...

The Library of Congress has acquired an archive of papers of the late Russian-American musicologist/composer Nicolas Slonimsky. The papers include both printed and manuscript music, programs, writings, correspondence, an extensive musicians' biographical file, recordings, and materials collected by Slonimsky throughout his life. Included in the collection are letters to Slonimsky from almost every major composer of the 20th century — from Babbitt to Bernstein — as well as such items as a handwritten score by Charles Ives. Slonimsky died in 1995 at the age of 101...

Luke Dollman, 26, has taken this year's young conductor award from Symphony Australia. Dollman attended the Elder Conservatory at Adelaide University and said he would use the $20,000 prize to further his education at the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland...

Composer/conductor Pierre Boulez has won the University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The prize comes with a $200,000 check and was given for his 40-minute chamber piece, Sur Incises, scored for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists. Boulez celebrated his 75th birthday in March with a 33-concert, 11-city tour with the London Symphony Orchestra, including performances in London, New York and Chicago. He also took a Grammy this year for his recording of his composition Répons. Boulez is composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall as well as principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, only the third person to hold that title in the orchestra's 110-year history. ...

The first full-length opera by composer David Sawer will have its premiere in April with the English National Opera. The work, From Morning to Midnight, is based on a German expressionist play by George Kaiser and has been under development at the ENO's studio over the past year. Sawer's other works include the orchestral pieces Brynan Wood and Songs of Love and War. In addition to winning the Fulbright Fellowship in composition, Sawer was composer-in-residence with the Bournemouth Orchestra. ...

The December 13 episode of the NBC television show "The West Wing" will feature an appearance by Yo-Yo Ma. The cello virtuoso, who will be featured in several scenes, will perform selections from Bach's Cello Suite in G Major, BWV 1007. Ma also can be heard on the recently released soundtrack to the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," featuring a score by composer Tan Dun, and he will give the world premiere of Dun's Cello Concerto in February. ...

The Spoleto Festival USA, held annually in Charleston, South Carolina, has announced much of the programming for its 25th anniversary season. Highlights of the festival, which runs from May 25 to June 10, include a new production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut, to be conducted by Spoleto Festival's newly appointed music director of opera and orchestra, Emmanuel Villaume. Chen Shi-Zheng will direct an innovative new production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Other classical performances include Philip Glass with kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso in The Screens, Villaume conducting the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and the return of Charles Wadsworth and Joseph Flummerfelt with their troupes of young virtuosos for the Bank of America Chamber Music Series and the Choral and Westminster Choir concerts, respectively. ...

Composer John Adams is delivering Christmas in the form of El Niño, a full-evening dramatic oratorio on the theme of the Nativity, which will premiere at the Chatelet in Paris on December 15. The performance features vocal soloists Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Willard White, accompanied by the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester under Kent Nagano. The United States will see the premiere of the piece with the San Francisco Symphony on January 11–13. The work then will be performed in Berlin. Adams said the piece is his "way of trying to understand what is meant by a miracle." ...

Pianist Emmanuel Ax has officially signed on to record a piece for the upcoming Music of Hope CD for the benefit of the American Cancer Society. Ax will record Bach's "Saraband" from the Partita No. 1 in B-Flat major. Additional artists on the collection, which is slated for release February 13, include Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Andre Previn and Kurt Masur. ...

"Verdi: The Man, the Operas, the Legends," is the title of the largest exhibition ever devoted to composer Giuseppe Verdi. The three-month exhibit opened November 16 at Milan's Palazzo Reale and features more than 1,000 historical documents. The centenary of Verdi's death will be celebrated next year with special performances throughout the world. A gala opening at the Palazzo included a performance conducted by Riccardo Muti, which featured rare and never-performed works by the composer. ...

The London Symphony Orchestra will feature a two-month-long celebration of Czech music beginning in March. Led by Colin Davis and Jiri Belohlavek, the LSO will perform 10 concerts of works by Dvorak, Janacek, Suk, Martinu and others. The LSO and Davis will be coming to New York for their annual residency at Avery Fisher Hall from April 29 to May 2. They will present their Bohemian Springs series in New York, Washington and Chicago. ...

Composers including Ned Rorem, George Perle and Richard Danielpour are taking part in a new series called The Composer's Hour, which will be sponsored by the Copland Heritage Society. The series, which kicks off February 1, will feature each visiting composer discussing his work and creative process, as well as a concert of their works by the Copland House's resident ensemble and guest artists. The Copland House is the restored former home of Aaron Copland, in upstate New York. ...

Fulfilling his pledge to reschedule a performance in Detroit, tenor Luciano Pavarotti will perform his "Aida in Concert" there on December 21. The date is exactly one month after the originally scheduled performance, which was canceled due to an "unforeseen schedule conflict." It will be the first time the Italian tenor will sing Verdi's opera in concert. Pavarotti will be accompanied by the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra, along with a combined Michigan Opera Theatre Chorus and the Rackham Symphony Choir. Additional casting details will be announced later. The concert is a prelude to the Michigan Opera Theatre's yearlong Verdi Festival, which begins January 27 with the North American premiere of the Parma Opera Ensemble. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report