Classical Beat: Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Brodsky Quartet …

Rock-pop singer stars in production about ex-steelworker who takes up residence outside an opera house.

Rock-pop singer Elvis Costello ventured onto new artistic ground at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival when he starred in an opera by former Attractions pianist Steve Nieve. The premiere Friday (June 9) of Welcolme to the Voice, at New York’s Town Hall, is the only scheduled performance. The one-act opera tells the story of a former steelworker who quits his job because he is consumed by opera and makes his home outside the doors of the local opera house. …

Seiji Ozawa received an honorary doctorate in music at Harvard University’s 349th commencement Thursday (June 8). Past recipients of the honorary degree have included Itzhak Perlman, Jessye Norman, Ella Fitzgerald, Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern and Quincy Jones. Ozawa will leave the BSO for the Vienna State Opera in 2002. …

San Francisco classical label New Albion Records has formed an alliance with PlayJ.com to distribute titles from its catalog over the Internet. New Albion, considered one of the leading independent publishers of contemporary classical works, will offer excerpts of more than a dozen CDs from its 100-plus album catalogue including recordings by Henry Cowell, John Cage and Terry Riley. Those excerpts can be downloaded direct from PlayJ’s Web site. …

Internet billionaire James V. Kimsey has donated $10 million to the Kennedy Center. The co-founder of America Online is a trustee of the Kennedy Center, chairman of the National Opera and a member of the board of the National Symphony Orchestra. Part of the Washington-raised billionaire’s gift will go toward endowing the principal tuba chair in the orchestra and giving every fifth-grade student in the District of Columbia the opportunity to attend a performance at the center. …

Congress passed a resolution Tuesday (June 6) to re-christen the Washington Opera as the National Opera. The resolution was primarily a symbolic act to give the fifth largest opera company in the country a more prominent stature. The company requested the official name change even though it didn’t need such legislation to take on the “national” moniker. Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., said he introduced the resolution with the goal of improving both ticket sales and fund-raising prospects for the privately held company. Artistic director Plácido Domingo will continue his role overseeing the renamed National Opera and the company will continue to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. …

As part of Emmanuel Music‘s 30th anniversary season, the company will collaborate with two of its illustrious alumni: stage director Peter Sellars and mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. They will work with conductor Craig Smith and the Emmanuel musicians on a triptych of staged Bach cantatas. Also featured in the 2000–01 season will be Sunday-morning cantatas with guest conductors including Seiji Ozawa, Christopher Hogwood, David Hoose and Michael Beattie. …

Kansas City Symphony conductor Anne Mason will lead the Geneva Opera of Switzerland in a staging of American composer Carlisle Floyd‘s groundbreaking opera Susanna. Mason will lead the production despite chronic pain of the sciatic nerve, diagnosed at the end of the symphonic season in Kansas City, Mo. Noted bass Samuel Ramey joins tenor Gordon Gietz and soprano Nancy Gustafson, who is playing the title role of this distinctly American tale. Performances of the opera will run June 16–28 in Switzerland; rehearsals began June 5. Because of the chronic pain, Mason has canceled all other appointments this summer to take a three-month rest, as prescribed by her doctor. …

The New York Times reported that Zarin Mehta will step into the shoes of executive director of the New York Philharmonic. Zarin is the brother of famed conductor Zubin Mehta, who served as musical director of the orchestra for 13 years until 1991. Mehta will succeed Deborah Borda, who left her position to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic. …

The English National Opera will perform 10 consecutive new productions as part of London’s String of Pearls Millennium Festival. The operas — which open with Monteverdi‘s The Coronation of Poppea and end with Verdi‘s Requiem — will run from September through December. …

Director Pinchas Zukerman of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra announced Thursday (May 25) that the NAC will present its second annual Great Composers Festival in July in Ottawa. Performers include tenor Ben Heppner and pianists Angela Hewitt and Alicia de Laroccha. There will be a Bach-around-the-clock marathon, a jazz concert along with various chamber music recitals. The festival unfolds July 4–28. …

The Peking Opera will perform at the Atlantic City Sands Hotel & Casino from June 27 to Sept. 10. … California’s Orange County is known for its conservative political climate. But this week, the Orange County High School of the Arts will step out onto the avant-garde edge with a series of performances that include Three Mob Pieces by Austrian composer H.K. Gruber; Le Tombeau de Liberace by American Michael Daugherty (of Jackie O opera fame); and the West Coast premiere of I: A Meditation on Iona for percussion and strings by modern Scottish composer James MacMillan. …

Tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will headline the first Liberty State Park Music and Heritage Festival beginning July 1. The twice-Grammy-nominated Bocelli will be joined by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for his only New York-area performance of the year. Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra will headline a Fourth of July tribute to Louis Armstrong. Jazz singer Diane Reeves and trumpeter Clark Terry will contribute to the tribute. …

— sonicnet.com staff report