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Top Five Key Dates to Mark on the Calendar this Fall

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The start of the 2013-14 season is filled with question marks. Some point to the uncertainty of the future of classical music; others anticipate what we hope will be triumphant returns; and others ask what secrets will be laid open in letters by an American treasure. Here are the dates on which we hope to get our answers:

1. September 15 [Past]: Vänskä’s deadline to Minnesota

It’s been almost a year since acrimonious contract negotiations between the Minnesota Orchestra leadership and its musicians caused the most visible lock out currently amidst American classical music. After forfeiting the entire 2012-13 season, music director Osmo Vänskä issued an ultimatum: He will leave if the musicians are not back rehearsing by September 30, a date that would be necessary for the ensemble to perform its concerts at Carnegie Hall on November 2 and 3. In order for this to happen, the deadline for an agreement was Sept 15. Now that the deadline has passed, we'll see if there's any shift in the standoff: musicians are being asked to take a pay cut of about 25 percent, and their counter-proposal on Sept 10 was turned down.


2. September 30: Make-or-break for New York City Opera's season

Over the past several years, New York City Opera survived blow after blow—the resignation of its appointed director Gerard Mortier before he opened a single season, a move away from its Lincoln Center home, the downsizing from a full repertory season with as many as 100 performances to one with fewer than two dozen. Crushing news broke on September 8 that the opera company will be forced to cancel most of the 2013-14 season unless it can raise $7 million by the end of the month. General manager George Steel says it needs $20 million by the end of the year in order to ensure a 2014-15 season. He recently issued an email appeal to ticket buyers to donate directly or to a Kickstarter campaign. Time is ticking.


3. September 24: Levine stages his comeback

Among dates that we're most looking forward to this coming season is the return of James Levine to the Metropolitan Opera orchestra pit. After suffering myriad health problems, including spinal damage and hand tremors, the maestro will be on the podium for Cosi fan tutte, the second performance of the Met’s 2013-14 season. This, we hope, will be an auspicious occasion, as Levine is scheduled to take on a new production Verdi’s Falstaff in December, and Berg’s Wozzeck in March.


4. October 28: Lenny’s letters published

More than 20 years after his death, the presence of Leonard Bernstein still looms over American classical music. On this date, Yale University Press will release more than 650 pieces his personal correspondence in The Leonard Bernstein Letters, edited by Nigel Simeone. The letters touch on his interrogation by the House Un-American Affairs Committee, his homosexuality, and the difficulties in producing West Side Story. "He was a very complicated man,” Simeone, a British musicologist, told us in an interview last month. This book illuminates those complexities.


5. November 14: San Francisco brings Mahler to Carnegie

In what has become an all-too familiar scenario, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra canceled its New York performances last spring due to a strike among musicians. The cancellation particularly upset Mahler fans, who were anxious to see Michael Tilson Thomas conduct the composer’s monumental Symphony No. 9. However, this November, the ensemble and MTT will be back at Carnegie to reprise the lost performance on November 14. The prior evening, Jeremy Denk will join the orchestra for Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 25 in C Major.