Five Big 2012 Music-News Stories

Whitney Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012)

We at Just Sheet Music would like to bid a fond farewell to the year 2012, as we look with hope to the New Year 2013.

Here, in emotive order, are five stories that especially caught our attention. We’ll begin with a death that saddens us, and move on to a recent dust-up in the operatic world that, in its resolution, has given us reason to hope about the future, musical and otherwise.



Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston, star of the 1992 musical movie The Bodyguard, died this February while still in her forties, still with music in her.

When we think of Houston, we think almost inevitably of the right named movie, in which she co-starred with Kevin Costner, and of its soundtrack, which included “Run to You,” “I Have Nothing,” and Houston’s cover of tune initially written as well as performed by Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You.”

This is how Dolly Parton did the song back in 1974.

Dolly Parton

And here is Houston’s take on it, not from the movie, but in a charity concert. You have to love the way she milks the audience, which of course knows and is hyper-ready for this song.

A combination of heart trouble and cocaine use led to Houston’s accidental drowning in a guest room of the Beverly Hilton Hotel just before this year’s Grammy Awards. We miss her.

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot

Russian authorities imprisoned three members of the punk-rock collective Pussy Riot this year. The charges involved an unscheduled performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Here’s a sample of their music:

And here is some video of the impromptu performance that got them arrested, a “punk prayer.” The three women convicted and sentenced in August are by name: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are currently in prison. Samutsevich is out on probation, her sentence suspended. Amnesty International considers them each a prisoner of conscience.

Here is a discography.

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple is touring again. 2012 saw her fourth, The Idler Wheel tour, which she kicked off in Austin, Texas in March. Other cities on the tour included Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and such less populated North America venues as Holyoke, Massachusetts and Danbury, Connecticut.
The album released in conjunction with the tour debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.

The first single released from The Idler Wheel (album) was “Every Single Night. “ Listen here.

This album seems to have confused some critics, with Allison Stewart of The Washington Post writing that it may be Apple’s “best album yet” but it is also “the one you’ll least want to hear again.” I’m not sure those two propositions adhere, but I’m happy with musicians who confuse critics.


Newsies: The Musical opened on Broadway this year. And it is making money!

Newsies is based on a 1992 movie of the same name, which in turn was based on a historical incident, the news boys’ strike of 1899.

Those were the days when mass-produced daily newspapers were themselves new, and when names like Hearts and Pulitzer weren’t the names of corporations or of prize awarding foundations but of flesh-and-blood men. They had thousands of children selling newspapers for them on the street and, yes, the newsies in New York City successfully organized, forcing Joseph Pulitzer himself to recognize and negotiate with them.

So that was a success, but we have to report that the 1992 Disney movie was a flop. One film critic called it “Howard the Paperboy,” a mocking reference to another Disney flop, Howard the Duck. [The star of that one is pictured left.]

Anyway, if the movie version of Newsies hadn’t flopped, then presumably it wouldn’t have taken twenty years for someone to produce a stage version. Yet here we are, and it is good to see persistence bring success out of failure. Indeed, in December came news that Newsies inits stage reincarnation has made more than its costs. Extra! Extra! Musical in the Black! Read all about it!

It is like … well … it is like freedom arising from out of a context of censorship. That thought brings us to our next, final, and most cheering item.


Meanwhile, in the world of opera, a dispute between Opera News and the Metropolitan Opera led to an announcement by the former, a 76 year old periodical, that it will no longer be reviewing productions at The Met!

What is astonishing here, even at first glance, is that the Met should be as thin skinned as it has shown itself in the events leading to this breach.

What is more astonishing, at second, is that was an intra-family quarrel. The Opera News is published by an affiliate of the Met.

Nonetheless, the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, was unhappy with an April review of The Met’s latest take on Wagner’s Ring cycle. Reviewer Fred Cohn wrote, “The physical scale of Robert Lepage’s Götterdammerung may have been immense, but its ambitions seemed puny. “

The following month, features editor, Brian Kellow, piled on. “The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them.”

One can understand that Gelb, pictured above, wasn’t happy about such comments. Still, on the assumption that he didn’t want to seem like the Vladimir Putin of the opera world, he would have been better advised to put up with it than not.

Instead, Gelb had the pull with the relevant affiliate necessary to force the editors of Opera News to make their no-more-reviews announcement. But this back fired. After all, many of the readers of Opera News are frequent attendees and otherwise patrons of the Met, and they appreciate its distinctive voice. They seem also to appreciate its independence. Negative reviews of Met productions, before the one that set off this tiff, had not been all that frequent, but had not been unknown either. Even patrons of the arts want some idea in advance whether it is worthwhile coming into mid-town for a particular show, and Fred Cohn offered that.

Free speech is better, even for the institutions that come under criticism, than is a puppetry. Free speech heralds free music, free creativity of all sorts. In the end, a free world will be the finest operatic performance of all.

And with that good news, a happy new year to all. Let’s listen to Wagner, marking the end not just of a year but of a world.



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