About that Salome next season…

This might be related to why orchestras seem to have so much trouble in the Sun Belt:

“It was like an invitation to a date,” says Sarasota artist Pablo Rodriguez of his painting, “Modern Venus,” which he installed in early January in the Sarasota Orchestra’s Harmony Gallery as part of his exhibit, I’ll Be Seeing You. “This piece was supposed to be the centerpiece of the whole thing. It was a pretty big piece and in the Harmony Gallery that was the thing that was drawing your eye.” The piece hung uninterrupted for over two weeks after the exhibit opened on Jan. 12, but three mothers with children in the Sarasota youth orchestra deemed “Venus” too racy for their children’s innocent eyes and filed one formal and two informal complaints.

“They gave me two options,” Rodriguez says. “It was drape it or take it down. I chose to take it down.” Rodriguez removed the painting — a mild, not-nude ode to his wife — on Jan. 29.

Rodriguez’s frustration stemmed from the personal nature of the piece. “After you have worked on something for two months straight for a show it was of course disheartening,” explains Rodriguez. “In the past six months I have married the love of my life and the exhibit was supposed to be a celebration of love through music. … When we got back from our honeymoon I started working on it. There’s a lot of things that are personal to both of us, like our favorite number is 11 and there’s 11 stars in the sky. What better thing to immortalize the show then to have my wife as the center of the show.”

Gordon Greenfield, the chief marketing officer for the orchestra, feels for Rodriguez, but says in this case his hands were tied. “I understand Pablo’s view because it is personal,” says Greenfield. “There were three complaints and that was enough that we had to treat it seriously. I can’t make other people’s judgments for what their children are exposed to. I personally didn’t have a problem with it. I have a 13-year-old daughter and I wouldn’t feel anything wrong with her walking past it. If it was a private gallery there wouldn’t be a problem. Because of the nature of our gallery, which is really our lobby, there really wasn’t a choice to see it or not.”

The Sarasota Orchestra should probably also avoid programming Don Juan, Mahler 5, the Prelude and Liebestod, La Traviata…and, of course, all ballet music except Nutcracker. And they should definitely find a new name for that one.


About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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