You Say Goodbye, I Say Cello

walz-johnAs the crowd headed home after Friday night’s superb opening of LA Opera’s “Porgy and Bess,” I stopped by Kendall’s for a drink and ran into John Walz. It didn’t take more than a couple of iced teas for the opera’s principal cellist to get a few things off his tuxedoed chest.

Baroque music, for starters, has been “hijacked by fundamentalists” (LA’s own Musica Angelica, for example), whose dogmatic, “earlier-than-thou” approach to music extends not just to period instruments, but how they should be played. The growing acceptance of these “mannered and over-the-top” specialists kept Walz out of the orchestra for LA Opera’s production of Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea.” As for “Porgy,” it’s proven his favorite score to play this season, with the orchestration “a work of genius.”

The LA Opera’s season will close with Placido Domingo in “Luisa Fernanda.” Does Domingo still have his chops? While the tenor isn’t the man he was 20 years ago, Walz says, he’s “the best 67-year-old singer around. He sounds strong, not like an old man.”

Next season the company will present Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” The first time Walz had to play it, he was dreading the five-hour opera. But he says as soon as it begins it lulls him into a trance “and you don’t even look at your watch.”

Walz is a popular choice in Hollywood for work on film scores, having performed on over 700 soundtracks, most recently the summer blockbusters “Spider Man 3″ and “Pirates of the Carribean 3.” Though the work is tedious (despite the fact that what you hear in a film’s final cut was often sight-read by the orchestra), it’s lucrative, often bringing $1,000 a day, plus royalties.

Speaking of money, Walz was recently asked to join the London Philharmonic, but is unsure about having to work twice as hard for half the money in a city that costs twice as much.

Walz ended our chat with a few remarks about one of LA’s leading music critics. Whom does he find a “pretentious snob” ready to praise anything avant-garde while bemoaning anything light and melodic?

Two guesses.

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