Surprise exit: what is behind the departure of RTÉ old hand Crimmins?
The bowing-out of one of RTÉ’s most experienced musical hands is a bombshell
“Supportive” is an interesting word. The support of the performing groups is part of RTÉ’s public-service remit, part of the obligation that comes with the licence fee. RTÉ’s annual reports document the use of the licence money in an unusual way, by identifying the amount from each €160 fee that goes to the various supported activities.
In the case of the performing groups that has dropped from its 2008 peak of €11.02 to €9.26 in 2011, the last year for which an annual report has been published. No one doubts that life in RTÉ is an uphill struggle now, and the situation for the performing groups, where fixed costs are hard to reduce without damaging the fabric of the orchestras, is particularly tight. The “supportive environment” is clearly under threat.
Crimmins has worked in RTÉ since the early 1980s, where he handled the launch of RTÉ Lyric FM in 1999 before taking a secondment to the Arts Council and returning to RTÉ to head up the performing groups. He’ll be a tough act to follow, if only for the reason that the road ahead is going to be particularly hard going.
His own post-RTÉ fate is fascinating. He has been appointed the new music specialist at the Arts Council. There’s no doubting that his experience should enable him to fulfil the role with unique depth and breadth. He will remain a power in the land.
Fleming to Feeney
The musical week for me began and ended with opera that wasn’t quite opera, though in truth that might not be quite fair to superstar soprano Renée Fleming, whose NCH debut on Wednesday was in many ways a perfect gig. Fleming is not just a singer with a beautiful and flexible voice that is full of surprises, she is also a hostess whose patter is so suave you might almost miss how sharp some her witticisms on the behaviour of sopranos and the deaths of opera heroines are.
Her singing of a selection of Handel arias (from Semele, Samson, and Alexander Balus) was finely wrought and extremely detailed, but excessively flowery, too much to do with Fleming, too little to do with Handel. But the evening climbed steadily from there, through Strauss and Debussy to a first half peak of Delibes’s Filles de Cadix, and on through Canteloube, arias from the Bohèmes of both Puccini and Leoncavallo to the quietly rivetting climax of the Ave Maria from Verdi’s Otello, with what you might call pre- encores by Cilea and Zandonai to ready everyone for the encores proper.