2014 Retrospective: National and international headlines in classical music

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Photo: Death of Klinghoffer thumbnail
A scene from the Met Opera's 2014 production of the John Adams opera "The Death of Klinghoffer."

Walkouts and lockouts. Street protests. A stolen Stradivarius. It was an interesting year for classical music nationally and internationally.

Here are some of the most interesting headlines that captivated the classical world in 2014:

A snatched Stradivarius

On a cold January night in Milwaukee, a thief stole a 300-year old Stradivarius violin from the hands of Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond. The thief had tracked Almond for weeks, waiting for the right time to taser him and steal his Strad.

Thanks to a music-loving police chief who marshalled his forces, the thief was apprehended and the violin safely recovered.

Opera stars and major league sports

The Super Bowl was a terrible game for Broncos fans, but music fans came out with a win. Soprano Renée Fleming became the first opera star to sing the national anthem at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Not to be outdone, Major League Baseball asked mezzo-soprano and Kansas City native Joyce DiDonato to sing the national anthem at Game 7 of the World Series.

Walkouts and lockouts

In January the interminable 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians finally ended, but just a few months later a new one began -- this time in Atlanta, where just two years ago the musicians took a deep salary cut. This year they were again being asked for even deeper pay cuts. That lockout lasted seven weeks.

Meanwhile, in an unlikely coincidence, two conductors walked off their jobs on the same weekend. Conductors Franz Welser-Möst and Han-Na Chang both cited “irreconcilable artistic differences” as their reason for leaving.

Met Opera protests and "Klinghoffer"

Hundreds of protesters took to the street outside of the Metropolitan Opera to protest the Met’s staging of John Adams’ opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," which they said glorifies terrorism. The opera went on as planned to mixed reviews.

That “Little Black Dress”... again ...

In 2004, soprano Deborah Voigt was fired by by the Royal Opera House because she didn’t fit into the “little black dress” costume of her character. Voigt took action by have gastric bypass surgery and losing over 100 pounds, but the firing was denounced as cruel and sexist.

Ten years have passed but another soprano found herself in the glare of weight-shaming critics this year. Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught was crucified by no less than four male critics for her body image in just one production.

Joshua Bell busking in D.C.

Early one week-day morning in 2007, Joshua Bell busked for commuters in a busy metro station. Only a few people stopped to hear him play and he only made enough in tips for a lean lunch and his cab fare. The experiment was part of the Pulitzer Prize winning story “Pearls Before Breakfast” by the Washington Post.

This year Bell returned to D.C. in a well-publicized public performance and thousands came out to see him.