Author Archives: Neil Kurtzman

George London

Bass-baritone George London (born George Burnstein; 1920 – 1985) was born to naturalized American citizens who had emigrated to the US from Russia. His parentage likely explains the fluency he exhibited in Russian roles, most prominently Boris Godunov. Born in Montreal and raised in Los Angeles, his vocal talent was soon recognized. He toured the US…


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How Many Doctors Are Needed to Run a Hospital?

When I was a resident physician the chief of cardiology often argued that there should only be two departments in a hospital – medicine and trauma. I’ve often thought about that view over the ensuing decades as the number of medical specialties proliferated like mushrooms after a downpour. How many specialties would be needed if…


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False Positive PCR Tests For COVID-19

I got tired of writing about the problem of false positive tests for the coronavirus, so I gave up. Now the New York Times has suddenly become aware of the problem. When a PCR test is run the virus is amplified in proportion to the number of cycles run. Typically 40 cycles are performed. Thus,…


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Raina Kabaivanska

A regular reader asked why I had never written about Raina Kabaivanska. I had no reason apart from inadvertence and said I would put something together about her. This is it. Ms Kabaivanska (born 1934) is a Bulgarian soprano now retired. She currently devotes her time to teaching. She was a lirico-spinto (with more emphasis…


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CRISPR and Human Characteristics

On September 9th PBS series NOVA presented a two hour program devoted to the genetic technique CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). It’s a technique that allows for gene editing. You can read about by clicking the link above. The PBS program does a pretty good job of explaining how the technique works and…


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Finale 25: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103 “The Year 1905”- 4. The Tocsin

Written and first performed in 1957, Shostakovich’s Symphony #11 was ostensibly about the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905. Everything the composer wrote or said after Stalin squashed him in 1935 because the dictator was offended by Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk has to be decoded. He composed the piece in the wake of the Soviet repression…


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Why Contemporary Music Fails

Look to the boxoffice; the theater was meant to be full. Giuseppe Verdi to a young composer upset about the critics’ reaction to his compositions. The music discussed here is that of Western Europe which is typically called classical music. I’ll include opera and related vocal music under the same rubric. While largely the child…


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COVID-19 Six Months In

It’s just about half a year since we recognized that the coronavirus had taken residence in the US and just about everywhere else. We took a while to realize that the bug was going to stay longer than The Man Who Came to Dinner. Though epidemics have been a feature of human existence ever since…


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Cessa di più Resistere

‘Cessa di più resistere’ is the tenor aria that closes Rossini’s Barber of Seville. There’s a few minutes of music that follows it, but the bravura piece is effectively the opera’s end. That is when it’s performed. It’s so difficult that that it was dropped from the opera shortly after it’s premiere in 1816. So…


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Iceland Through Icelandic Eyes

Iceland is both Europe’s most sparsely populated and farthest west country. Just south of the arctic circle, it has a relatively benign climate due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream. It’s a prosperous place that that has a market economy and generous social welfare programs. It is energy independent as it harvests the thermal…


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