Ruckus over Ronstadt comments new for BSO

July 21, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Linda Ronstadt's bicoastal, 18-concert tour with backup from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra generated international headlines when the 58-year-old singer was denied the accommodations that had been planned for her at the Aladdin hotel and casino in Las Vegas after her performance there Saturday night.

The management took a dim view of Ronstadt's idea of dedicating her encore, the Eagles' hit "Desperado," to controversial filmmaker Michael Moore and encouraging the audience to see his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11.

"Linda has been doing that encore almost every night on the tour," says the BSO's director of operations, Susan Anderson, who has been traveling with the 40 orchestra musicians who are participating. (The rest of the BSO is in Baltimore, performing at Summer Wine and Music Fest.)

"Normally," Anderson says, "after she dedicates the song to Moore and calls him `a great American patriot,' there is a big wave of cheers and shouts of, `Go, Linda!' And then a giant wave and boos and catcalls follows right after it. It was that way when we did the show in Baltimore [June 27] at Pier 6, too."

At the Aladdin concert, according to the Associated Press, "some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air."

Aladdin President Bill Timmins called it "an ugly scene" and said he would bar Ronstadt from singing at the hotel as long as he was in charge. A hotel spokeswoman told AP that management didn't object to the singer's message, but thought that Ronstadt "wanted to incite the audience. ... She was hired to entertain, not to preach."

Moore jumped into the fray Monday with an open letter to Timmins, writing that "to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film is simply stupid and un-American."

The BSO players are unaccustomed to hearing boos and catcalls when they're onstage. Violist Sharon Pineo Myer says she and her colleagues thought the first incident of "Desperado"-inspired ruckus, early in the tour last month in Newark, "was kind of funny. But it's been kind of scary since then, especially in San Diego, where the audience was on folding chairs. I was afraid they were going to be thrown at us."

On a more positive note, the BSO has been inciting nothing but approval opening each performance on its own with music by Gershwin, including Rhapsody in Blue. "The audiences have gone crazy," Meyer says. "Maybe we're reaching people who haven't heard an orchestra before."

Anderson says the BSO has enjoyed "standing ovations at every single concert. And these are definitely not regular symphony crowds. It has been so cool. We're getting big, rock 'n' roll-type cheers."

The tour, which wraps up next week, is also generating about $200,000 for the BSO - welcome revenue for the financially challenged orchestra.

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