WagnerBlog

The World of Composer Richard Wagner and his operas. www.wagneroperas.com with frequent forays into the world of art, culture, and film.

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Vincent Vargas is a foreign language teacher at a private school in New York City. He runs websites dedicated to Casablanca (www.vincasa.com) and Richard Wagner (www.wagneroperas.com).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Shalom Chichester!

This weekend will be my final two performances of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with the New York City Ballet, at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Although the NY City Ballet and the Juilliard Choral Union will be performing the work again in April, I will not be involved with those performances. I do, however, plan on attending one of these Spring performances. It will be a fun and eye-opening experience to attend and really appreciate the work from the other side of the footlights.



Singing the world premiere of this work last summer was exhilarating, and returning to the work this year for four more performances has been very gratifying. Musically, the Choral Union is a more confident, tighter ensemble, and the difficult parts of the work have improved tremendously. The dancers, many of whom are coming back to the work a year later, have matured into their parts. The demanding choreography by Peter Martins has settled quite nicely within the talents of the dancing ensemble, and the collaboration of dancers and singers is finally beginning to feel like a well-oiled machine.

It has been a memorable experience to collaborate with the NYC Ballet. This weekend I will once again be able to experience that unique moment when the stage manager says "stand by," and the curtain rises to reveal conductor Andrea Quinn's smiling face in the pit and a sold-out crowd filling the house. That exhilarating moment, which has been accented by applause even before Andrea strikes the downbeat at all the performances except for one, will always be one of the most cherished memories of this experience.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

These Things Always Come in 3's

In a coincidental phenomenon, stemming from the lore of urban legend, and usually associated with show-business, the world lost three of its major literary figures within the space of a little over a week. Arthur Miller, the New York playwright who revolutionized the American theater with such works as Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible; Hunter S. Thompson, the irascible gonzo journalist who injected a definitive biased spin on countless articles for the magazine Rolling Stone, and whose Death and Loathing in Las Vegas was turned into a memorable motion picture starring Johnny Depp; and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the Cuban-born novelist who became a British subject and claimed to be the only British author to write in Spanish.

In his own highly specialized field, each one advanced his particular art, and made a lasting impression in the minds of readers and audiences everywhere. Needless to say, they will be missed, but their literary legacy will live on for many generations.

Muerte de un Escritor

One of the great writers of the 1960's "Boom" generation, Guillermo Cabrera-Infante, died in London this week. The blood of the satirist ran in his veins, and many regarded him as a Cuban Jonathan Swift, although his talents were uniquely his. The names of his characters and the titles of his novels were chosen very skillfully, and very much in tongue-in-cheek fashion. In his seminal novel Tres Tristes Tigres we meet two quintessential Infantian characters: the secretary Vivian Smith Corona, and the singer Olga Guillotina -- their names say it all, and in their names we find the essense of the writer's work.



My favorite Cabrera Infante title is what he chose to call his 1979 autobiographical novel: La Habana para un Infante difunto. Literally, the title means Havana for a dead Infante, but those that know French composer Maurice Ravel's short work "Pavane pour une infante défunte" will understand his clever word play and the inherent sense of nostalgia. Now, after his death, the title rings with a finite sense of reality.

The following is the obituary as it appeared in the London Times.

GUILLERMO CABRERA INFANTE was as Cuban as a Cohiba cigar, but London was his home for the final 39 years of his life, and he took British citizenship. That did not stop him from writing obsessively about his homeland. According to his wife, Miriam, he always carried Cuba — a Cuba that no longer existed — inside him. He left Havana for the last time in 1965, after attending the funeral of his mother, and he remained an outspoken critic of President Fidel Castro’s Government until his death. Cabrera Infante originally supported Castro’s revolution, but the two men fell out over freedom of expression and censorship — Fidel was against the former and in favour of the latter — leaving Cabrera Infante no option but to remain silent or go elsewhere. He opted for exile, and resolved not to return as long as Castro remained in power. He never did go back, and Castro is still there.

Cabrera Infante was one of the outstanding writers in Spanish of his time. His most celebrated work, Tres Tristes Tigres (translated into English as Three Trapped Tigers), was a fictional evocation of the louche nightlife of pre-revolutionary Havana, populated by gangsters, whores and jazz musicians. Written in playful — the title is the first line of a tongue-twister — and sometimes impenetrable, habanero slang, it caused a sensation in the Spanish-speaking literary world, winning the major Biblioteca Breve award in 1964. The author returned to the same themes, and some of the same characters, many years later, in Ella Cantaba Boleros (1996).

Fiction was by no means the only literary form cultivated by Cabrera Infante. His first book was a collection of short stories, Así en la Paz como en la Guerra (1960), and a collection of his cinema reviews was published as Un Oficio del Siglo XX (A 20th- Century Job). The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa commented that Cabrera Infante had managed to turn cinema criticism into a new literary genre. A volume of his political essays, Mea Culpa, was published in 1993, eight years after his history of tobacco, Holy Smoke, had appeared (in English). The semi-autobiographical La Habana para un Infante Difunto (another play on words) appeared in 1979. Cabrera also wrote screenplays, adapting Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano for John Huston, and his own Tres Tristes Tigres for The Lost City, directed by the Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia, and starring Dustin Hoffman as the gangster Meyer Lansky. The film, which was shot in the Dominican Republic, will be released this year. Cabrera Infante received the ultimate accolade for his lifetime’s work, the Miguel de Cervantes literary prize, in 1997.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante was born, to communist parents, in Gibara, a village in eastern Cuba, in 1929. The family moved to Havana in 1941 and Guillermo intended to read medicine at the university. But in 1947, at the age of 18, he gave up his studies and went to work for Bohemia magazine, taking a series of odd jobs to make ends meet and give him time for writing. In 1950 he entered the school of journalism in Havana, and two years later had his first brush with the authorities: he was arrested and fined for using “English profanities” in a short story that had appeared in Bohemia. In 1951, while still at the journalism school, he founded the Cuban national film theatre (Cinemateca), and ran it until 1956. By that time he was working as cinema critic, under the pseudonym G. Caín, for Carteles, a popular magazine of which he was to become editor in 1957.

When Fidel Castro’s bearded guerrillas rolled into Havana on New Year’s Day 1959, and the dictator Fulgencio Batista was put to flight, Cabrera Infante was an enthusiastic supporter of the new order. He was appointed a director of the film institute, ICAIC, and also worked for Revolución, the newspaper of Castro’s 26 July Movement, editing its weekly literary supplement, Lunes de Revolución, until it was closed down by the Government in 1961. By that time, the initial liberalism and open-mindedness that had so appealed to foreign admirers of the revolution was giving way to rigid central control, and there was no room for dissenting voices. Cabrera Infante said he was made to feel like a non-person in Havana, so, when he was offered the job of Cuban cultural attaché in Brussels in 1962, he took it. Three years later, thoroughly disillusioned with the way things were going back home, he resigned his post, and settled in London the following year.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s first marriage, of which there were two daughters, ended in divorce in 1961. He married his second wife, Miriam Gómez, an actress, that year. She was at his bedside when he died, of an infection in hospital after falling and breaking a hip at their home in West London.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante, writer, was born on April 22, 1929. He died on February 21, 2005, aged 75.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"The Gates" Swung Open...

Florence has Ghiberti's "The Gates of Paradise," Paris has Rodin's "The Gates of Hell" (we had them for a few months at the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 1983), and now for a matter of days New York City has Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates."



According to Christo and Jeanne-Claude's press release: "The 7,500 gates, (are) 16 feet (4,87 meters) tall varying in width from 5 feet 6 inches to 18 feet (1,68 to 5,48 meters) according to the 25 different widths of walkways, on 23 miles (37 kilometers) of walkways in Central Park. Free hanging saffron colored fabric panels, suspended from the horizontal top part of the gates, come down to approximately 7 feet (2,13 meters) above the ground. The gates are spaced at 12 foot (3,65 meter) intervals, except where low branches extend above the walkways. The gates and the fabric panels can be seen from far away through the leafless branches of the trees. The work of art will remain for 16 days, then the gates will be removed and the materials will be recycled."

"The gates swung open and a Fig Newton entered." I don't know exactly what that means, but it is one of the funniest lines from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers. These gates don't exactly swing; they just sort of stand there, a
nd the crowds walk under them, looking up at the fabric panels billowing in the wind (if there's any), hoping that the sun breaks through the clouds so that the digital pictures will come out nicer. If "The Gates" were part of a comedy act, then collectively they would be the straight-man -- the biggest collection of straight-men in the world!

I've gone to see "The Gates" twice. On my first visit this past Sunday, the reaction of the people around me grabbed my attention. People go out of their way to say the darndest things around modern art, I'm convinced of it. The comments went from the ridiculous: "They look like shower curtains," to the not so ridiculous: "All the gates are different." While I was in the park, admiring the transformed landscape, I thought that the gates would look especially beautiful if a nice snowstorm blanketed Central Park. On Sunday night, I got my wish. Five inches of snow fell overnight, and on Monday morning I returned to the park. The snow had totally transformed the landscape, and the saffron colored gates stood like sentinels against the freezing cold and the new winter landscape.

For sixteen days, Central Park has been one huge Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation. A few days from now, "The Gates" will be history. They will be dismantled, according to the wishes of the artists, and Central Park will once again be its former self. I will personally miss them. These rigid structures, meaningless and meaningful at the same time, added a colorful dimension to the park, and their memory will linger for years in my mind, and in the minds of all who experienced them.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Holy Grail on Broadway or Welcome to the Sure-Thing Musical

The Great White Way is not necessarily the first place where you would look if you are on the quest for the Holy Grail, (it's certainly not the place to which I would direct young Parsifal in his mythical quest for the Holy Spear) but Broadway is exactly where you will find the Holy Vessel. No, not inside Barnes & Noble within the pages of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, but right on Shubert Alley, at the wacky new musical Monty Python's Spamalot currently in previews at the Shubert Theater. This is the new hot ticket on Broadway, a reworking of the film Monthy Python and the Holy Grail, now turned into a musical and starring Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, and Hank Azaria, with direction by Mike Nichols.



Before anything else, let me say that the show was very funny, and definitely worth attending. The preview last night was filled with thirty-and-forty-somethings, weaned on the film since adolescence, loudly itching for the curtain to rise. When the lights dimmed and a wacky amplified voice assured us that it would be OK to leave our cell phones on and let them ring, the audience burst into uncontrollable screams and cheers. Go to see this show if you love the film, and stop reading this post right now. However, if you want to know some of my current thought on the state of musical theater in America, take two Tylenols and read on.

Monty Python's Spamalot is the latest in a disturbing trend in musical theater that is occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. No doubt inspired by the mega-success of The Producers, and helped by current wintry economic conditions that impede taking any kind of risk, Broadway angels are investing millions in musicals based on established film hits and classics. For the first time in the history of the musical theater a rash of these pre-fabricated spectacles are sweeping through the West End and Broadway, and producers are counting on this "theater of the familiar" trend to keep them solvent for years to come; or in the case of Mel Brooks, financially secured for a lifetime.

The many billboards around Times Square are currently advertising Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, two upcoming shows based on films ("Scoundrels" is already in previews, and "Bang Bang" begins previews in March). Other billboards advertising films turned into musicals include Wicked (based on a novel, which in turn is based on The Wizard of Oz), the revival of La Cage aux Folles (perhaps one of the first of these musicals) and Fiddler on the Roof. As far as "Fiddler" goes, one of Broadway's most beloved shows, and one of my personal favorites, I can't help but wonder if its current revival is due to the inherent popularity of the property as a show, or to the fact that producers found out that it was an Academy Award-winning Norman Jewison film back in the 1970's.

At the performance last night I experienced layers of disturbing behavior. Hank Azaria came out on stilts with a long coat and horns on his head and announced that "we are the knights who say..." before he was able to utter the fabled word "NI" already a dozen hushed voices in the crowd had said it. This kind of behavior went on the entire show. It seemed as if the audience was cueing the actor's next line, a sort of pre-echo: a behavior unheard of in a Broadway show before the advent of this type of entertainment. As these upcoming shows begin to fill the Broadway stages, this type of audience participation will become the norm. People are now paying money to be entertained by the sure-thing-musical that will not pose a financial threat. After all, at $100 a pop audiences want to know what they are paying for. No doubt the first audiences filling the theaters these days, as was last night, will be the die-hard fans. Producers are counting that, as word of mouth spreads, they won't be the last.

Possibly the most surprising event at last night's performance came during the re-enactment of the French taunter scene by the walls of the castle which ends a very short Act One. Hank Azaria decided to act. To put his own stamp on the character, as actors have done since time began, and not follow the cadences, mannerisms, and style found in John Cleese's brilliant performance forever preserved on celluloid. At the intermission, my friend Keith, who got the tickets, and I agreed that the French taunter scene was weak. Why? Not because Hank Azaria was weak, but because somehow he had not successfully given the illusion of duplicating Cleese's madcap performance.

After attending Monty Python's Spamalot I came to the conclusion that audiences at a pre-fabricated Broadway musical are the hardest to please, especially since the majority merely want to recapture the rapture found in the film. Everything must be in place, every line must be said correctly, every nuance must be there, and everything must be like the film they love. Why they would pay all the money to attend it live instead of plunking down a few dollars to rent or buy the DVD is the question. The answer lies, I believe, in the magic of live theater and audiences need to experience it. This, together with the curiosity of how their favorite movie will play live, is the lure of the new Broadway season.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Conductor Marcello Viotti Dies

Marcello Viotti, the famed musical director of Venice's La Fenice Opera House, died Wednesday night at a German hospital after falling into a coma following surgery. He was 50 years old.

The following is the obituary posted on the Washington Post website:

Conductor Marcello Viotti Dies in Germany
By GEIR MOULSONThe Associated Press
Thursday, February 17, 2005; 5:58 AM

BERLIN - Marcello Viotti, the music director of Venice's famed La Fenice Theater who also conducted at New York's Metropolitan Opera and other leading houses, died at a German hospital after falling into a coma. He was 50.

Viotti died Wednesday night after being in a coma for several days at a clinic in Munich, Germany, his agent, Paul Steinhauser, said by telephone from Vienna, Austria. Viotti, music director at La Fenice since 2002, conducted several renowned orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra. Viotti, music director at La Fenice since 2002, conducted several renowned orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra. He also conducted at opera houses around the world, including Milan's La Scala, the Met and the Vienna State Opera.

Born June 29, 1954, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Viotti held citizenship in several European countries, said the Hilbert artists' agency in Munich, which also represented him.
He studied the piano, cello and voice at the Lausanne Conservatory and made his conducting debut in nearby Geneva with a wind ensemble that he founded. In 1982, he won first prize at the Gino Marinuzzi conducting competition in Italy, which kicked off his career.

Viotti rose to prominence as chief conductor of the Turin Opera. He also served as artistic director of the Lucerne Stadttheater in Switzerland and conducted orchestras in the German cities of Saarbruecken and Leipzig. At La Fenice, Viotti won acclaim for his production of Massenet's "Thais." His other productions at the storied Venice opera included Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" and Richard Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos."

Viotti made his debut at the Met in 2000 with Giacomo Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." He later returned to the New York opera house for "La Boheme," "La Traviata" and Fromental Halevy's "La Juive." He recently conducted a production of Verdi's "Aida" there. This spring, he was due to conduct a new production of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal" in Venice. He also was scheduled to conduct "La Traviata" at the Salzburg Festival in Austria.

"I am so sad to tell you that it is finished. That's it," Viotti's brother, Silvio, wrote in a message posted on the conductor's Web site. "Marcello has finished his journey on this earth. I don't know what to say."

Details on other survivors and funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Conductor Marcello Viotti suffers a stroke

The following information was taken from the Bavarian Broadcasting Classic Website:

"Last week, Marcello Viotti, the former Chief Conductor of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester suffered a stroke. The 50-year old conductor had to undergo an operation for a blood clot in his carotid artery. Following this surgical intervention, his condition rapidly deteriorated to the point where there is serious doubt if his life can still be saved."

I will try to update Maestro Viotti's condition as information becomes available.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Wagner in Europe: The Liceu and the Bastille

While the major opera venues of New York City are currently dormant when it comes to Richard Wagner, the composer's music is thriving in Europe. This season's last performance of Parsifal, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, was on St. Valentine's Day. A co-production of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, The San Francisco Opera, and the English National Opera, the cast included Plácido Domingo in the title role, Violeta Urmana as Kundry, Matti Salminen as Gurnemanz, and Sergei Leiferkus as Klingsor. Sebastian Weigle conducted. The production is visually very interesting, with furniture defying the laws of gravity and stark lighting providing a mysterious mood. Great pictures of this production can currently be found at the Liceu website by clicking here. The opera was broadcast on Internet radio on February 13. As of yet, I have not heard a recording of it, I am hoping that somebody did record the performance.

Meanwhile over in Paris, at the Bastille, the French National Opera is getting ready for Peter Sellars' new production of Tristan und Isolde. Its premiere on April 12 will be conducted by Esa Pekka Salonen, and the cast will include Ben Heppner and Waltraud Meier in the title roles. Sellars' production, with sets by Bill Viola and costumes by Martin Pakledinaz is bound to raise eyebrows and create its own healthy brand of controversy. More information about this production can be found here. The Bastille Opera House website indicates that this production will be broadcast on May 7.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Spring at the MET: Das Wagnersverbot?

The works of Richard Wagner have usually been a staple of Springtime in New York City. As the weather turns warmer, the days grow longer, and the Easter/Passover holidays approach, a weekend at the MET would always include one of the Ring operas (if not a complete cycle) and a return of Parsifal, just in time for Good Friday.

From this day to the end of this season, the only performance of Wagner at the MET will be on April 23, the radio broadcast of Die Walküre, featuring Plácido Domingo. One solitary performance of a work that the MET already presented at the beginning of the season, and is clearly bringing back only for the benefit of radio audiences (and taking advantage of the fact that Domingo is already here in the city rehearsing the new production of Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac.)

Nothing wrong with enjoying a good dose of Wagner in the Fall and Winter months. The MET presented Die Walküre during the first week of the season, and then went on to present a spectacular revival of Tannhäuser, conducted by Mark Elder, and featuring Peter Seiffert, Deborah Voigt, and the incomparable Thomas Hampson. It was the perfect antidote to the cold dark months of November and December.

Old habits are hard to break. Old expectations even more so. We want our Springtime Wagner, and we want it now!

Over in Europe, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal are currently being presented at the Opéra Bastille in Paris and Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu. This will be the subject of my next posting.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day and Bayreuth is playing Hard to Get

My love affair with the Bayreuth Festival hasn't gotten off the ground yet, and already it appears that Cupid has misfired his arrows. Last week I received my rejection letter from the Bayreuth Festival Ticket Department. This is the first year that I request tickets, and true to everything that I have heard about their ticket policy, the letter came in stating that due to numerous requests, they will not be able to honor my request for the 2005 Festival. I knew this when I mailed the letter, so although my sense of disappointment is still great, I was not very surprised to receive the thin white envelope with its single English typewritten form letter.

The waiting list is about eight years, so they tell me, so I will put in my request for next year in the hope that I can beat the odds before the eight year time period.

Realistically, at this rate, I don't think that I will be able to witness Christoph Schlingensief's Parsifal production from last year, since the critical and audience reaction to its premiere last summer was so negative that Wolfgang Wagner might already be thinking of replacing it. That might not be a bad thing. The best Bayreuth productions lately have been those that are in the works.

The word on the straße is that Wolfgang Wagner has signed conductor Christian Thielemann to helm an entire new Ring tetralogy which will not open until 2006, and then will run until 2011. If that's the case, then it will be worth putting in my request for next year, and the next, and the next...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

MET Opera Broadcast -- Awesome Brit Opera Quiz

For long-time fans of the Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcasts, the names Alberta Masiello, Robert Jacobson, Boris Goldovsky, and Edward Downes could only spell one thing: the beloved Texaco Opera Quiz. Their astute, quick-witted, and entertaining banter as they successfully answered trivial and esoteric operatic questions became the stuff of lore in the annals of radio broadcasting. Alas, the Texaco-sponsored broadcasts are now a thing of the past, and the great panelists mentioned have all gone to their great operatic rewards. Lately, the Opera Quiz has been a mere shadow of its former self. Neither the quality of the questions nor the caliber of the current crop of panelists have gotten even close to rivaling the quiz's Golden-Age era.

There was a ray of light from Across the Pond during the last intermission of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro on February 12, 2005. The venerable Opera Quiz was given a well-needed shot in the arm by having the very first broadcast from Covent Garden, London. It was a rare experiment gone right.

The British version of the quiz, featuring panelists that included singer Robert Tear and conductor Mark Elder was pure joy. The answers were correct, and they came in with quick-lightning speed. The panelists were sure of their knowledge of opera, and their answers were witty and entertaining. The speed with which conductor Mark Elder recognized musical selections, for instance, was fascinating and ultimately impressive.

Let us hope that this was not merely a flash in the pan, and that the Powers That Be at the MET decide that this kind of great entertainment needs to be encored often.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Paying your Dues in the Sandbox

The following are the findings of Scottie Claiborne regarding the problem that I stated in my previous post. Her article together with the link to Mark Daoust's article "Google's Giant Sandbox" should answer some of the questions that have been baffling those of us that are putting up new websites.


Google's Aging
Delay for New Sites

By Scottie Claiborne (c) 2005

Many site owners and SEOs are worried because their new sites that rank well in Yahoo and MSN, aren't doing well in Google, and they're blaming it on the "sandbox." The current theory is that new sites are somehow being penalized for obtaining too many links, too quickly.

Is There a Sandbox?

Is there some sort of link analysis going on; some sort of threshold that will get links to new sites discounted? It sounds like a logical possibility. However, many of us who don't buy volume links or participate in linking networks are seeing the same ranking delays. New resource sites with a few good relevant links are taking just as long to climb Google's ranks as the instant link pop sites. I think a lot of people are confusing the sandbox, with an "aging filter" that appeared earlier this year.

Editorial Note: For more information the Google Sandbox read Mark Daoust's article Google's Giant Sandbox.

Six Months For Results in Google

I haven't seen any brand new sites with new domains appear at the top of the search engine results pages (SERP) since early in 2004. There seems to be a delay of about 6-8 months. I've checked with many site owners and SEOs and I haven't found anyone who's gotten a brand new domain ranked well in Google. If there's a magic bullet, no one's spilling the beans.

What happens is new sites get indexed, they appear for some obscure queries and they may appear at the top for a week or so, but then they drop to the bottom of the SERP for several months. The page shows a PageRank in the Google toolbar, as well as backlinks. Everything else works fine but it just doesn't rank well for any terms in Google. Many times, not even the company name.

If you have a brand new site, stop driving yourself nuts wondering what you are doing wrong! Stop tweaking and changing things, trying to influence your rankings; until the site has been in the index a while, it doesn't seem to matter what you do to it.

Why an Aging Delay?

My own theory is that the age factor for new sites is Google's answer to mini-networks and other multi-site strategies intended to artificially inflate link popularity. Many people divide what should be a single site into multiple sites in order to capitalize on the links that are exchanged between them. Others build a series of small sites that are only designed to add link popularity to the main site.

By delaying the ranking of brand new sites, the mini-network strategy becomes more of a long-term strategy than a quick jump to the top. Site owners who might have started new sites are going to be more inclined to build new pages on existing sites in order to avoid that delay.

Plan Ahead for New Sites

If you are launching new sites for clients, make sure you set the expectation that it is likely to be 7-8 months before the site achieves any real results in Google.

We used to keep a site under wraps and launch it once it was "perfect." Today it makes sense to get a few pages up for your new site as soon as you complete them. The sooner Google is aware of the domain, the better.

Subdomains May Avoid the Aging Delay

Pages on subdomains are generally treated as part of the main domain, making them a possible workaround. If your client has the option of building their site on a subdomain instead of a new top-level domain name, let them know that this may avoid the time delay.

MSN, Yahoo, and AdWords

When launching a new site, if traffïc from Google is critical to your plan for success you need to plan ahead. Get the site out there and linked to as early as possible and plan to run an AdWords and/or Overture campaign for a few months until the site can be established in the editorial results. Yahoo and MSN do not have this delay built-in, so focus your early efforts on these engines.

Don't worry, Google will eventually give your new site the respect it deserves -- just give it time


I hope you enjoyed this article. I hope those of you that have read this article and have experienced these problems with your new websites post some comments here.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Wagner Operas is here -- Oh, Googleglory where art thou?

Wagner Operas is finally online. It's been up and running for a few months now, and the results on Google are extremely poor.

Allow me to provide you with some details. Head on over to Google and do a search on the name of this site "wagner operas." As of this writing, you won't see this site anywhere near the first page. However, do a quick search by writing the words "Tristan Isolde," and lo and behold: there we are -- currently ranking 8th, and very much in the hub of Googleglory, sitting comfortably on that first desired, mythical first page.

Stranger still are the results obtained when doing a search on random words related to the life and work of Richard Wagner. Type "parsifal bayreuth," for instance, and Google currently ranks us number one on the list. Number One! With those two words this site is currently beating out all information coming from all opera house websites around the world, including the official Festspielhaus website in Bayreuth. As a matter of fact, the Bayreuth website is nowhere in sight if you search on those two words. I never thought that we were going to dethrone the official website of the Festspielhaus at their own game -- much less at their own name.

There are a lot of sites on the Internet devoted to Richard Wagner. One could argue that they are reaping the rewards of longevity when it comes to the ratings game. However, let's take a look at what happens when we leave Googleland for greener pastures:

Over on MSN we typed the words "wagner operas" and we ranked third. This was exciting news! Over on Yahoo the same search yielded a result of 10th. Still thrilling results! Searches on Lycos and Altavista provided similar "feel-good" first page ratings.

A search on the lesser-known search engine Dogpile, however, put us back in the proverbial dog house.

What's going on over at Google, and why are new websites, such as mine, not getting the ratings that are obtainable with MSN and Yahoo?

Scottie Claiborne, a web marketing strategist, has a possible answer for this problem. I will describe her findings in my next post.