A Few Things

I’m terrible at maintaining a blog. I’ve gone for (two?) weeks without a post and now today find myself with a chunk of time and a lot of things to catch up on. Well dear (two?) readers, you’re just going to have to deal with my irregular posting habits.

So I think I’ll just make a list of the things I’ve been meaning to post.

1. Thanks to Americans for the Arts’ ARTSBLOG for the heads up on Obama’s interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press. Excerpting Obama:

“…historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that, that sense that better days are ahead.  I think that our art and our culture, our science, you know, that’s the essence of what makes America special, and, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House.”

I love this even though it’s a little fluffy. In very simple terms it’s a reminder that America isn’t merely defined by a divide between East-coast/San Fransico elitists and middle-class Joe-six-packs.
2. I’m always a sucker for discussions on opera as it faces the new possibilities provided by technology and as struggles to connect with what seems like an entirely new breed of audience. Issues of language and libretto are inevitably tied up in all of this, and Mark Swed recently tackled these large scale issues with the example of opera DVDs and their lack of a printed libretto. The whole article is worth reading, but a couple points struck me.
First he notes the shift in opera toward a narrative experience instead of a poetic one.

“Contemporary operagoers expect from the lyric stage the same sort of immediate experience they have at the theater and cinema.”

And in response to the increased focus on staging:

“Opera, after all, is drama.”

Yes! But I think this is the most interesting point he makes:

“Without access to the original text, an audience must take everyone — composer, singers, stage director — at their word, and quite a lot of richness is lost. But the downside to this studious model is that by being so well prepared we can easily get so wrapped up with interpretations that we lose the urgency of the moment. We know what to expect, and we sink under the weight of those expectations.”

This pretty much leads to what has essentially become one of the greatest challenges of opera right now. With opera, it seems like the marketing narrative goes something like this: Don’t be afraid! Opera is easy. You’ll get an English translation every step of the way. There will be lots of flashy things happening on stage to keep your interest in case you get bored. We’ll even make it sexy every now and then. And when you add the movie theater factor in: You can even wear your PJs and eat popcorn! All of this essentially means: You don’t need to do a lick of work. Just sit there and we’ll keep you entertained.


I’m simplifying, obviously. But this method will never hold up. Movies will always be better at providing entertainment that you merely digest without any work. Plus, movies will probably always be cheaper.
Opera gets a bad reputation for being highbrow and inaccessible, but is it really so wrong to expect the audience to do some preparation of their own?

But Mark Swed wasn’t talking about opera marketing. It just made me start to think about the disconnect between opera marketing and, well, opera. Huge issues.
3. As with all things viral, the news of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra is probably already old news. People everywhere have been talking about it. I haven’t really developed much more of a response yet other than: this is really cool. But two of my initial reactions, though, seemed to mirror those of Amanda Ameer’s. (And I’m not just saying this because I secretly want to be her friend.)

  • The master classes and personal conductor videos are fantastic. Musicians everywhere should be doing this. Obviously one way one way communication isn’t the ideal format for education, but it certainly is an exciting and not terribly difficult way to connect to young musicians and future supporters.
  • Quoting Amanda directly: “The fact that the selected orchestra is going to perform live at Carnegie Hall cracks me up a little. The web was good for auditions, but we need a “real” concert at the end of it all to legitimize the project? I mean, I get it, I just hope the end result will also be live on YouTube.”

Her entire post is here.

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~ by ohactually on December 8, 2008.

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