Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Miscellaney

Too many things make a post, or, why do I have 34 open tabs in my phone's browser? No, I am not putting 34 items in this blog post.
  • Gilbert Kaplan died in January at 74; he was a Wall Street millionaire who got rich by starting a magazine, Institutional Investor. He had an obsession: Mahler's Second Symphony. The headlines when he died called him a conductor, but, well, that was all he conducted.  Margalit Fox's NY Times obituary for him is here; The Telegraph has an obit here.
  • Also deceased, the great choral conductor Sir David Willcocks, last September at 95 (yeah, I'm behind a little!). Guardian obit here; Times here, also by Margalit Fox.
  • "The Broken Musican," about injury and disability among musicians. Note especially the remarks about James Levine.
  • Ivan Hewett reviews a new biography of Bela Bartok, by David Cooper, published by Yale University Press.
  • "Margin Notes," a very amusing blog post at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra about what you find in musicians' orchestral parts.
  • Scott Chamberlain at Mask of the Flower Prince goes into great and gory detail about the myriad problems with Terry Teachout's article several months ago claiming that the cost disease was what's killing the Met. Let's just say that he is a lot more thorough than I was.
  • Composer Kevin Volans gave a speech so muddled that I can't quite figure out what he is talking about. (I do agree with him that grants and awards shouldn't all be tied to the age of the composer because composers improve over time.) Joshua Kosman helpfully explains while taking the opportunity to wallop Volans and critic Philip Clark, who had published an equally muddled lament over the lack of great composers these days.
  • Anne Midgette thoughtfully discusses HD broadcasts, and her conclusions all make sense to me. Speight Jenkins, former general director of Seattle, a post he held for decades, says some very silly things, like HD broadcasts aren't opera. Um. I wish Anne had asked him how he feels about recordings and DVDs. I also wish she had not used the word "purist." More to the point, opera administrators should think about Peter Gelb's admission that the HD broadcasts are, or might be, cannibalizing the live audience. I'll hazard a guess about why: cheap tickets, parking close by, comfortable seats, popcorn, camaraderie. (Think about where your local opera company stands on those issues. I am aware of no company that allows popcorn except for the SFO ballpark broadcast) I do find it interesting that David Gockley says there's no money in HD when the Met is making about $18 million/year. He means, for US companies other than the Met.
  • Changing the Narrative: Why "Getting New Audiences" Isn't the Answer The California Symphony goes into quite a bit of detail about how they approached the question of audience growth. Their strategy involved identifying and, well, befriending single ticket buyers, many of whom started buying more tickets or subscribing. They rewarded ticket purchases, personalized offerings, etc. This worked brilliantly. They're a small organization that puts on a small number of concerts; I don't know how this would scale for an organization such as SFS or SFO that has a lot more performances and tickets to sell, but it made an awful lot of sense to me.
  • David Allen writes about new works that are responses to older masterpieces. I wish he'd squeezed in something about John (Coolidge) Adams's "Absolute Jest;" he did not, he tells me, because it wasn't commissioned specifically to be a response. So? The work does feel like part of the trend, and the revised version is a damn good piece.
Okay, enough for now. I'm down to 20 open tabs.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

Here's another guess for the popularity of the HD livecasts: close-ups. We're a visual culture, and movies/TV have conditioned people to being able not only to see the performers, but to see them in expressive close shots. The sound is much more visceral heard live, but the visual experience is more so with the camera honing in. It's a mode that better suits our current way of experiencing stories, as opposed to perching in a far balcony and seeing tiny figures moving in the distance.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That's an excellent point, thanks. You're completely right.

Eric Pease said...

I've been to nearly all the NT Live / Branagh Theater / Almeida Theatre live streams at Sundance Kabuki movie theater and they always sell out. Full theaters every offering. But wow, is it an elderly crowd.

And the east bay theaters are adding more and more evenings with NT Live programming. If'I'm coming late from work at the Kabuki, I'll take the chicken fingers with me into the theater but finish before the lights go down. Almost no one eats pop corn during the theater screenings. Booze yes, popcorn is rare but you see it sometimes.

Seemingly an audience exists for more movie theater offerings.

I've not been to an opera screening in a movie theater - I'm new to opera.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I went to the Coriolanus screening (Donmar Warehouse, I think) and left at intermission; I was having problems actually FOLLOWING the play, which I should have read in advance. Have missed a lot I would like to see.

People eat popcorn during the opera broadcasts. :)

The Met HD broadcasts, whatever their problems and flaws, are a great way to see productions you can't get to in person. The Lulu last year, even with the limitations of director choices and flattened sound, was fantastic, and it was great to hear that gorgeous score played by a great orchestra.