Thursday, June 14, 2018

Concert Dress Rears Its Ugly Head Again

This time, it's not even about what female recitalist should wear. Instead, it's about an issue I would have thought was settled long ago: what female orchestral players wear.

In today's NY Times, Michael Cooper reports that NY Philharmonic's female players, who make up nearly 50% of the orchestra, must wear long dresses. They can't wear pants. Here's what Cooper writes, putting this in perspective:
And they’re required to: The Philharmonic, alone among the nations’s 20 largest orchestras, does not allow women to wear pants for formal evening concerts.
That's right: women at every other big orchestra in the country have more attire flexibility than those at the NYPO. There are discussions currently going on between the orchestra members and the administrators.

It's honestly amazing that the Phil is so far behind the times. On the one hand, they'd like to appeal to new, younger audience members. On the other, Deborah Borda says this:
But [Borda] noted that it could be difficult to find a broadly acceptable solution, agreeing on clothes that are comfortable but still dressy enough to give a sense of occasion; pleasing longtime patrons, who tend to be conservative in their tastes and have indicated in research surveys that they like things as they are; and finding new outfits that can stand the test of time. 
GIVE ME A BREAK. How many "longtime patrons" would even notice if women were wearing long black pants instead of long black dresses or skirts???

I'm also marveling that the LAPhil only caught up on this issue in their last contract.

The most comfortable musicians in the world are those in the Bayreuther Festspielhaus pit: when they came out for a curtain call at a performance I saw in 2015, they were all wearing short sleeved button-down shirts or t-shirts and whatever comfortable pants they wanted to wear. They can do this because you never see them during the performance, owing to the cowl over the pit and the placement of the pit under the stage.

Of course, no one thinks professional orchestra should play concerts in t-shirts and jeans, and I don't even think many people feel that uniform dress is necessary for women. I did once see a professional, but visible, pit orchestra play in black pants and black turtlenecks, a variant of the Steve Jobs  uniform that managed to look very nice.

I suggest that the NYPO have a nice talk with any orchestra that allows women to wear pans to see whether this has been at all disruptive, or resulted in a loss of ticket sales and donations. I bet I know what the answers will be. I also think that maybe Deborah Borda should wear a long black dress or skirt to work on every day the orchestra performs. That'll give her a sense of why this should change.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

I would be perversely interested in reading an interview with a Symphony patron who stopped buying tickets because the women in the orchestra were wearing pants instead of skirts.

Elaine Fine said...

Me too.