Does the classical pig need any more lipstick?
Or should classical music programmers learn anything from Andre Rieu’s success?
There’s some truth to the tired flailing that classical music should be [presented in] more fun [ways]. I’ve thought once or twice that I’d like a venue t-shirt (not a scarf or a handbag although yes to a fabric shopping bag). I’m always bemused when I can’t buy a venue magnet or a performance poster (though it appears Bayerische sells them – but do they keep an archive?). I’ve occasionally bitched about the lack of real bar area. But I’m not sure that it’s these changes that would put bums on seats. Will a more comfortable seat or the thought of buying a t-shirt afterwards make someone sit through 4-6 hours of opera where otherwise they wouldn’t? Somehow I doubt it. What I would like is for opera houses to sell DVDs of their own productions in their shops. That wouldn’t put bums on seats but would probably go down well and it wouldn’t break their bank in any way, shape or form.
The seats in the ROH’s Upper Slips (very tight space left, right, up or down) are about as uncomfortable as the ones in the Balcony at the ENO (not enough bum space on the seat itself – considering my backside is the size of a larger stamp). Yet somehow ROH manages to fill the house time and again whereas there has been plenty of room at the ENO every time I’ve been there (lucky me!). ROH has a bar/restaurant, so does ENO. ROH has the tamer productions, which I think is the real clincher. Also the house is smaller (2256 vs. 2558).
“Rieu’s concerts are filmed with multiple cameras,” Mera-Nelson points out, “and most of them are on the audience. They then analyse the reactions in minute detail. If something doesn’t play well with the audience, they never repeat it.” (from the article linked above).
That sounds very shrewed but terribly uneducational. Even rock bands aren’t quite as slick and regularly throw in the odd song that doesn’t get the audience into an absolute frenzy. In the case of classical music that’d be a sure way to play the same old forever more. How would orchestras be any different from Rieu’s if they did that? He’s already selected the easiest listening.
I think this venue is pointless. Just get more shrewd about what you’ve already got instead of spreading resources in too many directions in hopes that something will stick. There is a public for opera and it will continue to be. Get to know it and respond to its needs.