Does the classical pig need any more lipstick?

ffwOr 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.

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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on July 5, 2015, in freeform weekend and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I often wish the Met sold posters and t-shirts for current productions (or maybe they do, and I’ve missed it – I’ve never seen them, though). And that the bar was not insanely expensive. But they do offer DVDs of most of the the productions they’ve done HD broadcasts of, which is great.

    That said, I think you’re right that that wouldn’t draw people in who wouldn’t come otherwise. The ones who keep coming back just want good music performed well and a few good and well-executed ideas.

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    • When I said DVDs of their productions I meant for them to themselves release their own in-house recordings without involving some middle man. Fans want these recordings, what’s stopping them?

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    • The Met actually did a t-shirt for the Hytner Don Carlo, but that appears to have been an isolated incident. T-shirts are tricky, though, and easy to get wrong. They have made some current production posters available, but not always the good ones. They like to sell prints of production stills instead for $$, but they really need a better production photographer to make that investment worthwhile. Actually they need better graphic designers overall.

      Fact is they have always sucked in this department, and I kind of bang my head against the table every time I see another tree sacrificed for some shiny reprint of an art nouveau Puccini ad.

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      • It’s very interesting they don’t invest in the graphic design department, it just seems like a low cost venue compared to others they pursue.

        If they found a good photographer/graphic designer they could solve the t-shirt and poster problem.

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