How could I forget?

Two items — and not small ones — that I should have included in my honor roll of new directions for classical music institutions, in my last post:

First, the Metropolitan Opera!  Details have now been announced about Met productions being streamed live to movie theaters, something Peter Gelb announced in the spring. Now it’s a reality. Not to mention the open house, free for everybody on September 22 (though you have to get tickets in advance), which includes the final dress rehearsal (free, as part of the open house) for the opening night Butterfly. Or the new marketing campaign, which will make the Met visible throughout New York. As someone said in an admiring e-mail this morning, “Peter Gelb gets it.” I agree.

And on September 13, the New York Philharmonic will show its first concert this season on a giant video screen in the plaza outside Avery Fisher Hall, “free for all,” as a press release underlines. Inside the hall, the orchestra plays; outside the hall, anyone can see and hear them, with chairs provided for those who get there early. This is possible, in part, because the concert being is telecast as one of PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center shows, so the feed can go directly to the screen outside. Not that other institutions haven’t shown free video of performances without PBS around to help, most notably the Houston Grand Opera, under David Gockley’s leadership (and soon he’ll be doing the same thing in San Francisco, where he now runs the opera company). The Philharmonic showed its special performance of the Brahms Requiem free on a giant screen, just after 9/11, but that, too, was shown on PBS. Still, if PBS can help the orchestra to project itself into New York, that’s a very good thing — and what’s most important is that a rather conservative institution is now taking a step to bring down some of the barriers between itself and its city. (One curiosity, though. There’s nothing on the Philharmonic’s website about the video showing in Lincoln Center’s plaza. If you dig a little — if you’re on the homepage, and click on “more info” under the laconic description of opening night — you’ll learn, equally laconically, about the telecast. But there’s not a word about the video screen. Why not? Shouldn’t this be splashed on the homepage? Shouldn’t at least the telecast be? The Met’s website certainly includes all the things I listed above, though not as prominently as they might.)

One caveat, though. Opening the doors — getting out into the city — is only the beginning. The biggest change has to be in what classical music institutions actually present. Performances have to feel like living art, or more generally like real human experience, and not like religious rites or some kind of gushy romance novel, where the content doesn’t get much beyond “isn’t it beautiful!”

My apologies to the Met and Philharmonic for not including them in my original post! What was I thinking of?

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  1. Brenda Parkerson says

    Would an arts organisation stop fundraising when their coffers are full? Probably not. So what is the logic behind not advertising when your theatre is full – especially when know your aging audience is dwindling? Talk about taking your eye off the ball…

    One reason I can imagine behind this thinking is a short-term ‘bums on seats’ marketing approach. It seems that the Met, with it’s new advertising and media plans, may indeed be working long-term at engaging a younger, or what they call on their website ‘contemporary’, audience. It would be interesting to know more about who they are actually targeting, who they believe their future audience is, how they intend (in the long-term) to lure people from the piazza into the opera house (as paying audience, of course), and how they intend to maximise those lucrative TV feeds (yum). I look forward to seeing how their advertising campaign connects with their future audience.

    These all are very good questions! (Brenda is a consultant who works on branding with arts organizations in Britain.)