Good moves

1. The San Francisco Opera streams its live performance of Tosca to a sports stadium.

2. The Seattle Opera held a competition to find a host for what it calls a “reality-style video project,” titled “Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer.” They chose a 19 year-old student, who’ll create an online chronicle of her first exposure to Wagner’s Ring.

These are good things. They make the opera companies more visible in their communities. They create buzz. They bring in people who wouldn’t normally pay attention. The San Francisco Opera — which has streamed opera to the stadium twice before — drew 27,000 people to its show. And seems like they knew exactly how to make this a real event:

Opera General Director David Gockley threw out the first pitch, so to

speak, in a precurtain speech from the Opera House [says a story in the San Francisco Chronicle]. After introducing

conductor Marco Armiliato, who led the ballpark and sold-out Opera

House audiences in the national anthem, Gockley poked his head out from

behind the curtain to call out, “Play opera!”

Seattle’s winner, says a Los Angeles Times blog, will

conduct behind-the scenes interviews with the artists, attend

rehearsals and even meet with the so-called Ringies, the die-hard fans

who follow “Ring” performances all over the world.

She’ll also post Facebook updates, and tweet on both her own and the opera company’s Twitter accounts.

Is all of this a little hoky? Sure. So what? It’s also fun. I’m sure the 27,000 people in AT&T Park in San Francisco had a good time. I could also say that my interests in classical music might go in other directions, but again, so what? Our field badly needs exposure and excitement. And, if what happens in pop music is any guide, the bigger and more popular we get, the more room also opens up for challenging offbeat stuff. The bigger the market, the bigger its fringe.

Every classical music institution, big or small, should do things like these. And not just once, or once a year — repeatedly, over and over, so people (even people who might never want to go to a performance) know that the institutions are there, and that they’re constantly doing new things.

As Leonard Slatkin said this week, assessing the condition of the Detroit Symphony (where he’s now music director):

We need to become more of a presence in the community. Not everybody goes to hockey games, but everybody knows about the Red Wings. A lot of their people do very good things in the community. We need to be like them. We want more people to know about the DSO.

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  1. says

    My fiancé and I attended the SF Opera at the Ballpark event and absolutely loved it. It was a totally different experience from seeing an opera in a hall, and the audience reflected that. It was also different from seeing a video recording after the fact. There was something thrilling about knowing that it was live and that there were over a thousand well-dressed people in the hall experiencing the same music as we were at that very moment.

    One of the marked differences in seeing the opera simulcast in the ballpark – at the end of the 2nd act, everyone whooped and cheered at Tosca’s boldness. There’s no way you’d hear an audience member shouting out the equivalent of “you go, girl” in an opera house. (And I, for one, certainly wouldn’t want to.) But in a sporting arena, it’s not only OK, it’s appropriate.

    Another very cool thing that happened – during some of the more romantic music, there were a number of white birds that flew around the screen, as if they had been choreographed.

    The only drawback was that the audience as a whole seemed more rude than your standard baseball game audience, pushing and shoving to get past in an awfully crowded hallway.

    Thanks for the great post!

    – Rachel Rossos

  2. richard says

    As a card carrying member of the fringe, I’m with you whole heartedly. I know I’ve been a little slow to “get” what you’ve been talking about. Maybe it’s my “leftish” dislike of the crassness modern day marketing.

    Thanks. I tell my students that marketing doesn’t have to be crass. Ideally it shows people who you are, and what you’re doing — as you yourself see it. It can be just as serious as serious art, and if seriousness is what someone’s about, seriousness is what they should market.

  3. says

    The idea of opera or a symphony at the ball park seems very appealing. Who wouldn’t want to listen to, say, a Prokovfiev piano concerto while munching on a hot dog and watching the boats go by McCovey Cove?

    The venue will be familiar so a first-time listener wouldn’t feel intimidated by the fancy crowd at the concert hall.

    Makes sense.