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Thread: Thoughts on the Future of the Performing Arts in the US

  1. #16
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    . . . As for the article, to be honest I think it's totally absurd.

    Is that supposed to mean something other than: "innovate"? "Build the solutions" is the most bogus sort of corporate babble. Vague appeals to the knowledge economy, innovation, and tech-based "solutions". It's the same sort of meaningless drivel we've been fed by consultants and politicians since the nineties. I honestly can't decide whether it's a parody or not.
    I don't think the article proposes a solution. Instead, it is basically a hidden admission that the author has no solution, so the answer must be for someone else to find it. "You should make this happen" is not at all the same as "here is how you make it happen." (And "here are vague guidelines to finding those ideas" is not the same has having those ideas now.) The latter is what low-level employees do every day, and the former what management takes huge amounts of credit and pay for doing (while counting on others to actually do something tangible).

    It is the kind of silly "advice" that one gets from management consultants. My two favorite examples of this are:

    - A book called Thunderbolt Thinking, by a consultant, which actually contains the advise that if you do not know the answer to a problem, ask yourself if you did know the answer what would it be? (This is not the same as saying that when you hit a wall trying to solve a problem the solution, assuming there is one, is often blocked by assumptions formed during the process of making that dead end. It can help to clear your head and start over, with a clean slate. Or break a hole in that wall by thinking of something that might seem completely crazy but aimed directly at the problem, and work backwards from that as a workable solution might come from just thinking in a new direction.)

    - At one company where I worked, it was clear that our new owners were likely to shut us down (which they eventually did). After the first wave of layoffs, with promises that there would be no more (which was a lie, of course), management became "concerned" about low morale. They didn't actually have any idea on how to improve said morale, so they had each team hold meeting for us to make suggestions, with the opening dictate that such ideas could not cost any money from the company. My initial response was that with that constraint, the only thing that they might do is give us a little more control over our own jobs, which was met with an immediate "no, we don't want to do that." My reply to that was that if such ideas could not cost any money, and could not result in management releasing any of its strangle hold on our jobs (nor, realistically, anything they could do to ensure us that there would be no more layoffs, like give us contracts), then there really wasn't anything that they could do. Their brilliant solution in the end was to require each team to have a team lunch offsite . . . on our own time and paid for out of our own pockets. You can imagine what that did for morale.

    Edit: I do like the image that accompanies the article. It is not surprising, however that the author is, of course, or appears to be, a consultant. (If I were to be very cynical, it almost sounds as if the author is just proposing to break the Broadway monopoly into a thousand smaller pieces, where he can, perhaps, get more jobs for himself. I am not necessarily opposed to the idea that the current model -- where the goal is to get to Broadway, and shows that make it get distributed regionally -- is a bad one. Nothing in this article would seem to be workable for opera, for which costs, in terms of money and the development of talent, seem to demand some kind of centralization. Part of the problem, as Woodduck suggests, is that the conventions of opera have grown foreign and it is hard to bring back an audience that has other, less demanding, alternatives.)
    Last edited by JAS; Sep-18-2020 at 13:38.

  2. #17
    Member Dick Johnson's Avatar
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    "Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these" - Ovid (approximately 8 A.D.).

    This thread has been a bit depressing. I think opera is very healthy - just not in the same way it used to be - but recordings are still selling and houses are still filling for good performances. Streaming has also allowed opera's audience to expand beyond its traditional boundaries.

    I think much of the negativity results from the idea that contemporary opera composers have forgotten to write for their audience (hence no audience). The same is true of what is termed classical music in general. Serious contemporary composers are writing music that appeals to music scholars but does not sound good to the common ear. The result is more and more of a schism between modern pop music - which sounds musical to the casual listener - and contemporary classical music - which often does not even try to sound musical to the casual listener. I personally enjoy some opera written in the last 50 years - but it is unlikely that many of these works will draw a new audience to opera by themselves.

    On the other hand, opera continues to be very well-supported and remains, in its own way, an exciting area of musical exploration. The paucity of new opera composition has allowed companies to explore older, neglected works - leading to recent revivals of bel canto and (even more recently) baroque opera.
    With respect to the comment earlier in the thread about a lack of quality singers and performers - has there ever been a time since the early 19th century when baroque opera can be performed to a higher standard? Ieystn Davis, Andreas Scholl, David Daniels, Max Emmanuel Cencic, and Xavier Sabata are just the first currently performing counter-tenors come to mind - has there been a time with 5 counter-tenors all performing that can outrank these? There are also lots of great conductors (Petrou, Bicket, Christopher) and companies supporting this work. We now have The Sixteen, Il Complesso Barocco, Armonio Atenea, Louvre, Koln - even big companies like the Met are getting into the act and finding success.
    The same is true for Bel Canto - we are presented with a much more extensive catalog of these gems compared to our parents or grandparents.

    I feel very fortunate to be an opera fan now rather than half a century ago where your choices at the big houses were more limited and when finding a quality recording of Handel's great operas or exploring Rossini or Donizetti's less popular works was literally impossible.
    Last edited by Dick Johnson; Sep-18-2020 at 13:30.

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  4. #18
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    ^^^ I agree with much of what you wrote in your post. Although opera requires an acceptance of some peculiar conventions, it should be around at least as long as Morris dancing, and any other number of niche forms. Let us hope that it still has some legs.

  5. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    ^^^ I agree with much of what you wrote in your post. Although opera requires an acceptance of some peculiar conventions, it should be around at least as long as Morris dancing, and any other number of niche forms. Let us hope that it still has some legs.
    What are the "peculiar conventions"?

  6. #20
    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    I seem to remember reading a sci-fi paperback a few decades ago, by Asimov, I think.

    People did not interact in person anymore. That wasn't the thrust of the novel, just background for the story.

    A short Google away; the novel was The Naked Sun.
    Last edited by pianozach; Sep-18-2020 at 20:26.

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