Now This Is Tragic

Yes, “classical” music ticket sales are down, for the most part, which in my view is tragic—there’s so much worthwhile music and music-making around, even in the Denver Metro Area. Unfortunately, Denverites will never know about it, because the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s presenters don’t “balance” well. As Sabine Kortals explains:

Friday’s concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and conductor Peter Oundjian got me wondering about the balance between programming and the quality of a performance.

Ostensibly, we should be worried about something. I’m just not sure what it is yet; either the programming or the quality of the performance. I hope it’s neither.

No doubt, conductor and orchestra delivered supreme music-making in a trio of works by Joseph Haydn, Richard Wagner and Sergei Prokofiev.

Fantastic! The performance, as indicated by the title of the article—

CSO performance anything but tragic

-was quality. In fact, it was better than quality; it was supreme. And by some standards the programming was adequate, too. It represented three centuries, or periods, of music—classical, romantic and, well, neo-tonal, or something, I guess. Also, the fact that they even played a piece composed within the last one-hundred years is, considered sometimes, a miracle. Granted, it’s not terribly adventurous, but the programming seems balanced enough, to me. What then could be the problem, Sabine?

But, Boettcher Concert Hall was conspicuously empty for this program of orchestral masterpieces with the common theme of tragic love.

Well now I’m befuddled. The performance was supreme, right? The program was adequate, i.e. only “masterpieces” were programmed, right? So...? So the concert hall was empty, because of the theme, “tragic love?” Give me a minute, while I ruminate.


Okay, give me another.


Am I to understand that this concert’s audience-getting failure was induced by the audience’s apprehension about a particular topic, which the symphony presenters thought up? Tragic love? Sorry, I just don’t see the connection.

The Prokofiev was the ballet music for “Romeo and Juliet.” Tragic love, yes. Masterpiece, yes; the Wagner was from “Tristan und Isolde.” Tragic love, yes. Masterpiece, yes; the Haydn was “La Passione” Symphony. Tragic love, maybe. Masterpiece, sure.

This “tragic love” theme, while fairly arbitrary, does not seem like the problem here at all. What does Sabine think?

Would a more balanced program have made a difference?

She doesn’t know. I’m not sure she even knows what she means by balanced.

Or perhaps it was Opera Colorado’s opening of “Don Pasquale” the same night that diverted most CSO regulars?

Dammit! This bit of information could have been helpful earlier. I mean, I suppose that a number of CSO regulars might prefer opera to Prokofiev, in which case this “balance” of which you speak is a non-issue. The issue, then, would be “do people prefer opera to the symphony?”

Yet, I still find it odd that Kortals suggests that “tragic love” is the culprit. If you are not familiar with “Don Pasquale,” it is an opera buffo, or comic opera; it’s about funny love. So, if I’ve interpreted this correctly, Sabine implies that people prefer funny love to tragic love. I’d like to see the behavioral sciences study data. How tragically flawed.

Even so,

Even so?

the sparse showing at Boettcher was a pointed reminder that—no matter how fabulous are the musicians and their collective artistry—presenters must be ever mindful of the proclivities of their audience.

Translation: concert attendance was doomed, because the presenters failed to pander to their audience’s preference for funny love (opera), as opposed to tragic love (symphony).

This is a silly conclusion, at least compared to the original question. If you remember, Sabine wondered about the “balance between programming and the quality of a performance.” So, by Sabine’s logic, the performance had to be extremely extra-splendidly-awesomely-fantastically-better–than-anything-ever-ever supreme, in order to make up for the presenters’ funny love versus tragic love oversight.

All she had to say is that the presenters shouldn’t have scheduled a concert on the same night as the opening of an opera.

Now that’s tragic.


Anonymous said...

... like the "theme" would really contribute to a feeling of "sameness" in this concert anyway. Psssshaw. I think Haydn, Prokofiev, and Wagner's music is probably *just* different enough to defuse the stultifying power of a vague marketing descriptor attached to the concert.

Beethoven, Piano Trio Op. 70, no. 1
Bolcom, Graceful Ghost Rag
Messiaen, Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jesus

Can't have that! They all have something to do with ghosts! Maybe we should balance that ho-hum-everything-the-same program with something else... like maybe some pieces that are about living people or something.