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Monday, March 13, 2006

CROSSOVER: THE OTHER "WHITE MEAT?"

Opera magazines put Andrea Bocelli on the cover and reprimand complaining readers. The Metropolitan does a glitzy produciton of "The Merry Widow" an operetta they denied Joan Sutherland with two admired singers and casts it with young cuties when the stars depart. Peter Gelb, the new GM of the Metropolitan Opera makes no secret of his insistence on "singers who look the part" not singers who SOUND the part. The Columbus Symphony back in 2000 engages Charlotte Church for a benefit. I complain to the board. I call it musical kiddie porn on air and am reamed out for weeks. "She sold out the house in three hours" I'm told. I could go on and on. So could you.
Classical radio rejoices in musical sound bites, copy readers and visuals that look like the Halloween candy dispalys in a Wal Mart.

The point is that no one in a ticket buying data base for a classical concert for the past two years in the "target audience". Classical presenters, opera, symphony, dance, theater, radio have seen the future and its the people who used to kvell over a pre pubnescent Charlotte Church or a violinist in a wet T shirt or a baritone hunkmeister. Like titles in the theater twenty years ago, this trend is here to stay. Marketing Directors and Executive Directors who don't know Beethoven from Bocelli are making the important decisions around programming geared to the increasing dumbing down of the public. Cocnert halls and opera houses are now amplified. My fear is that clarinets, horns and violins will become irrelevant in the age of synthesizers and digital sound. This mechanization deadens the souls of people who deserve to hear a live performance, who deserve to know that all of arts are live and growing over time.

The potential new younger audience is large and it is time to tap into their energy. Bridging the gaps between people used to elcetronically processed sound, to video imagery, to "sound enhancement" towards people who can listen to voice and feel for the great stories is the new challenge. The schools, a point of entry for so many of us, drop music right and left. We are not primed to appreciate anything not offering immediate return. Old farts like me should still be tolerant of those who come to opera via Charlotte or Michael or Andrea. We don't have to buy it. But we should welcome and encourage those who do.

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