Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Sydney


Tonight I only read my ticket on the way to the concert, which turned out to have begun at 7.00 pm, which was after I left home.  Angel Place management love to go home early, and they had obviously persuaded the TSO that 7.00 pm was a normal concert time.  I hate 7 pm concerts, because it is a difficult time to get into the city and an impossible time to park and doesn’t leave time for the indispensible afternoon nap.  Anyway, that’s my mistake and my loss.

So I missed Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage overture. I only heard the latter half of the Chopin 1st piano concerto from the foyer, in the company of the TSO’s front-of-house manager (who, I notice, left with a date before the second half of the concert – is this poor form or what?).  Never mind though, because Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, which made up the second half, quite restored my good humour, and more.

There was lots to like.  The orchestra played much better under their chief conductor, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, than they had in the Federation Hall in Hobart back in September, and the acoustic was incomparably better.  What I particularly liked was the opportunity that this gave them to play extremely quietly when called for.  Lang-Lessing also did not drop the baton (so to speak) between movements: the spell was held without yielding to the usual tedious coughing and shuffling, and the violins even had a bit of their part photocopied to enable them to go straight into one movement without turning the page.

With so much to like, there is still one thing that I must grumble about, and that is the size of the audience.  You can’t blame the audience for this – after all, they are the ones who have turned up, but you can ask what the management are doing about it.  It was the same when the TSO came to Sydney last year: houses were pitifully small.  So what did they do about it this year?  Well, for the first place, they didn’t sell any tickets in the second gallery at all.  The stalls were two-thirds full, but of those about half were invited representatives of hoped-for corporate sponsors, and I guess a good number of the remainder will have been relatives or people who won some free ticket giveaway on ABC Classic FM.  The first gallery had a scattering only of patrons, mostly (including me) in the cheaper seats. I would be surprised if more than about 150 of the (generous estimate) 600 in the audience were genuine, paying punters.  And with so many empty seats going begging, the cheapest tickets were still about $65. 

This wouldn’t annoy me so much, except that it is such a waste, and because the TSO management are happy to proclaim their Sydney tours as a great success (which they might be, artistically) when, from a management and box-office point of view, they are a total failure.  Clearly the price-points are totally wrong, the publicity is going nowhere, and they could learn a lot from airlines about ways of filling empty seats.  Public money has been spent: if they can’t sell seats, they should be giving them away.

The TSO is coming back to Sydney again in 2008, but I am not convinced that their approach (which is largely Mozart and more Mozart, plus the Mendelssohn piano concerti and violin concerto) will prove any more successful without some more fundamental rethink about these matters.

Perhaps the houses will be better tomorrow night and on Saturday. I shall report here in due course.  Unless things are much better than tonight, you would be fulfilling a public duty even if you turned up at interval and snuck into the second half for free.  This would at least ameliorate the waste of public funds which every empty seat represents.  Providing I don’t miss the first half again, I am prepared to “spot” for anyone who chooses this course of action, even though (regretfully) I doubt if this will require any particular skill or finessing.

One Response to “Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Sydney”

  1. Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Sydney 2 « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Stumbling on melons Just another WordPress.com weblog « Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Sydney […]

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