Brief notes

Last Friday night, to the SSO, Ashkenazy, Jansen, Dvořák violin concerto, Shostakovich 10 (possible nickname: “I will survive”). Full house. When Mr A announced that March 5 was the anniversary of Stalin’s death, some of the audience burst into applause. I instigated this, though I may not have been the only instigator. To be honest, I did it to liven things up and to get into the spirit of the occasion. It’s not that I don’t feel for those who were cheered by Stalin’s death but I’m probably still marginally glad he survived Hitler, even if he gave him a big hand with the deal over Poland first.

The other comical moment of the evening was when I looked more than once in search of my erstwhile neighbour from last year who has moved to the row behind, and kept catching instead the eye of a visitor, I guess from Singapore. I had stood behind him in the queue at the box office at the Mardi Gras film festival on one occasion and seen him at a few other sessions. I think he must have recognized me, because he kept giving me a very glad eye in return.

There was a shockingly ignorant burst of coughing from right at the front just 2 or 3 seconds before the end of the first movement of the Shostakovich which provoked what I took to be a sarcastic little bow from Mr Ashkenazy and, if they were hoping to record this for posterity, probably a few thousand dollars worth of patching time.

On Wednesday with D to Lady Macbeth of Mstensk. This is the opera that first got Shostakovich into hot water.

When we walked in I had a double take: where was the audience? My neighbour was told by the usher that they were expecting a house of 700, which is a little over 50%, and I suspect even that included an element of papering. There is an enormous orchestra (strings 12-10-7-7-5, I think – might have been only 10 first violins; 2 harps; 3 flutes/piccolos; 4 clarinets; extra brass; etc) and chorus (leavened with more than the usual number of body-beautiful non-singing male extras) and a sizeable cast of principals. My guess is perhaps 130 performers all-up, which economically speaking is hardly an encouraging ratio.

There have been comments elsewhere complaining about those who walk out: I blame much, much more the OA management for failing to take steps to fill the house. The production was always going to be a loss leader: that makes it all the more egregious that public money was wasted by leaving seats empty. Surely something could have been done to attract some of the crowd who went to hear the other end of the DEsCH-Stalin story the previous weekend?

It’s a terrific piece (uneven in parts, but far better than a curate’s egg) and I hope to find time to say more about it and maybe see it again (there are 4 more performances), so perhaps I have an interest in motivating AO to be more realistic about their pricing when there are so many seats going begging. Sir Richard Armstrong was fine but yes, I did miss Mr Hickox. D and I thought the onstage wanking a little overdone, and I thought the bevy of genuflecting babushkas at the father-in-law’s deathbed unnecessarily distracting.

It was a bit of a jolt to realise that it is almost 7 years since I last saw this. Where has the time gone? Perhaps it really is time I bought a new suit.

Thursday to the SSO’s 6.30 series which featured the Leipzig Thomanerchor. This was better than I expected (expecially so far as their capacity to sonically fill the hall was concerned) though there were times when the orchestra sounded more than it should have like a scratch band coming along for the ride – there is a certain Germanic briskness which they did not always catch.

I had been cynical in advance about the SSO palming this choir off on their 6.30 series audience, but it turned out to be a canny move to match the youthful performers and audience. Andrew Ford’s onstage commentary, especially introducing the Mendelssohn setting of Psalm 42 in the second half, was very well-judged, and offered food for thought to all (though perhaps some of his younger listeners might have needed a little more guidance about what he meant by “the bourgeoisie”).

5 Responses to “Brief notes”

  1. Thom Says:

    I remember being at a state music camp in high school and a whole bunch of us sitting around in a dormitory having an extended discussion about what bourgeois and bourgeoisie meant. (Can’t recall how it came up, but it did.) Collectively we weren’t as ill-informed as you’d expect for kids so young.

  2. marcellous Says:

    So what year (academic rather than calendar) were you in then, T?

  3. Thom Says:

    Year 11 or Year 10, I guess.

  4. marcellous Says:

    I was thinking of listeners younger than that.

  5. Foiled! « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] I would like to ask, such as what steps the company took (if any) to get reasonable attendances for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Perhaps someone from the company has even read my own humble blog and anticipated that I too would […]

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