SSO does Grimes



On Thursday and Saturday last week to the SSO’s concert performances of Peter Grimes.

That is the far-from-full house from my seat in box W on the Thursday.  The Saturday performance was not much better attended.

I almost didn’t go.  When I took out my subscription last year, the concerts were not part of any series I was going to and were priced at a premium.  I am resistant to that sort of thing.

And that’s a problem for the SSO when it mounts concert performances of operas, especially if it seeks to price them at a level which will allow the orchestra to recoup the costs of a quality cast.  Leaving aside my own price-sensitive resistance – and I went to and greatly enjoyed Opera Australia’s production in 2009 which featured, as did these performances, Stuart Skelton in the title role, it’s clear that many of the SSO’s regular subscribers are not keen on vocal works.

I relented just a week ago when it was convenient (because I was going away) to swap my ticket for the Saint-Saens organ symphony, Chabrier’s Espana and Susan Grahame singing Canteloube – a concert which I’m sure I would also have found enjoyable.  I still had to pay extra, which is a bit outrageous in hindsight given how few seats had really been sold.  Not, I might add, that the online booking site disclosed the full picture.  They certainly play their cards close to their chest!

On Tuesday, a friend alerted me to a bargain offering buried (with very little fanfare indeed) in an email from the orchestra that I had not bothered to read, and I picked up my box W seat for Thursday’s performance for $49.  I even (haste dictated it: my chosen seats were disappearing) swallowed the booking fee, which at $8.95 really sticks in my craw.

Given the state of the house on both nights, I don’t think the SSO was trying hard enough to shift the tickets.

Lyndon Terracini of Opera Australia will doubtless consider his antipathy to mounting Britten productions vindicated.  I won’t say he has been proved right – more that he will have had his prejudices confirmed.

I’m glad I went and it was worth going twice.


3 Responses to “SSO does Grimes”

  1. lamaliminalbeing Says:

    … it’s clear that many of the SSO’s regular subscribers are not keen on vocal works

    Perhaps that is a bit sweeping. Elektra and Pique Dame for example sold well iirc. The problem is, as you say, with Britten, and i would add some slack marketing and ticketing by SSO. I clicked on the SSO website on Saturday morning (the reviews were just coming out) to buy an extra for that night and, for all intents and purposes, you were lead to believe there were no tickets, aka sold out. That all the seating was now in the hands of the SOH might be obvious to some, but not to occasionals.

    Britten was in the opera house from the very beginning, thanks to Sir Edward Downes. Not all were box office smashes, but the audience was there and i would argue growing, or at least sustained, notably for his more ‘approachables’ with good productions – AH, MSND, Screw, BB, DinV …

    I’d go so far as to say that the problem is not in doing Britten, but in not doing Britten. And for that I am pointing at Mr Terracini. They are great moral tales of our time, and well worthy of audience cultivation and sustenance, and the lyrical beauty and emotional expressionism of something like Grimes is unequalled in the 20C I reckon.

    • marcellous Says:

      As to my sweeping statement, it’s a matter of degree but there are definitely orchestral followers who aren’t keen on vocal music and the orchestra has to find a different public to plug that gap.

  2. lamaliminalbeing Says:

    oooh, I think we’re in the photo.

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