On Saturday, which is still tonight, to the SSO’s performance of “The Gershwins'” “Porgy and Bess.”
It should have been a triumph but instead much of it was an ordeal because of the extraordinarily heavy-handed approach to amplification of the (many, gifted, visiting) principal singers.
If it weren’t for the price I had paid, the unlikelihood that I would have another opportunity to hear/see this work, and the large number of people I would have had to climb over, I would have walked out long before interval or gone home at half time.
Had I done so, I believe I would have been fully entitled to ask for my money back. Even having stayed, I resent having been held hostage by my regard for the work and still feel very much short-changed and, yes, insulted.
I would have preferred no amplification at all of the singing. I can see a case for it for some of the dialogue. But if there is to be amplification, there needs to be some discrimination and proportion. In the first half, at least, there seemed to be none. All vocalists were brought up to a kind of super-forte, and a generally unremitting loudness prevailed. That is the insult – to us, the audience, to the work and to Art.
There were long faces in the foyers at interval and quite a few people did not return.
It is possible that some words were spoken at interval. Actually I know words were spoken at interval and likely at an earlier stage. It is possible they were now heeded.
Things were marginally better in the second half and there were even a few precious moments of remission or near remission from the electric wall of sound or noise.
For the sake of those going to the remaining performances, I hope there is some further moderation and discrimination in this direction.
Which will be too late for me.
As to how things came to be as bad as they were (in the first half especially tonight though the second half was far from out of the woods), for the time being words fail me but I believe there needs to be some pretty serious soul-searching by all responsible at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, starting from the top and definitely including the people at the sound desk. What were they trying to achieve? Do they know? Do they have any idea?
I guess I may rewrite this in more moderate terms later but right now I am very very disappointed.