For months now, the acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming, her recording company and her public relations agency have been working hard to make one thing clear: “Dark Hope,” her new Decca recording of indie rock songs, is not a crossover project.
Like anyone involved in the opera world, I’ve done my time trying to explain to bemused friends and strangers what precisely is the point of it all. Ever since I was seduced by it, I’ve been as much of an evangelist as any convert.
Is it possible to enjoy a music festival if you’re not much into music? Talk to devotees of Glastonbury’s Green Fields and they’ll wax lyrical about wonderful weekends spent doing weird stuff and never once mention music. Ask anyone at Reading and they’ll laugh.
I. The Same Old Song
At first glance, it appears as though the benefits of a culture abundant with music outweigh the drawbacks tenfold—a rich culture has the potential to whet a fan’s appetite for even more, and may further encourage them to become, themselves, creators of culture.
The cream of British talent suggest how they would transform the traditional concert for a new audience.
It’s almost akin to a papal pronouncement. On Monday the world’s most influential classical music critic, Alex Ross, will deliver the annual Royal Philharmonic Society lecture to the assembled cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall in London, entitled Inventing and Reinventing the Classical Concert.
Modern classical music is so widely disliked by audiences because the human brain struggles to find patterns it needs to understand the compositions as music.
The Metropolitan Opera, which announced its plans for the 2010-11 season on Monday, said Mr. Sellars would make his directing debut at the house with “Nixon in China,” John Adams’s 1987 opera. Meanwhile, a Zeffirelli production — “La Traviata” — will bite the dust.
CLASSICAL music is cool again. How do we know? Because cool people say so. Alex James, the bassist with Brit-pop superstars Blur, wrote in the British tabloid The Sun that “classical music isn’t just for snobs … Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is great lovemaking music, better than Foo Fighters. You’re talking a different class of shag.”
It’s been observed here before, particularly by one commenter, that many of the classical music field’s attempts to be hip and draw in a younger audience are a little embarrassing, or stilted. (I’m putting words in ianw’s mouth here; he raised the point objecting to the term alt-classical. And I have to concur with him that if an orchestra were to use this term in its marketing, my instinct would be to run the other way.)
From time to time, people have mentioned in comments here a French government study that supposedly shows that the French classical music audience is very young, with a median age of 38. I’ve never been able to find the source for this number. From some of what’s been said, I get the idea that it’s on a flyer handed out at concerts.