Friday, June 6, 2014

Classical Newbies of Raleigh

10:01 AM
A sold out house = a beautiful sight
A few months ago, as the San Diego Opera fiasco unfolded, I read this post on the blog of Kim Pensinger Witman, fabulous director of Wolf Trap Opera.

It took me over an hour tonight to read all of the various outpourings on my Facebook feed. [ ... ] The vehemence and emotion is overwhelming. It almost seems more violent than during last fall’s NYCO death spiral. Perhaps we can no longer as easily hide behind the 2008 recession as the primary reason [opera houses are failing]. Perhaps we're finally being pushed over the edge.

Yikes. But good news--for opera, for San Diego, for Raleigh & for readers of this blog--after the jump.

In her post, KPW goes on to analyze opera's near disappearance from the mainstream cultural scene. It has to do with poor financial planning on the part of opera houses, she says, and it has to do with music (or lack thereof) in the schools. But, she says, there's a third, more nebulous underlying problem. Maybe if it were solved it wouldn't be such a fight to get music into schools in the first place, or to get opera administrators to plan their businesses in more practical ways. Maybe if it were solved opera could rise above those problems more easily.

And then, there’s the part of the discussion to which I feel I can contribute. It’s focused on those people who are predisposed to love opera, and who probably would’ve become fans in an earlier generation. The ones who crave our particular brand of expression, drama, music, and art. They are intellectually and emotionally curious, and their psyches resonate sympathetically with our art form. No, opera is not for everyone, but it is and always has been for these people. And somehow fewer and fewer of them seem to be finding us. Or if they do, something is proving to be enough of a liability to keep them from coming back and forming a long-term relationship. 

To solve the mystery, Wolf Trap is creating a study--a project for which they're currently recruiting "Opera Newbies" who fit the above description. These newcomers will receive free tickets to operas in Wolf Trap's next season, and from their experiences, Wolf Trap will try to glean insight about what's missing in the way opera is marketed these days.

As a singer, I find the problems opera is facing totally fascinating. But what about classical music in general? On a larger scale, the whole genre is facing the disinterest of the type of people who, 100 years ago, would have been lining concert halls. Even those folks interested in intellectually challenging, rich, artistic, dramatic cultural experiences aren't listening to instrumental classical music in huge numbers either these days.

While our artistically, intellectually, dramatically rich musical scene is exploding here in Raleigh and all, I wondered--why not do a study of our own? Here's what I'm envisioning:

1. Assemble a small group of people who love music or performance art of some kind, but are classical n00bs. Hopefully, someone will be like, "I have a classical Pandora station. I can't wait to learn more about this!" and someone will be like, "classical music SUCKS. I can't wait to tell you why people should not be listening to this." Someone will be a contemporary musician and someone will be an accountant. Et cetera. I'm looking for a range of perspectives, but hopefully nobody will have more than a Josh Groban CD and a couple years of piano lessons under their belt.

2. Create a personal playlist for each participant, based on what I learn about their musical tastes and preconceptions.

3. Interview each one, or invite them to guest post, for your amusement on the blog.

4. Take/send each participant to a variety of classical and art music performances in the Triangle during the 2014-2015 season.

5. Interview them again.

6. Ruminate publicly about what it all means for the marketing & consumption of classical music in the 21st century and in Raleigh & markets like it.

In short, I'm looking for a few good men and women who are new to classical music and also amazing--extra points if they write well, and if they have their own local projects or shows to promote. Readers, do you know such a person? Are YOU such a person, who's nonetheless stumbled across a classical music blog for just such a time as this?

Scroll down to the comment box or up to the "contact" button, dear readers, to nominate your friends or yourself--

Next week's art music events and a new Performer Profile coming soon--glad to be back! Oh yeah, and if you didn't know, San Diego's gonna make it after all. :)

About the author

I'm Andrea. Everything you need to know is here.