Beethoven with your beer

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/03/revolutionising-classical-music

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One thought on “Beethoven with your beer

  1. Vida: A growing number of Opera-goers are gripping about how one particularly atrocious singer ruined the whole show for them. Oftentimes a critic will cry: “The staging was fantastic, but that tenor was horrendous!” While this disappointment wouldn’t be surprising at your local community theatre, it’s a shocking failure for venues like Met, La Scala and Chicago Lyric.

    Why would so many A-list Opera houses struggle with this same issue? Is there some commonality between them? As it turns out, there is!

    Casting boards at major opera houses don’t run mass auditions in the way the directors of Broadway show might. Instead, they contact their desired leads years in advance — mostly without any auditions at all. I wonder when Anna Netrebko was last required to audition for a role.

    Some bigger houses cast half a decade in advance. This strategy is lucrative for a handful of prominent singers, but unsuccessful for the majority of others.

    While opera houses appear to be making gains in snatching the most desirable singers before their competitors, the practice of advanced casting ultimately ruins the opera-going experience.

    German-born Impresario and former General Manager of the Met Rudolph Bing might be called the originator of the advanced casting routine as late as the 1960’s when he would cast future seasons during the spring. Now, modern casting boards scramble to book members of the shriveling pool of supposed world-class singers three, four or five years in advance.

    Meanwhile, singers who haven’t yet received their big breaks, yet are still worthy of lead roles, are left in the dust. It seems the only way to sneak into the elite cluster of performers would be to land an understudy gig for an ailing superstar.

    However, a lot can happen in two to five years that could change the landscape of available opera stars. For instance a singer could develop nodes, have a baby, overbook their schedule or drop dead. The issue is that firing performers is becoming increasingly difficult because opera contracts appear bulletproof.

    Even if an entire show sags due to a single person’s performance, the only way to nix them is to pay out the original singers contract and pay a new artist’s fees.

    So, instead of firing old performers, opera houses allow their self-inflicted streams of sloppy shows to drag on, much to the chagrin of their audiences, who pay hundreds for their seats.

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