Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post writes about ballet audiences and ballet orchestras here. The article starts off as a rant about noisy ballet audiences and goes on to blame this on poor ballet orchestras (who are not worth listening to?). Musicians responding to the article find themselves slighted.....

On the audience front Mr Kennicott has, I suspect, heard nothing yet. He should try out the Caucasus region, and Russia, for audience 'participation', with mobile phones ringing (after two or three reminders that they should be switched off), people chatting, very young children in the audience needing to run in and out....I hear a Russian theatre is introducing a device that silences mobile phones. Young children regularly attend concerts, though most in Eastern Europe are better behaved that one might fear. The Vilnius Filharmonija states on its tickets that children under 7 years should not attend evening concerts, but usually that's observed in the breach. I remember well taking my son, aged about 4, to a ballet or opera performance in the middle of a fifth row of an aghast Dortmund opera house. It worked, thankfully.

As for the dodgy ballet orchestras - he has a point. In Vilnius, unfortunately, the opera and ballet orchestra has its moments - not sure how it will cope with 'Valkyrie' in a couple of weeks' time, especially considering our issues with brass instrument playing. It is fine when the orchestra is one like the Vienna Philharmonic which doubles as an opera orchestra, but many opera orchestras just play tum-ti-tum a lot - and much ballet, especially the modern kind, uses seriously demanding music. Which is why people like Boris Eifman like to use taped music. A shame, really - it would be nice for opera orchestras to play some more interesting music, but if their playing isn't up to the dancing on the stage, that distracts from the show.