29 February 2008

dog in the manger (High School Musical 2)

Murmurs had reached even my isolated ears that Trinity Lyric Opera was not, after all, going to be allowed to give the previously announced northern California staged premiere of Nixon in China this summer, and last week, while catching up on Soho the Dog, I saw the rumors confirmed. Another advantage of blogging: I can find out what's going on in my backyard by reading Boston-based blogs.

It's customary to say, "I'd love to know the real story here!" but, you know, I really wouldn't. Whatever pettiness, egomania, and backstabbing were involved (fingers have been pointed at San Francisco Opera), the situation has obviously put a struggling (I assume all arts organizations are struggling) small group in an awkward position (they were already selling tickets! to me!) and has deprived local opera-goers of a performance that easily would have been more interesting than three-quarters of SFO's upcoming season. As it is, Trinity Lyric will be performing Robert Ward's The Crucible instead, which I've never heard but is probably more interesting than only half of the upcoming SFO season.

By the way, I find it strange that no one from SFO has contacted me about my failure to renew. I'm not talking about responding to my blog entry; I have no reason to believe that anyone there has read it or knows who I am; also, as I've pointed out, there really is no response they can give to what I wrote. I mean, they can't claim they're giving me a Toscarific, Traviatastic season that I'm going to eat up with a spoon and a side of fries while begging for more. I mean that no one has bothered to contact a subscriber (and minor-level donor) of over fifteen years to find out why I haven't sent my money in yet. Topnotch marketing there, and thanks for caring about your faithful subscribers.

Speaking of caring, Magda of La Rondine just keeps on giving in the statcounter.com department. The other day I got this search: "im thinking of marring a rich female". I assume that was an error for "marrying a rich female", but it works either way.

20 comments:

Lisa Hirsch said...

You know, I stopped subscribing a few years ago and have never been contacted either - a fact that I mentioned with a roll of the eyes to my dinner companion last night.

pjwv said...

What I find odd is that Gockley has made this big deal out of reaching out to the audience -- having the ushers say Good Night, staying for discussions afterwards (too late for the travelers, pal!), and so forth. You'd think they'd be able to pull tracking information from their computer for people who have subscribed for a certain number of years, donors, etc, and then reach out to them through the contact information they also have. I mean, if they can have people calling all the time for money, you'd think they could have someone sending postcards or writing an e-mail or something.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think I will email them and offer my reasons.

pjwv said...

Let me know if you hear anything back. I'm not sure what they can do about it at this point, though; I don't think anyone can just throw Troyens or something on the schedule.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hah!

They can't do a thing about the schedule; I'd write them more because it's so strange that they don't bother to ask or track this sort of thing.

pjwv said...

Yeah. On the one hand, it might be easier for them not to know, given the widely divergent and contradictory desires of the opera-going public, and what most of those people really want is for it to be thirty years ago so they can be young and listening to now-dead or retired singers. Not much anyone can do about that. On the other hand, you'd think since I've been such a long-time faithful subscriber they'd be a little curious about what happened.

osborne said...

The renewal deadline isn't until mid-March, so they may contact you yet. If not, shame on them!!

I found out via another blog and some additional research yesterday that, in addition to the

trittico
salome
trovatore
fanciulla
makropoulos case
peter grimes
possible ring continuation?

they are also doing a Fille du Regiment with Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez in fall 2009.

pjwv said...

Osborne,
Argh! You know that song Patsy Cline sings, Why Can't He Be You? I feel that way about that season. Any one (OK, maybe two) of those placed in this season would have solved my problem. I just don't want to (or am not in a position to) pay for a placeholder season while I wait for next year.
Even Fille du Regiment looks tempting with that cast. I saw the last Filles here (which were also K Battle's last operatic performances) and thought the opera was a mildly entertaining vaudeville (here's the drinking song, here's the soldiers' march, here's a love number) but not something I was pining to see again. It's definitely one to go to for those singers. I'm not sure I've heard Damrau live (I'll be embarrassed if she's sung here and it's slipped my mind) but Florez, as we all know, is fantastic -- I've heard him do the famous Fille aria in recital and it's pretty spectacular.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I believe this will be Damrau's debut here. I've seen her, as the Fiakermilli, but not locally.

I've never seen Fille, so....

pjwv said...

Lisa, Given your general feelings about Donizetti, I don't think Fille is going to win you over. Unless you find it so trifling that you surrender. It's very pleasant, but I can imagine people loving L'Elisir and I have a hard time imagining the same feelings for Fille.

Lisa Hirsch said...

For Florez and Damrau, I'll make the sacrifice - I've never heard him!

osborne said...

Yes, it will be Damrau's debut with SFO. It will also be a role debut for her, according to her own website.

Loved your allusion to Patsy Cline, my favorite singer of all time.

Henry Holland said...

[SFO] has deprived local opera-goers of a performance that easily would have been more interesting than three-quarters of SFO's upcoming season. As it is, Trinity Lyric will be performing Robert Ward's The Crucible instead, which I've never heard but is probably more interesting than only half of the upcoming SFO season.

Hahahaha.

On the one hand, it might be easier for them not to know, given the widely divergent and contradictory desires of the opera-going public

I got a call about a year ago from the Los Angeles Opera, a nice lady that wanted to know if I wanted to subscribe and all the benefits. I said "Why would I subscribe? Last year, you did *three* Puccini operas! I love Puccini, but that's idiotic".

The call kinda went downhill from there; I definitely was not a potential patron that her script that she was reading from accounted for.

I understand why opera companies love subscriptions, but I think they're becoming increasingly less viable. For me, they'd have to pay me to see bel canto or baroque stuff, I simply refuse to pay for stuff I have zero interest in hearing. I also don't know a year in advance what my schedule is like, so I just buy singles.

I went to the Ullmann/Zemlinsky double bill last night, sat dead center in the very last row of the balcony ($25) and the sound was terrific, the sightlines good, perfectly acceptable. Too bad the Ullmann piece was about as fluffy as Fille du Regiment, but Der Zwerg was quite powerful.

pjwv said...

Lisa, You know the story about Henri IV converting to Catholicism to gain the throne of France and quipping, "Paris is worth a mass?" Florez is worth a Fille. I'm sure Damrau is too, but I haven't heard her and I've heard him live several times.

Osborne, You inspired me to pull out some of my Patsy Cline CDs. I have a two-disc set called "The Ultimate Collection" but they're all called something like that. I wish there were a solid box set of her -- do you know of one?

Henry, I agree about subscriptions -- they usually work for me, because I'm afraid I pretty much build my life around theater-going, and I have a pretty broad range of the acceptable -- for example, I love baroque opera, and also bel canto. But they really need to get more flexible in their offerings. I've suggested before that they allow you to opt out of one or two operas per series, or something like that. There are works I wouldn't mind seeing every year, but I'm sure those are exactly the ones someone else would pay to avoid. Yeah, I'm feeling that I need to stop paying for things that don't excite me.

I envy you the Ullman/Zelinsky! All I've heard of Ullman is Der Kaiser von Atlantis (and the Holderlin-Lieder, from the Entartete Musik series). So I hadn't thought of him as writing fluffy pieces, but I guess he might have before the Nazis hauled him off.

osborne said...

http://www.amazon.com/Patsy-Cline-Collection/dp/B000002OIE

It doesn't have absolutely everything - but has some interesting material not available elsewhere and is probably the closest you can come (as far as I know).

I agree with Henry Holland about that double bill in LA, which I went down to see (along with a dreadful Otello). He is lucky to prefer works which are never in danger of selling out! Like pjwv I love many things, especially bel canto - had an idea of going east to hear the Dessay/Florez Fille at the Met this spring. Completely sold out for months, and the scalpers seem to be getting about 3 times face value for tickets. Under these circumstances, one sees the value of subscriptions.

By the way, I saw The Crucible in DC in a marvelous production some years ago. By no means a work of genius, but very powerful, beautifully sung, and I'd love to hear it again.

Henry Holland said...

So I hadn't thought of him as writing fluffy pieces, but I guess he might have before the Nazis hauled him off.

Just barely, maybe a year before he took his final train ride. I wanted to like the piece more than I did, because I liked the music, but the plot is so inconsequential that even at 40 minutes, it seems a bit drawn out. They should have done a true Zemlinsky double bill, done A Florentine Tragedy instead. Or better yet, my favorite Zemlinsky opera, Der Traumgörge.

I agree with Henry Holland about that double bill in LA, which I went down to see (along with a dreadful Otello). He is lucky to prefer works which are never in danger of selling out!

Well, that's one strategy for getting tickets, I guess. :-)

Years ago, I was waiting for standing room tickets to go on sale at SFO and I started talking to the chap in front of me. I mentioned that I wish I'd been in to opera when they did Reimann's Lear in the early 80's with Thomas Stewart (I have a tape of it, it's an incredible performance all around).

The man visibly shuddered and said something like "Oh, I still have nightmares about that! That awful, noisy music! I left after 20 minutes". I laughed and then he told me that there were people fleeing left and right when he was there. Perfect, move on down to the orchestra seats at the intermission!

pjwv said...

Osborne, Thanks for the Patsy Cline link. I knew I should have bought that collection when I first saw it. And good point about subscriptions as a way of ensuring you get to see sold-out performances. Though looking at SFO's next season, I suspect the things I really want to hear are not going to sell out.

Glad to hear you liked the Crucible -- I am looking forward to hearing it in CV this summer. I'm still not sure what's going on with the tickets. I don't know if my Nixon ticket is transferable or if I can get a refund for one of them or what. I e-mailed Trinity Lyric and it sounded as if they're still hashing that out.

Henry, I heard A Florentine Tragedy at SF Symphony a couple of years ago -- yes, it's a wonderful piece, though I didn't think the big twist ending was as surprising as Conlon (who conducted) seemed to think it was.

I don't know why the description of Reiman's Lear as "noisy music" amuses me so much, but it does. I had a similar conversation about Le Grand Macabre with an elderly usher (I think he was 90, and I'm not exaggerating -- nice guy, very sharp). He seemed baffled that I not only loved it, but said that it reminded me of Boheme in some ways (I posted on it early on so I won't repeat myself). But he had a sort of "to each his own" attitude that I thought was fine.

And much less irritating than the young woman behind me who thought she was so cool for being there and kept talking during the performance about how wild she was for going to this and not just the familiar Italian stuff. Yes, I fled forward during the intermission, even though I was already in the fourth row.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I also saw that Florentine Tragedy at SFS; great piece, wonderful performances. James Johnson's a very fine singer and ought to be getting more opera-house work.

I'm not subscribing this coming year to make sure I can get a sub the following year. The current trend across the classical music biz is declining subscription levels, because so many more people are buying on impulse or just don't want to plan ahead. I already looked over the SFS short subscriptions and decided no way, unless I get supercheap tickets in the stratosphere. I could do that, given that the sound is so good in the balcony and that I find Opera
Vision perfectly reasonable, but...I can just stand, except for the stuff I really care about.

I'd do the same thing Henry did, and lecture someone calling me to sell me tickets. I mean, I already HAVE: I got a call offering me orchestra side seats for a very low price, and said I couldn't be paid to sit there because it makes my neck sore and anyway I don't want to hear the sound bouncing off the side walls.

pjwv said...

Lisa, I have to say, one good side of buying individual tickets is that I can try out different areas of the opera house -- I've been sitting in the same seat (Orchestra D5) for years, and it does seem as if the sound can be a bit dead. I might even try the balcony. When I first subscribed I was in the last row of the First Balcony -- I think they call that Dress Circle here -- but I do like to be able to see.
One thing I like about subscriptions is that I have the tickets, and if I have them I'll go. If I don't buy them in advance, I often end up just wanting to go home.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Where to sit in War Memorial is a tough call, given the conflicting demands of seeing vs. hearing. The sound is most immediate in the balcony.

I agree about subscriptions; I have that same problem, and it's why I've missed a bunch of things I wanted to see over the years.