Saturday, March 11, 2006

The cult of the arts administrator

Have we reached the point where the arts administrator is more important than the performer?

The glossy colour brochure for the 2006 Norfolk and Norwich Festival features no less than six separate colour photos of the Festival organisers and their friends, with a mugshot of the Festival Director on page 3 before we are allowed a glimpse of any of the performers.

The lavish brochure is matched by some equally lavish prices. Tickets for the Philharmonia Orchestra's gig in the Saint Andrew's Hall, with its 'grin and bear it' acoustics, range from £26 ($47) to a whopping £45 ($81), plus a token few at £5 ($9). Despite this On An Overgrown Path remains a huge supporter of the Festival. Check out the 2006 programme, which runs from 3rd to 14th May and includes The Sixteen performing Victoria's Requiem and a new choral work from Joby Talbot, via this link.

If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Officium live - a triumph of music theatre

6 comments:

RIchard Friedman said...

The prices issue is getting worse. Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI recently played two concerts in a church in Berkeley. $52/ticket. Most annoying was that it was under the management of the University of California Berkeley "CAL Performances", which I assume is subsidised by taxes. (I only hope I'm wrong on this.)

Regardless, $52 is quite a price to pay. Even worse, the same group played nearly the same program a few nights earlier in another church in New York City. I looked it up and the price was $40.

So how can impoverished students and the rest of us afford these prices?

I should add: both concerts in Berkeley were sold out. And, someone I spoke to who WAS there reported that the choice of program and the performance were ho-hum.

This ho-hum factor is something to deal with. Which is why I rarely go to concerts these days, besides the fact I can rarely afford them. For over 35 years I've seen world famous performing groups giving extraordinary concerts in NYC, L.A., Boston, London, etc. But when the same group comes to San Francisco or Berkeley, they usually play Tchaikovsky, and other ho-um repertoire, and then quickly leave town. (Except, of course, for Cecilia B., but her concert prices have gone thru the roof). Why is that? The San Francisco area has some of the most sophisticated concert goers. Yet we're served pablum.

As they say, slightly higher west of the Rockies.

Marcia said...

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Cheers.

SimonT said...

Yes, it's amusing when administrators try to get in on the act (speaking as an arts marketeer myself). It's like theatre brochures that have a letter from the manager (with smiling photo) at the front. Peter Hall or Judi Dench fair enough, but the General Manager? Direct Mail letters signed by the Marketing Manager make me laugh. I mean , who gives a **** That's not going to persuade me to buy a ticket. Still, I mustn't be too harsh on my colleagues - it can feel pretty lonely being an arts administrator. Maybe we shouldn't deny (some of) them their 5 seconds of "fame".

Daniel said...

£45 ?!

Garth Trinkl said...

Richard, I definitely sympathize with you about the ticket prices at Berkeley's CAL Performances. However, I think you will find the presenting organization is largely supported by private individual and corporate donations and probably only modestly through California taxes channeled through the University of California, or student fees. (The CAL Performances Board of Trustees does have two public official members and two student members, so I assume that there is some taxpayer and student fee funding; as well as the heavy corporate, media, and individual funding. Ann Getty (Gordon's wife) is the Chair of this year's Gala Centennial Season and here is the list of corporate sponsors:

http://www.calperfs.berkeley.edu/presents/support_cal_performances/corporate_partners.php

I'm amazed that there don't appear to be student prices! Do any non-rich students attend these elite performing arts events? (Susie Farr, who left CAL Performances to lead the University of Maryland's comparable University of Maryland Performances seems to encourage student attendance. Events are always something like $35 regular/$7 students. Paul Hillier and the Estonian Chamber Choir, this Friday, is $45, 35, 25 / 7 student*):

http://claricesmithcenter.umd.edu/2006/c/performances/performance?rowid=1868

In Washington, D.C., I am now paying $80 to $90 for a pair of the cheapest tickets (which always sell out first and are partially obstructed view) to the Boston Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, which are presented by the heavily corporate influenced Washington Performing Arts Society.
Only heavy letter writing campaigns have kept the Society this year -- unlike past years --from dumbing down its programs compared to what the national and international orchestras program at Carnegie Hall. (I think that San Francisco and Washington are comparably musically conservative cities now. SF used to be more adventurous, but I don't think so any longer.)

Washington is saved by its endowed concert series -- at the Library of Congress, at the National Gallery of Art, and at the Freer-Sackler Galleries of Asian Art. Without these world-class heavily endowed concerts (and Susie Farr's $7 tickets at University of Maryland) only the rich and the elderly (who receive up to a 50% discount at the Kennedy Center) would attend classical musical events in Washington D.C.

Perhaps there could be public funding (like the original Corporation for Public Broadcasting) of regional and city trust funds to provide for more endowment subsidized classical music programming. The market can't seem to do it alone in a fair and enlightening manner.

Pliable said...

And I received an automated email from the Norfolk and Norwich Festival this morning.

It opens with:

Welcome to the Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s email bulletin. In the weeks leading up to the Festival, you will receive up-to-the-minute news, insider views and great deals on tickets. To stop receiving these emails simply reply with the word 'unsubscribe' in the subject line. Click below to read an introduction to the festival from the director, Jonathan Holloway