Cash only inhibits creativity

Flicking through the Metropolitan Opera programme with its proliferating lists of donors, one is struck dumb by the number of synonyms for stumpers-up of cash: there are founders, benefactors, sponsors, production funders, Golden Horseshoe donors, donors of the Save the Met Broadcasts Campaign, companies participating in the Met Opera Corporate Special Projects Program, and all this before you reach the Patron Program and the Encore Society. Every donation type is calibrated, from "$1,000,000 or more" to $4,000, which seems to be the lowest level at which you receive name recognition.

One might think the place was awash with money. Then one flicks back through the lists of administration, orchestra, chorus, ballet, the six prompters, the three diction coaches, the 40-odd assistant conductors, and astonishment gives way to despair. This kind of operation is surely too large for creative thought. Oh, the orchestra looks, on paper, like an orchestra, the chorus like a chorus and the ballet like a ballet, but the "roster" of artists goes on for ever, and the administration is enough for a city state.

What is crucially missing at the Met, as in most opera houses around the world, is flexibility: a sensible small theatre where new work, together with old work designed for small houses, can be presented without the expenditure of millions of dollars. New work is seldom put on in these mammoth auditoriums, but when it is, it gets money thrown at it with hysterical zeal, in the hope that cash will make up for whatever turns out to be missing from the mix. But the fact that so much cash is flying around only inhibits creativity.

James Fenton writing in today's Guardian. Tan Dun's new opera The First Emperor can be heard on BBC Radio 3 and online tonight in a live relay from the Metropolitan Opera (Jan 13) at 6.30pm UK time. My photo shows Placido Domingo in the opera.

Now, for more on inhibiting creativity take An Overgrown Path to the latest avant-garde tricks.
Image credit Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Publia said…
Thank you for this post. In Chicago I remain amazed at how many inputs are required for a song accompanied by an orchesta, and how many donors are needed in addition to a fairly expensive ticket. Wouldn't it be better to have more music that more people can afford, or is music only for the rich? Well, we all know the answer to that one, but I don't understand enough about the business of music to know where the problem lies. You've given me a little insight here, and I hope you will discuss the solution this problem from time to time, as well as pointing out the problem itself.

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