Does classical music need more theatre?
Alex Ross describes the Simon Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic St. Matthew Passion as his 'DVD of the week (perhaps of the year)'. Peter Sellars is responsible for the direction, or as more accurately described in the DVD credits, the ritualization. My experience of the week (perhaps of the year) was Waiting for Godot at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich in the acclaimed production by the Black-led Talawa Theatre Company. As can be seen from the production photo above this staging combines the visual with the dramatic. That Berlin St. Matthew Passion also has a strong theatrical element, yet many of the attempts to popularise classical music eliminate the theatrical by making it less formal. Does classical music need more, not less, theatre?
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Does classical music need more, not less, theatre? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
Perhaps I'm an old fogey on this question, but I think of two CDs I have of concert performances by Solomon. Put Solomon and Jochum with the BPO together in Brahms' Dminor and you have gripping drama; Solomon and Beinum with the Concertgebouw in the Beethoven Cminor and wonderful improvised humour in the Rondo; Solomon and the Kansas City Philharmonic (a hopeless outfit in those days) a wild roller-coaster of a ride that makes the Horowitz/Toscanini sound tame. In short, I think there is more than enough 'theatre' in great music played by great performers. Distract from the music on these occasions, and all is lost.