There are some real concerns out there regarding the future of many classical music organizations. I don’t want to come off as unsympathetic, but the destruction of these organizations by the COVID-19 situation won’t mean that much in the grand scope of classical music .
Organizations in large urban settings will continue to survive. I think the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera will be okay, but if things end up going badly, my personal experience of classical music will remain somewhat unchanged.
Many of us listen to classical music all day every day. That habit is the primary function of classical music fans. Going to the symphony or opera is a secondary function. Of the two, live opera has the most to gain over its recorded version.
If COVID-19 takes out our San Diego music organizations, I'll travel to LA. I used to regularly travel up to Los Angeles to go to the LA Philharmonic and LA Opera. I would rather travel a few minutes instead of a few hours, but without a local option, I’d travel for concerts in Orange County or LA.
The one thing missing when listening to recordings is any sense of excitement in the room. There is no buzz in the air when watching an opera on YouTube. Yet I’m afraid this is going to be our reality for the foreseeable future.
Before the shelter-in-place order was put in place, attendance was down at the early March concerts I went to. Classical music audiences, as has been discussed to no end, tend to be seniors. As we all know, seniors are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19.
Are audiences going to come straight back to the concert hall? I’d like to think so, but I don’t see that happening. No, ticket sales aren’t the entire picture. However, there needs to be an audience.
Who is going to support concerts which have no audience? Without an audience, there won’t be any funding unless our local, state, and federal governments suddenly decide to channel public money toward classical music.
I’m afraid I don’t have any answers for how this will settle. I know that my primary enjoyment of classical music will continue to be daily listening to recordings.
Included here are YouTube videos of some of my favorite recordings.
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Münchner Philharmoniker conducted by Sergiu Celibidache
Live Suntory Hall, Tokyo 18 October 1990
Gergiev · Vienna Philharmonic · Salzburg Festival 2005
Mahler - Symphony No.2
Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra - Gustavo Dudamel
Beethoven: Symphony No.9
Solti – London Philharmonic Orchestra
Tristan und Isolde
WWV 90, Act III: Act III Scene 3
Mario del Monaco & Gabriella Tucci - No! Pagliaccio non son! - Tokyo 1961