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Informal concerts in 2021 not kind to San Diego

From Mainly Mozart to the San Diego Symphony to San Diego Opera, outdoor venues were the call and cause

Dressing the chorus of Lohengrin in mouse costumes does not make it relevant. It makes it ridiculous.
Dressing the chorus of Lohengrin in mouse costumes does not make it relevant. It makes it ridiculous.

This is the time of year when we ordinarily take a look back over the previous season and select the top concerts. We could do that, but 2021 was not an ordinary year for classical music, at least not in San Diego. On the one hand, that is an obvious statement. On the other hand, we can recognize that 2021 must not become the new normal.

There is a temptation to take what we are given in the arts and classical music and to then call it wonderful. And what we were predominately given in 2021 was classical music in outdoor venues. From Mainly Mozart to The San Diego Symphony to San Diego Opera, outdoor venues were the call and cause. Within the context of 2021, those outdoor venues were sufficient. But they were still far from wonderful when we consider what the true classical music and opera experience is — and has been.

Video:

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin

(Bayreuth Festival 2010) 3 Hours 29 Minutes

Musikalische Leitung: Andris Nelsons, Chorleitung: Eberhard Friedrich, Lohengrin: Jonas Kaufmann,

(Bayreuth Festival 2010) 3 Hours 29 Minutes 
Musikalische Leitung: Andris Nelsons, Chorleitung: Eberhard Friedrich, Lohengrin: Jonas Kaufmann,

Outdoor venues have a certain appeal. They are more casual, and therefore more accessible to those who are yet to be initiated into the classical world. In theory, this will bring more people into the classical fold. But there is no evidence that that is the case.

What about those who prefer a more formal affair and value the ancient traditions? One of the defining qualities of our current culture, in general, is a disdain for the formalities of tradition. We can see it everywhere, from the technological interruptions of traditional media, commerce, and industry to acclaimed movies based on comic book characters. Even in the concert hall and opera house, a sense of informality is beginning to become the new normal.

A system that is overly traditional will die of stagnation, but a system that is devoid of tradition is just another name for chaos. New and powerful ideas can be birthed from chaos, but there must be a structure — that is, a tradition — into which those ideas can be integrated. If not, those new and powerful ideas will be swallowed by the surrounding chaos.

Orchestral and operatic music organizations are always striving to find an ever-moving target named relevance. The relevance of the arts has been established since the Greeks began writing tragedies. Relevance does not reside in clapping between movements or avant-garde opera productions or outdoor venues. The relevance of classical music and opera is within classical music and opera themselves.

Some new ideas have been birthed in 2021, again, mainly around the idea of outdoor venues. These ideas can be useful if they are integrated into the tradition of listening to a classical concert within an enclosed space with no amplification or ambient noises from the city at large. As we look to 2022, the hope is that San Diego’s classical music and opera will return to their appropriate indoor venues.

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Dressing the chorus of Lohengrin in mouse costumes does not make it relevant. It makes it ridiculous.
Dressing the chorus of Lohengrin in mouse costumes does not make it relevant. It makes it ridiculous.

This is the time of year when we ordinarily take a look back over the previous season and select the top concerts. We could do that, but 2021 was not an ordinary year for classical music, at least not in San Diego. On the one hand, that is an obvious statement. On the other hand, we can recognize that 2021 must not become the new normal.

There is a temptation to take what we are given in the arts and classical music and to then call it wonderful. And what we were predominately given in 2021 was classical music in outdoor venues. From Mainly Mozart to The San Diego Symphony to San Diego Opera, outdoor venues were the call and cause. Within the context of 2021, those outdoor venues were sufficient. But they were still far from wonderful when we consider what the true classical music and opera experience is — and has been.

Video:

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin

(Bayreuth Festival 2010) 3 Hours 29 Minutes

Musikalische Leitung: Andris Nelsons, Chorleitung: Eberhard Friedrich, Lohengrin: Jonas Kaufmann,

(Bayreuth Festival 2010) 3 Hours 29 Minutes 
Musikalische Leitung: Andris Nelsons, Chorleitung: Eberhard Friedrich, Lohengrin: Jonas Kaufmann,

Outdoor venues have a certain appeal. They are more casual, and therefore more accessible to those who are yet to be initiated into the classical world. In theory, this will bring more people into the classical fold. But there is no evidence that that is the case.

What about those who prefer a more formal affair and value the ancient traditions? One of the defining qualities of our current culture, in general, is a disdain for the formalities of tradition. We can see it everywhere, from the technological interruptions of traditional media, commerce, and industry to acclaimed movies based on comic book characters. Even in the concert hall and opera house, a sense of informality is beginning to become the new normal.

A system that is overly traditional will die of stagnation, but a system that is devoid of tradition is just another name for chaos. New and powerful ideas can be birthed from chaos, but there must be a structure — that is, a tradition — into which those ideas can be integrated. If not, those new and powerful ideas will be swallowed by the surrounding chaos.

Orchestral and operatic music organizations are always striving to find an ever-moving target named relevance. The relevance of the arts has been established since the Greeks began writing tragedies. Relevance does not reside in clapping between movements or avant-garde opera productions or outdoor venues. The relevance of classical music and opera is within classical music and opera themselves.

Some new ideas have been birthed in 2021, again, mainly around the idea of outdoor venues. These ideas can be useful if they are integrated into the tradition of listening to a classical concert within an enclosed space with no amplification or ambient noises from the city at large. As we look to 2022, the hope is that San Diego’s classical music and opera will return to their appropriate indoor venues.

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