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#16 Clara 76

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 04:01 AM

Sorry about that... I didn't know because I had to have surgery and therefore, didn't find out until we got into the theatre.

While we would all have preferred to use the CSO, it is better to be financially responsible. I am sure we will continue to use the CSO in the future. We have a long-standing relationship with them; both organizations have helped each other, and both organizations have had to face financial difficulties in years past.

BalletMet is very fortunate to have been able to meet and surpass budgets without a deficit in 26 years. In these arts-unfriendly economic times, sometimes, you've gotta do, what you've gotta do.

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#17 bart

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 04:11 AM

After overhearing very positive intermission comments about the 40-plus member orchestra during a visiting Russian production of Sleeping Beauty, I know that people really do appreciate and respond to live music in a way they never will to canned music. "Isn't it wonderful to have a live orchestra!" Etc., etc. And that was with one of the most dreadful orchestral performances (conductor and certain players) I have ever heard. There was a liveliness of attention and response in the house that was palpable. At least for the first act.

Yet, as the postings on the "women and ballet" topic show, high ticket prices -- which pay for such wonderful enhancements -- are keeping many ballet lovers from the theaters. Company costs are so much higher than ticket revenue, even without a live orchestra. Yet the live music -- if featured in the publicity -- might add signficantly to sales. Quite the dilemma.

#18 Clara 76

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 10:15 PM

You make some good points Bart.

What is your opinion of ballet companies who have their own orchestras as opposed to those who hire the local symphony?

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#19 Helene

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 10:55 PM

I'm going to chime in on that question, Clara76.

Maintaining a ballet orchestra requires a critical mass of performances -- otherwise the musicians can't support themselves -- and takes up a significant chunk of the annual budget. It's not possible for a ballet company to say, well, we had a deficit this year, so recorded music next year, but maybe we'll re-assemble an orchestra again in two years. There are lots of contracts to be broken, not to mention orchestra re-building and general discontent from the audience.

What local orchestras allow a ballet company is a combination of flexibility -- i.e, the ability to "book" the orchestra according to budget and schedule -- and quality. For organizations like Ballet Arizona and Oregon Ballet Theatre, it allows them access to second-rank, but excellent orchestras (Arizona Symphony Orchestra and Portland Symphony Orchestra), who tend to honor the fidelity of the score and who are led by first-rate conductors. For regional orchestras, ballet performances give the players additional opportunities to earn money, often playing scores that are familiar (Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Bach's Concerto for Two Violins) and require less rehearsal and independent study, and the smaller number of performances (one or two weekends, apart from Nutcracker) actually can be an advantage in fitting into a fall-spring schedule.

Two downsides of using a local orchestra are that the orchestra schedule can dictate the ballet schedule, and that a symphony orchestra is not born trained to be sensitive to the musical needs of the dancers.

#20 bart

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 04:37 AM

Here in south Florida there seems to be a pool of excellent classical musicians that is larger than the obvious demand. The bankruptcy and disbandment of the Florida Philharmonic several years ago has added to this pool.

Last year Miami City Ballet got a donation that permitted live music for much of the season. The Florida Classiscal Orchestra was contracted for this and did a wonderful job. But, the money was spent, and that was it. Back to recorded music in 2005. Ordinary revenue -- given the fact that ticket prices are highly subsidized by donations and fund-raising -- apparently does not permit longer-term solutions.

Florida is a co-called right-to-work state, so only a few groups are unionized, and fewer have collective bargaining agreements. I presume that this makes it cheaper to hire them. On the other hand, it also makes them seem less permanent, more vulnerable to the constant ups and downs of arts funding, and therefore more disposable.

The effect on quality? I don't know, but performance levels were ocnsistently high, and I noticed a surprising rapport between orchestra and dancers at each performance I attended. This despite the relative short-term quality of their relationship. Maybe the youth of the orchestra and the relative novelty/excitement of being in a pit were factors. Certainly they did not have the opportunity of suffering from the oh-no-not-another-Swan-Lake syndrome. Much of this music, however familiar to dance audiences, may not be part of the regular repertoire of symphony musicians. And they may enjoy the novelty.

P.S. I've never understood why the NYCB ballet orchestra, which has the chance to play such a varied repertoire of really exciting music, has such a hard time maintaining quality and energy. Could it be overwork, given the number of performances and the very large size (and, often, difficulty) of the repertoiore?

#21 Helene

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:55 AM

P.S.  I've never understood why the NYCB ballet orchestra, which has the chance to play such a varied repertoire of really exciting music, has such a hard time maintaining quality and energy. Could it be overwork, given the number of performances and the very large size (and, often, difficulty) of the repertoiore?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's an interesting point. Although the union contract limits the number of performances per week, they are still playing week in and week out for 13-14 weeks in the Winter Season, and 8 weeks in the Spring Season, not including rehearsals. While the seasons of larger symphonies are longer -- Seattle Symphony, for example, performs from mid-September through the beginning of July and is also the orchestra for the Seattle Opera for five 2.5 week runs during the same period -- they tend to perform three or four times per week (Thurs-Sun is the standard schedule), with occasional pops concert and school or touring performance thrown in.

Full-time symphonies do have the advantage of first-rate music directors and many guest conductors over the course of the season, which along with focus on a limited number of pieces every every week, can keep them on their toes and provide interpretive challenges. They may be at the service of the conductor-of-the-week or music director, but they are not subservient to another art form. And, except for opera performances, they are on stage, not in the pit.

#22 Clara 76

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 02:11 PM

Thank you for your valuable information. I was curious because I have read posts where people complained quite a bit about NYCB's orchestra. We are very fortunate with the CSO because they are actually quite good.

I'm not sure however, whether having them would in fact, increase ticket sales.

I am just hoping for 2 things:
1. For an end of the economy problems
&
2. For the arts as a whole to do a better job of making their case

I firmly believe that the arts need to be incorporated into our system of education here. I firmly believe that we'd have a more intelligent, more civilized, and therefore, more peaceful culture.

Clara 76

#23 Amy Reusch

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:16 PM

Two downsides of using a local orchestra are that the orchestra schedule can dictate the ballet schedule, and that a symphony orchestra is not born trained to be sensitive to the musical needs of the dancers.


Actually in some smaller cities, the two entities might already be sharing the same venue...so that the ballet company might already be juggling it's schedule around the orchestra's... That's one sacrifice I'd be willing to see a company make in order to have live music...

Regarding to sensitivity to dancers' needs musically... is it impossible for the ballet company to retain it's own conductor? Would that be an extremely strange thing, to have the local symphony orchestra conducted by the ballet's conductor rather than it's own? Is it so different from having the orchestra conducted by a guest conductor?

Whenever I see ballet companies & orchestras battling it out, I can't help think that they're shooting themselves in the foot.(feet?)... I can't think who better to increase each other's audience share than those two organizations supporting each other? Ballet gives so many young people a handle on classical music... and a live orchestra adds such a dimension to the dancing... they should be working together as much as possible. Perhaps to counter the subordinate issues, the ballet ought to lend dancers to perform light choreography at symphony evenings, just hang the lighting and the amount of space to dance in... consider it a thankyou to the orchestra cramming itself into the pit. I understand the Hartford Symphony just had a very successful performance with some ballet students of the Hartt School. Of course there were problems of no space, etc.... but even under the compromised circumstances, the musicians and the audience were very enthusiastic (or so I hear).

#24 carbro

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:39 PM

You make some very good points. Pooling resources, more performing opportunities all around . . . Amy for President!

Regarding to sensitivity to dancers' needs musically... is it impossible for the ballet company to retain it's own conductor?  Would that be an extremely strange thing, to have the local symphony orchestra conducted by the ballet's conductor rather than it's own?  Is it so different from having the orchestra conducted by a guest conductor?

Can't imagine any reason why it would be strange. :blink: Except that over time, the ballet conductor would be a more familiar personality than most (other) guest conductors.

#25 Helene

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 08:20 AM

Re: amplification and live music, Boston Lyric Opera is planning to mike the stage (but not the performers) of the Schubert Theater, according to this article in the Boston Globe.

Organizations have traditionally sworn that amplification is a response to acoustical failures in concert/opera venues and substandard acoustics in converted venues, like converted movie houses and all-purpose community theaters. The exceptions I've seen have been when young singers are deliberately miked to save their voices -- noted in this article -- and where there is speech -- i.e. a production of The Magic Flute by Vancouver Opera where the dialogue was miked.

Since the age of modern recording, opera singers have chosen to record works in the studio before their voice was ready to carry over the orchestra in a live venue or works that they never performed onstage, fearing the roles would wreck their voices.

There are devoted modern opera fans who can't bear to hear the great opera singers and orchestras in the pre high-fidelity stage because of the limited tone and dynamic range and crackles, pops, and hisses, or who dislike anything that isn't recorded with the clarity of sound that is specific to CD recording. My concern is that modern audiences are so used to amplified sound that they won't be able to listen to a voice or any kind of orchestra without that "sound." So much is determined by what we're used to. When I was growing up, the idea of lipsynching was considered cheap, and the presence of a head microphone was an embarrassment. MTV has made lipsynching/air guitar the norm to the extent that Edvin Marton had to insist that he play the violin live to recorded accompaniment at the World Figure Skating Championship Exhibition Gala. There's no visual discrepancy between Sarah Brightman appearing on a platform dressed in an elaborate fantasy dress, bejeweled with a head microphone.

I, personally, blame the entire phenomenon on Heather Locklear, who made it fashionable to show dark roots with a blond dye job. ( :) )

#26 bart

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:37 PM

Another imaginative solution to the "live music" problem -- use a university symphony. Today's news links (April 19) includes a review of a performance by the Eugene (Oregon) Ballet in which the music -- including Dvorak and Rimsky-Korsakov -- was provided by the University of Oregon Symphony. There must be many places where this option would make sense.

#27 Ari

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 04:01 PM

Amplification has been used in Broadway musicals for years now, without any reasonable justification that I know of. My guess is that producers, if challenged, would argue that today's singers haven't been trained to project in the same way that the older singers were, but I don't buy that. If you want a career on Broadway, as so many people do, you train yourself to meet its demands. Perhaps the answer lies in the increasing use of film and television stars who have not had years of experience on the stage. Producers want them for the box office, and they do bring in audiences.

But for someone who isn't used to blaring amplification, the results can be painful. I staggered out of Movin' Out convinced that I'd be needing a hearing aid from then on. :)

#28 carbro

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 05:07 PM

But for someone who isn't used to blaring amplification, the results can be painful.  I staggered out of Movin' Out convinced that I'd be needing a hearing aid from then on.  :icon8:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There's your answer! People who regularly attend not only rock but also Broadway shows have been deafened and now require amplification.

I saw the sensational, Juilliard-trained Audra McDonald :wub: in "Marie Christine" at the relatively snug Vivian Beaumont Theater. I was seated in the second row side of the in-the-round auditorium. How disconcerting, then, when I saw the actors just a few feet in front of me but heard the voices coming from somewhere else!!! It did not enhance the experience at all. :D

#29 bart

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 05:00 PM

Some depressing information RE the costs of live music are contained in Joan Acocella's review of Mark Morris, Martha Graham, and Nrityagram Dance Ensemable visits to New York City. (New Yorker, May 9, 2005):

"One thing that united all these performances was live music. The Graham company had an orchestra of twenty-eight; the Morris troupe, six instrumentalists and eight singer; Nrityagam, three instrumentalists and a vocalist. I don't know how Nrityagram works out its finances, but the Morris company's four performances was thirty-five thousand dollars; the musicians for the Graham troupe's two-week season cost a hundred and eight-four thousand dollars."

"In these days of near-zero public funding for dance, one assumes that the companies more or less killed themselves to raise the money, and the result made all the difference in the world. Dance audiences, I believe, have now got used to taped music, and you can get used to it, the same way you can learn to eat Spam instead of ham, or breathe smog instead of air. Your life is just diminished, and you don't realize it until you see concerts such as we saw last month."

Morris tours with live music. Will Graham, at those prices?

#30 amitava

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 06:26 PM

The following Ballet Companies in Texas use a live orchestra:

Ballet Austin
Texas Ballet Theatre (Dallas Ft. Worth)
Metropolitan Classical Ballet (Ft. Worth)
Houston Ballet

BA does use recorded music for a few of their pieces that use modern music, but that is usually 1-2 performances a year. I think HB shares the orchestra with the Opera, but is seperate from the local symphony. I am not sure about the DFW based companies - but they perform at the same venue with different orchestras. BA uses Austin Symphony.

I have a related question. From a dancer's prospective, what do most of them feel about live vs. recorded music? From the rehearsals I have attended, there is invariably some fine tuning that seems to take place during every rehearsal between the musicians and dancers. Indian dancers usually prefer a live orchestra as there are several sections in which some degree of improvisation is required - and live music is far more accommodating at times.

But for a fixed composition, does it help the dancers or improve their performance? - purely from a musical prospective, not the energy/ambiance influence, I mean.


By the way did I just read a thread started by Helene indicating that the Pittsburgh Ballet will not be using live music.


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