So the local broadsheet published “the insiders’ guide to the arts” in Saturday’s Spectrum – “From scoring the best seat in the house to what you should wear to the opera, get your year in culture off on the right foot.”
It was an innocuous enough exercise – just space filler for the holidays. But it managed to make me twitchy all the same. Here’s why.
It was presented as a series of plausible questions, with responses from industry professionals.
Theatre: are programs worth the money? which performance in a run should I catch? where can I find innovative new work? do critics consider value for money in their reviews? is it worth buying tickets for previews? how should I enter a row to reach my seat?
Visual Arts: where can I spot the stars of tomorrow? how long should I look at a painting? should I read the caption/label before or after looking at the artwork?
Opera: which opera is the best introduction? what should I wear? should I read about the opera beforehand? should I read the surtitles?
Venues: where are the best seats in the house? (Fortunately Richard Evans didn’t reveal the truly best seats for orchestral concerts in the Sydney Opera House. Phew.)
Classical Music: “Why can’t I clap between movements?” [Yawn] “What should I do if someone near me is coughing (or I am coughing)?” [Double yawn]
You’ll notice I’ve italicised the four questions that relate to some aspect of etiquette or external behaviour. All the other questions are connected to one’s experience of the art form itself. And you’ll also notice that for every art form, except classical music, we have sensible questions that get down to the nub of things.
And for classical music all we get is two tired old questions about etiquette. Nothing about the experience or the art form.
I’m not sure who to blame here. The journalists? Perhaps. Or is it the classical music scene itself that’s at fault if these are the only questions that occur to people in relation to what we do? I fear this might be the case.
But how I would have loved to have seen Rory Jeffes, or whoever, answer these questions (freely ripped from our companion art forms):
Where can I find innovative new classical music?
Where can I spot the classical music stars of tomorrow?
Not to mention these ones:
Should I listen to the music or read about it before the concert?
Should I read the program notes before, during or after the performance?
Should I follow the printed text (or surtitles) during a vocal work?