The death of the cinematic industry…

The Met’s “Die Walküre” by Richard Wagner, now showing at your local movie theatre!

So the last movie I went to, Thor, I was intrigued to see a table with fliers for a couple of upcoming “special events.”

The two fliers were slick promos for upcoming (one now past) live HD cast performances by the Metropolitan Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Look at that blurb in the top left hand corner of the first link – “Movie theaters aren’t just for the movies anymore.”  The big blurb in the middle column says:


Programming for everyone, and we mean everyone – from opera, sports, and comedy to original programming feature the biggest names in radio and television – with all of it containing exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else.  Special event features like behind-the-scenes footage and backstage interviews.  Big screens with high-definition picture and big-time surround sound with the best seats in the house and close-up view unlike any other.

For all the folks who continue to maintain the popularity of pop culture–in conjunction with the the supposed decline of high culture (Classical Music)–it’s a bit ironic that movie theaters are now showing live casts of, well, classical music.

The Met has been doing this for some time now, one of my friends and wonderful bellydancer, Sara Jo Slate, had the opportunity to teach Renée Fleming some moves and do choreography for the Gala show of the Met in ’08 (Thaïs) which I had to miss for various reasons (both the live opening as well as the livecast).  It was back then that the idea of live casting productions peaked my interest.

Now the LA Phil is getting in on the act.  With their new star power in the young Venezuelan conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, who first shook the Classical Music world when he toured the Venezuelan Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra).  Both he and the Orchestra are products of the Venezuelan, El Sistema, which has forcedsome of us to question how [little] we fund our Orchestras in the states given the wild success of the Venezuelan system.  The Berlin Philharmonic has also been broadcasting its concerts live for some time now with its Digital Concert Hall though I’m not sure how that fits into Movie Theaters as I believe this is for webcasting and/or live Television.

The Dude conducts Brahms with the LA Phil live at Disney Hall — Soon showing at your nearest theater!

Point is, Movie Theaters are now showing Classical Music.  And doing well enough in this format to take a screen away from a potential, so-called, popular medium like a film, for at least a day.  Which, to be fair, fits into the Blockbuster event mentality that has so permeated the Cinematic Industry (and which propels its slowly failing business model).

The other point is, this can only hurt local classical musicians in the long run.  And it’s a theme I’ve been blogging about with respects to ethnic minorities and their entertainment choices–since they can’t get the entertainment they want, and have to turn to other media outlets to satisfy that desire (e.g. Cable or Satellite TV, the Internet) this lessens their involvement and support of live performing arts (on top of the lessened civic activity) local to them as Waldfogel’s research is demonstrating.

What about preference minorities whose preference is classical music?  Will an opportunity to regularly see (albeit in webcast or live HD cast) the LA Phil or the Berlin Phil (at a fraction of the cost for a live Orchestra ticket, no less) affect the frequency a fan of classical music will, say, go out to see the Louisville Orchestra?

It’s a sad paradox that high Classical Music (Globally accessible in Movie Theaters) might be the death of Classical Musical [locally] but maybe now is a great time for, say, the Louisville Orchestra to re-visit one of those things that made it a(n internationally) unique force in Classical Music with the initiative that transformed it into an epicenter for contemporary composers’ works for several decades.

This is another reason I think far too many folks who think re-invigorating Orchestras through bringing in popular culture elements into the concert hall is a doomed prospect, or at least a holding measure–because eventually once enough orchestras are doing that, and then we have those few that can afford to live cast it, it’s the same issue all over again.  I think there are better, and more local, ways for orchestras to get re-invigorated.

for more orchestra related news and commentary, please read these recent blog posts:

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