Economies of Scale and Orchestras

As quantity of production increases from Q to Q2, the average cost of each unit decreases from C to C1

A recent post by Drew McManus at Adaptistration reminded me of a brief argument I had with Greg Sandow at his blog.  In my previous post I talked about one way to increase performance or earned revenue through Price Discrimination for Orchestra Tickets.  Another way to increase performance revenue as well as lower costs is by changing the scale of the operations.

This is commonly referred to as Economies of Scale, and no, this has nothing to do with reducing pay or cutting back a season to lower costs.  The reduced costs comes about as the result of increased production, thus lowering cost per unit.  As the Investopedia defines it:

The increase in efficiency of production as the number of goods being produced increases. Typically, a company that achieves economies of scale lowers the average cost per unit through increased production since fixed costs are shared over an increased number of goods.

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“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

Renée Fleming doing choreography by Sara Jo Slate for "Thaïs" at the Metropolitan Opera 2008 December

“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

Renée Fleming

But…but, Ms. Fleming–there are already operas in Arabic and Turkish.  Not long after the importation of Western Styled Orchestras into the Ottoman Empire in 1828 (led by Giuseppe Donizetti, the brother of the more famous Gaetano Donizetti), Ottoman composers were writing Operas which incorporated all the stylistic elements of Ottoman Classical Music (including improvisatory taksims).  And not long after the Cairo Congress in 1932, Arabic composers such as Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, were composing Operatic works which melded some elements of Western Classical Music with the indigenous maqams and instrumentation.  All of these works would have included a standard instrumentation of Middle Eastern ensembles of which the Oud is essential.

Sadly, such is the nature of Western Music History education that we don’t learn of such things.  And such is the nature of Western Music ensembles that we don’t play such things.

Fortunately, I’m not stuck in that mold and have, as standard repertoire in two of my groups, selections from some of these numbers.  One of my favorites is “Cleopatra,” which is a beautiful tune from Mohammed Abdul Wahhab’s Operetta “Kilopetra” (1947).

Here’s a wonderful non-staged rendition of it by the Nezareth Orchestra:

Maybe one of these days Western Classical Music ensembles will truly become international and stop focusing on the Western Canonical works as well as Western Canonical compositional style and instrumentation.

I do wonder, given some of the “exotic” themes, stories and locales of many Western Operas, whether Ms. Fleming gained that interest that way or through the work she did with one of my friends who choreographed for the Met Opera production of “Thaïs” back in ’08.   *shrugs*