I just read Alex Ross’s excellent piece on two current opera productions at NYCO and the Met, which includes a concise take on how we’ve arrived to the present crisis in classical music. (And yes, Ross suggests, this is a crisis this time, despite what other critics say to convince themselves.)
Stephen Schwartz, of “Godspell” and “Wicked” fame and fortune, has written an opera called “Séance on a Wet Afternoon.” Ross calls it a “resounding failure” (ouch!), Justin Davidson at New York Magazine trashes the show and demands an outlaw of the term “‘accessible,’ as if certain scores were intended for people with handicaps,” and even Tommasini gingerly suggests it’s a flop.
Ross rightfully points out that only Schwartz’s fame could explain how he got this gig. True, and I’m also guessing that the show was chosen with the hope that some Broadway fans would make their way uptown to Lincoln Center.
But people generally don’t go to musicals because they know the composer’s name, they go for the buzz surrounding a particular show. This NYCO episode is an example of a classical institution trying to tap into the audiences of more popular styles, and coming up short artistically and at the box office.
Lots more examples out there of this, we’ll look at some more later.