Saturday, May 18, 2013

Small Tips for Big Enjoyment!

Seven easy tips for enjoying a concert. 

Wondering what to wear? Don't worry. Just go to listen. OK, shirts and shoes are indeed required, and short pants are not normally seen on men in Europe, with the exception of tennis courts and soccer fields, but assuming you have these basics covered, pretty much anything goes. If you are most comfortable in casual clothing, this would be the right choice for you. Have a great evening gown you would like to put on? 'Chic' is always welcome. There are some events that request a special, or festively dressed audience; balls, galas and premiers, for example, but you will always be informed of these special cases in advance. Otherwise, you will most likely see all possible manner of clothing being worn. Keep in mind that you should simply choose the attire that will allow you to most enjoy the event.
Is it a good idea to leave your extra-tall Elvis-wig at home for the night? Yes, the people seated behind will be appreciative of your sacrifice.

Are you hungry? What to do in the Intermission: You'll have about 20 minutes to stand up and stretch, enjoy the architecture of the performance venue, take care of any restroom needs, and get a snack if desired. Seems like a tall order, so a bit of strategy may be called for; one member of your group can hold a place in line for snacks while another goes to the restroom. Even better: at many concert halls and opera houses you can pre-order a table with beverages and snacks for your party – it will then be waiting with your name on it at the intermission. Speak to the people selling refreshments before the beginning of the performance to see if this is possible.

What's my plan? The inability to relax will often keep people from enjoying the performance they are listening to. Turn off your phone, don't receive text messages and do not 'check-in' at the office during the performance.
Arrive early enough, and get your parking spot easily. You might also consider to plan a dinner or snack in the area before the event. Arriving after the begin of a performance will usually mean that you will be brought to your seats at the first break in the music, or intermission. The venue ushers will assist you.
Many parking houses for concert venues offer a special pre-pay rate for the night – this makes post-concert departures quicker and controls the parking costs. Give your coat, bag, umbrella to the coat check and free yourself of these burdens. If you are unsure about tipping the coat check, which varies with locale, just observe what others are doing, and follow suit.

Should I know anything in advance? You would not go to the movies without knowing what film was showing. Try to learn a bit about what you will hear, and you will enjoy it more. Never heard of the composer? most likely has. The program book for the performance will also offer notes on the performers, composers, the venue, and the compositions themselves.

When do I clap? Back in Mozart's day, he expected people to talk, eat, clap, or play cards, whenever the mood hit them - at any time during his music. This tradition has changed, however. Now we acknowledge that a composer's work functions as a complete story, some having more chapters, or 'movements'. Today we are asked to clap when the complete work is finished – after all movements are played - and not between the movements. In doing this, you allow the musicians to 'tell' the entire story, and you hear the work as a whole, not in sections. The program book will tell you how many movements are in each composition. Are there exceptions to this rule, of course – it is never dull in the theatre! Occasionally a spectacular soloist will be greeted with a spontaneous wave of applause in the middle of a work, but at the end of a movement or aria. This is more common in the opera house. Additionally, it is customary in orchestral and opera performances to applaud with the entrance of the orchestra conductor, just before the performance begins. After the last note, give the music a moment of silence to resonate before clapping, and then feel free to scream out a “Bravo” if you were wild about it, and/or hug your neighbor. (Let's hope you are really, really certain that the piece is completely over before doing this.)

So what's NOT allowed, or desirable? As welcoming as concert halls are today, there are a few 'Verboten' Items and also some generally frowned upon activities: Taking photos or videos during a performance is not allowed. Eating and drinking must be done in the intermission. Better to let baby sleep at home tonight and bring Grandma to the concert instead as Grandma is less likely to cry in the quiet sections. There are many programs specifically oriented and/or welcoming to children. Leave Fido at home, no animals allowed. It is distracting for others seated in the area, if you or your child are playing with a phone, or any other device during the performance. There will be plenty of action on the stage to watch – check that bassoonist!

And how long is the concert!?! Hungarian/American composer Gabriel von Wayditch and is credited with having written the world's longest opera, coming in at over eight hours for his Eretnekek (Heretics), which took him 20 years to compose. As that particular opera was never performed, you can be certain that your chosen performance will be of a more manageable length. A standard orchestral concert will last about two hours, with a 20 minute break in approximately the middle of the program. Most opera performances will be longer, from 3 to 5 hours or more, depending on the opera program you have chosen, in which case there will be more intermissions planned in the evening – and your snack strategy will be more important! Consider a few of the above hints, and you will lose all track of time.

Here's hoping you enjoy a great classical performance soon!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

High Culture in Lower Manhattan

Eliogabolo, Gotham Chamber Opera, © Photo: Corey Tatarczuk

New York City: it is sophisticated metropolitan high life, and it is grimy, shrill street culture. It is martinis and heels, beer in a paper bag. Staid institutions and underground hot spots.

How do you capture, honor, serve the many facets and contrasts of the city? The Gotham Chamber Opera has achieved this goal without setting out to do so. Founder Neal Goren started the company in 2001 primarily as a vehicle to gain more experience on the conductor's podium. He managed to assemble a group of viable investors and began with the premise he has stuck to: Produce lesser-known works intended for more intimate spaces, and find a venue that is tailor-fit to the production.

Over the years, that has turned out to be just the right formula for the company, which has become an established fixture in the local music scene. The New York Times calls it the "pre-eminent small opera company in New York", and New York Magazine notes that the Gotham Opera Company "sets a sexy example for the city's scene."

"Sexy" is one of the first words that springs to mind when opera fans see the teaser for the company's upcoming production of Francesco Cavalli's "Eliogabalo". The three act opera, composed in 1668, invites the audience into the exclusive burlesque theater, The Box, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The dinner theater and a handful of its alluring performers will transport the audience to the court and banquet hall of the decadent Roman emperor, Heliogabalus, whose lascivious ways are at the center of this tale.

For native New Yorkers, this performance is a chance to finally get a look at the inside of the The Box. For visitors to the Big Apple, it is a perfect event to combine the elegance of a night at the opera with the edginess and color of this fascinating city of contrasts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Opera on the Roller Coaster of History: Latvia National Opera

The time to get to know Riga and its opera company as an insider is now. Riga has been chosen, together with the Swedish city of Umea, to be the European Cultural Capital in 2014. The city will undoubtedly put on a fabulous program for the wave of tourists expected during that year. A visit to the city this season offers the chance to get to know the city before the excitement begins. And those who have experienced this attractive and culturally rich Baltic capital once will surely want to return for the festivities in 2014.

Latvia is a relatively small country with a dramatic history. All the more remarkable that its National Opera in the capital city of Riga has such a strong and established tradition. The history of opera in Latvia is considerably older than the nation itself, with opera companies performing in Riga already in the 18th century. Despite the many obstacles posed by this Baltic nation's rocky history, dedicated musicians and opera lovers assured the position of opera in the cultural landscape.

The beginnings of the current Latvian National Opera in 1912 were quickly halted by the start of World War I. The performers went into exile in Russia, returning only in 1918. Under Jāzeps Vītols, the company made a new start, and the first production in 1919 was Wagner's Flying Dutchman. During the period of Russian occupation and Soviet annexation, beginning in 1944, the opera continued to exist under the name Latvian S.S.R. State Opera and Ballet Theater. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the company was once again the Latvian National Opera, and the theater underwent renovation until reopening in 1995 with a performance of Latvian composer Jānis Mediņš’ Uguns un nakts (Fire and Night).

Today, the Latvian National Opera is a remarkably daring institution. The traditional repertoire has a secure place in the programming, but the company constantly strives to present opera in an innovative way. Beside the favorite Classical and Romantic works, the Latvian National Opera also offers contemporary Latvian compositions, Baroque opera, and children's performances. The Riga Opera House is also home to the Latvian National Ballet, which is driven by a similar artistic philosophy.

Classictic is very pleased to welcome the Latvian National Opera to our online portal!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and China's Herbert von Karajan

Did you know that China had it’s own Herbert von Karajan? According to the New York Times, it does. His name is Long Yu, and he is at the head of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

Concerts of the SSO have just gone online at, and we are thrilled to welcome our first ensemble in Asia. The orchestra has a long tradition of performing the European classical music repertoire, as well as a dedication to the work of contemporary Chinese composers. Their performances take place primarily in the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, a billowing glass construction by French architect Paul Andreu, which opened in 2004.

Mr. Yu has gained an international reputation for his musicianship and his drive towards perfection. His composer grandfather, Ding Shande, inspired him to shift his focus as a teenager from piano lessons to conducting. After studies at the Shanghai Conservatory, Mr. Yu continued at Berlin’s prestigious Hochschule der Künste (now Universität der Künste). Since his return to China in the mid-90’s, he has established himself as the leading force behind the modernization of the country’s orchestras.

At Classictic, we are looking forward to playing a role in bringing local and international audiences into the concert hall to hear the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. And perhaps down the road, rising star conductors will be celebrated as “the Long Yu” of their respective countries.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Day the Singing Stops on the Grand Canal

When is a Venetian gondolier too busy to sing “O Sole Mio”?
When he is rounding the paleto (turning post) at the Regata Storica.

Venice is generally associated with a romantically slow and easy pace, strolling across the Bridge of Sighs, or gliding along the Grand Canal. But for one day each year, Venice is all about speed.

The Regata Storica is a tradition that goes back to the early Middle Ages, if not further. The first documentation of the event dates to the 13th century, a time when the boat races were connected to religious festivities. Since then, the spectacle of the regatta has been captured by countless artists throughout the centuries. Among the most famous renditions are owed to Canaletto.

Several different events make up the Regata Storica, but it is the race of the gondoliers that truly gets local and tourist blood flowing. There is no serenading to be heard here over the shouting of the crowd as the boats are propelled through St Mark’s Bay.

For those who have come to Italy to slow down, the pageantry of the Water Parade might be a better choice. Here, historical ships can be admired, complete with costumed gondoliers and local officials.

Venice is truly a city where past and present are intertwined, where tradition and architecture keep history alive. When the excitement on the water has subsided, visitors can choose from a wide variety of musical events in Venice that highlight this fascinating aspect of the city. Whether it's Baroque music in a period church or opera arias in an elegant Palazzo on the Grand Canal.

And when the racing is over, you'll be sure to hear talented goldoliers singing familiar melodies as they guide their boats through the city.

This year's Regata Storica takes place on Sunday, September 4.
Through July 31st, 2011, Classictic offers
10% off tickets purchased with the promotional code "Venetian".

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Salzburg Dreams

Salzburg – city of music and gateway to the Alps. Classical music aficionados come from around the world to see Mozart’s hometown and to visit the extraordinary music festivals. For classical musicians of all ages, performing in Salzburg is often the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

This summer, a group of instrumentalists from the United States will join their dream to the dreams of wheelchair-bound Salzburgers. The San Jose Youth Symphony will perform in the elegant Great Hall of the Mozarteum, and the proceeds of the concert will help the “WheelChairDancers” of Salzburg to obtain the special wheelchairs necessary to participate in international wheelchair dance competitions.

The WheelChairDancers are a highly motivated team that trains regularly. Members of the group have traveled to competitions worldwide. As an organization, the WheelChairDancers aim to gain more publicity for wheelchair dancing as a sport, hoping to spread the joy of dancing to as many disabled people as possible.

We at Classictic are pleased to support the ticket sales for the benefit concert in Salzburg, and we wish both the performers and the beneficiaries much success!

July 2nd 2011. 19:30
Mozarteum, Salzburg
San Jose Youth Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra
Yair Samet, Conductor
Hannah Pauline Tarley, Violin
Benefit Concert Tickets

Sunday, March 13, 2011

European Opera Forum: The Opera Experience

Last weekend's European Opera Forum in London was an inspiring experience. The focus of this year's Opera Europa spring conference was "The Opera Experience". Participants were invited to look at opera from a variety of perspectives, with an emphasis on the vital importance of communication among the many different people and departments that make opera happen. Artistic directors met in dialogue with architects and technical directors, education departments shared their work with marketing experts, and so on.

Of particular interest was the extraordinary work that is being done to help attract new audiences to the opera houses. We heard about the Finnish National Opera transforming the house into a dance club atmosphere, where young Finns were invited to experience various performances by members of the ballet company, and then to dance with them until the early hours, animated by top DJ's. Productions that include and engage disadvantaged youth were described by representatives of the Paris Opera, the Scottish Opera, La Monnaie in Brussels, and others. In these large-scale undertakings, the goal goes beyond audience development. Here, art becomes a means of supporting young people in their development as citizens in the truest sense.

It was an honor to be a party to these discussions. We at Classictic learned a great deal about what is important to the opera world today, and we hope that we can actively contribute to the development of this unique genre in Europe and worldwide.

We look forward to getting a similar look at the opera scene across the ocean this May in Boston, when Opera America holds it's yearly conference.