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.