Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cultural Leadership in Canada

I moved from Canada to Mexico almost twenty years ago, but I still read Canadian newspapers online quite often. I just ran across two articles in the Globe and Mail about cultural leadership in Canada, which seems to be in a bit of a crisis. The first one is The outsiders who got in: Why sought-after arts positions in the country are going to non-Canadians and the second is How to change arts leadership in Canada: An insider’s perspective. Both are worth reading, but let me just quote some excerpts from the second article:
Canadian cultural organizations are experiencing a leadership deficit and the problem is worsening as more and more highly regarded chief executive officers announce their retirement. We are seeing a generational change in leadership. Coming retirements for 2018 include long-standing CEOs Peter Herrndorf of the National Arts Centre and Piers Handling of TIFF.
The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is a facility for the performing arts with four different spaces ranging from 150 seats to over 2,000 seats. TIFF is the Toronto International Film Festival.
Here in Canada, we have plenty of arts training models and success stories to build on for leadership development: think back to the Centre of Expertise on Culture and Communities (2005-2008) at Simon Fraser University, or the groundbreaking work of the Canadian Museums Human Resources Action Strategy (1995), or the Toronto performing arts collaboration Creative Trust (1998-2012). These were innovative programs, bringing people together for challenging learning and development.
The point is acute because it's getting harder. CEOs in any sector today have to concern themselves with an increasingly complex array of issues from diversity to digital to reconciliation. All while ensuring safe and creative workplaces and strategically leading their organizations into the future.
Are you starting to sense the blind spot here?
Rightly so, governments are investing more in culture. These new investments are upping the expectations for what the sector can achieve in society – and we are meeting the challenge. Canadian cultural organizations, together with their counterparts in other countries, are experiencing a transformation of engagement and empowerment – a transformation that will serve us all well. For our efforts and our examples, Canadian cultural leaders – past and present – are active and respected across the globe.
Ok. Well then, let's just name some of these internationally respected Canadian cultural leaders. I'm sure some of my Canadian commentators could step up, but just because someone is known in Canada for running this or that arts organization, doesn't quite signal an international reputation. One final quote:
Throughout my professional career working with cultural and creative organizations, I have never been more proud of the potential of our sector to contribute to our humanity and our society, nor have I been more preoccupied about the future of our sector – to train the next generation, to develop our own body of knowledge, and over all, to nurture culture and creativity for the benefit of all Canadians.
Do you see what is missing? Throughout both of these articles on arts leadership in Canada the missing element is, wait for it, the arts! Not one artist in any field was mentioned. Not one artwork of any kind was mentioned. The entire focus was on arts administration which is universally, in every culture I can think of, only haphazardly related to the actual arts. What is amazingly bizarre here is that all these people, all these cultural and arts leaders, seem to think that what they are doing has something to do with leading the arts somewhere. They see the arts as some sort of high-level education program or moral guide to "nurture culture and creativity for the benefit of all Canadians." I mean that is just totally obvious, right?

I hate to rain on their parade, but all of this "investing" in the arts does nothing for the arts. What it does is provide a wealth of middle and upper management jobs for the well-connected and credentialed. Yes, and they build some nice new buildings to present the arts. I guess it is so appealing to Canadians because it is so very terribly safe. The arts are tightly controlled through all of these well-managed arts organizations who are the gate-keepers. It all sounds very benevolent, though what I see is richly funded administration, not richly patronized artists. I have long noticed a pattern in Canada of well-padded administrative salaries together with the most pathetic crumbs given to the actual artists.

All of this is kind of a Potemkin village of the arts: instead of individual artists producing some artworks of some significance, what we have are arts institutions and organizations who attempt to administer the field from the top down. This is about as successful as petting a cat against the fur. The arts, now and always, flow from the individual efforts of individuals, not the collective efforts of institutions. Yes, arts institutions can be of immense value in nurturing and supporting artists, but what usually happens, and in Canada seems to regularly happen, is that these institutions end up serving the best interests of those people who run them and are employed by them instead of that vague and debatable goal of "the arts" or "aesthetics." Who the heck knows what they are?

And this is why almost no one outside Canada can name a single Canadian composer of any significance.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina, Part 11

When I was an undergraduate in my first couple of years, I was at a university with an active composition department. I think the professor of composition was a Czech bassoonist. The students formed a kind of collective that were very active. The music department at that time was camped out in the back of a building largely devoted to visual arts. I think we had three classrooms and the use of an auditorium that sat a couple of hundred people. This was used for student concerts every Friday and a couple of times the student composers commandeered the room for a special concert. This provided, at least, a relief from the brass quintets and shaky attempts at lieder. I was responsible for one of the latter as, at the time, I was enrolled in a vocal techniques class and ended up performing a Schubert lied--"Heidenröslein" as I recall.

So one Friday the composer's collective took over the hall and delivered a "happening." One fellow (who now teaches composition in this very same department) delivered some French nightclub chansons over desultory piano accompaniment; another climbed a high ladder, I don't recall why exactly; another fried up some pork chops in an electric fry pan. There was some other stuff going on, but I don't recall the details. This was followed by a tribute to the French clavicinistes who were accused of a fixation on poultry. Someone might have played "La Poule" by Rameau. Here is a performance by Hank Knox, who teaches at McGill and was a fellow student of mine there in the 70s:

This was followed or accompanied by the rolling of eggs, both raw and hard-boiled, onstage, the tossing of chickens, both raw and BBQed, and the final entry of an indignant rooster who strutted out to mid-stage and proceeded to stare down the audience (who by this point were diminishing rapidly). The next year saw them form their own ensemble, the "Vegteband," consisting of hollowed out vegetables with mouthpieces from wind instruments like the clarinet and trumpet.

This all took place in the early 70s, probably 1972 or 73. I mention this only because in my reading of the biography of Sofia Gubaidulina, I have come to the chapter where a group of young composers in Moscow that included Gubaidulina, Elena Firsova, Dmitri Smirnov, Alexander Raskatov, Vladislav Shoot, Viatscheslav Artyomov and others came together. The last, Artyomov, was a percussionist and collector of folk instruments from Central Asia and the Transcaucasus. Artyomov, Gubaidulina and Victor Suslin formed an ad-hoc trio that improvised together using these instruments. It was a kind of research project in, among other things, timbre. Here is a photo of the group. From left to right, Artyomov on Tár (an Uzbek-Tadzhik plucked instrument), Gubaidulina on Georgian hunting horn and Suslin on Pandura:

They were attracted by the spontaneity of folk music as well as the unusual timbres which they explored in every possible way. They would improvise for hours at a time. Gubaidulina in particular seemed to be guided by an inner voice or "demon" that directed her path and even forced the others to follow her. They gave public concerts, sometimes with other musicians, that attracted the attention of the KGB who, frankly, had no idea what to make of these musicians. "Where did you come from?" and "What did you study?" they would ask. The group, that came to be called Astraea, had weekly sessions between 1975 and 1981.

The later 70s were very difficult for Gubaidulina from a financial point of view as commissions for film scores dried up entirely. At one point she was approached to write a piece combining popular and serious music for a music hall performance. The actual performance did not materialize, but she wrote her Concerto for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Band for which she did receive a substantial honorarium. It was written in 1976 and first performed in 1978. I think I put this up before, but now we should hear it in its proper historical context. This version is for wind band and jazz ensemble:

It was also used as a ballet piece. In 1976 she also wrote a trio for three trumpets:

I find it fascinating that, during the same decade of the 70s, young composers in Canada and the Soviet Union were engaged in similar kinds of improvisatory work. The group in Moscow were older, of course, in their forties, while the Canadians were in their twenties. They also took different paths. The Canadians were probably influenced by John Cage while the Russians were reacting against the strictures of official socialist realism and the intellectualism of Westerners like Pierre Boulez.

I had no attraction to what my fellow students were doing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was simply too unsophisticated to understand what they were up to. But more importantly, I was on a trajectory from being a folk, rock and blues musician to being a disciplined classical guitarist. I had spent years doing free-form blues improvisations and what I was looking for was to get away from that! The transcendental austerity of Bach played by people like Andrés Segovia was what was attracting me. My fellow students were rebelling against the strictures of classical music, which is exactly what was attracting me.

Here is what I was aiming for back then:

Talk about being out of step with history!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Defective Strings

Turning to more practical matters, one of the issues that one has to deal with as a string instrument player is, of course, strings. A while back I gave some simple advice to guitar players about how to improve and it boiled down to three suggestions:

  1. Change your strings!
  2. Either buy a better guitar or have the action gone over on yours
  3. Practice a lot slower!
Unfortunately, because of the frets, guitar strings have to be changed a lot more often than bowed instrument strings. When I was an active professional soloist I played around thirty hours a week and my strings would only last a couple of weeks before they became unusable. What goes wrong is the treble strings get dented by the frets and their pitch starts to become ambiguous. The bass strings start to go dead and the 4th string winding wears through on the second fret. There are guitar players who keep their strings on for a very, very long time, but this is why they sound so bad!

As you are constantly replacing your strings, you are also looking to find the best strings for your instrument and individual approach to tone color. A very popular string for many players that is consistently good and well-priced is the basic Pro Arté brand:

They also have some higher-priced sets that I tend to prefer such as:

A while ago I mentioned trying some new Italian strings that I really liked. I just put another set of their strings on, these ones are called "Rubino" and the trebles are colored red:

Alas, these ones are not working out as the second string (and also the third, to a lesser extent) is defective. We used to run into this problem very frequently with Augustine strings. The frequency or pitch of a string depends on three things: the length of the string, the tension and the mass per unit length or linear density. So:
  • the shorter the string, the higher the frequency of the fundamental
  • the higher the tension, the higher the frequency of the fundamental
  • the lighter the string, the higher the frequency of the fundamental
On the guitar the strings are all the same length so the difference in pitch is achieved through changing the tension with the tuning mechanism and by each string having a different mass, which means that the thinner strings are a higher pitch than the thicker ones.

The problem arises with the mass of the string. With the wound strings, this is pretty easy to control, but it is different with the treble strings. If they are not exactly the same diameter throughout, the pitch will not be clear and defined. Nowadays most trebles are reliably consistent, but you can still get a defective string. Amazingly, some guitarists don't even notice but just struggle a bit with tuning until they replace the string. But it is easy to detect a defective string. Just pluck it and watch closely how it vibrates against the dark background of the sound-hole. A good string will show a smooth band of vibration that grows narrower as the vibration ceases. A bad string will have a jerky, jagged vibration because it is trying to vibrate in more than one frequency due to the variation in the mass or diameter. It will not sound good and you will never get it in tune!

The solution (which I am going to apply this morning): take off the string and replace it with a new one! Luckily, I have a number of sets of extra trebles because sometimes I just replace the basses as they usually go dead before the trebles start sounding bad. With the old Augustine strings, about a third of them were defective. Nowadays it is pretty rare. But now you know what to do.

For our envoi today, the Carora-vals venezolano by Antonio Lauro played by me on a pretty good set of Pro Artés:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

The Wall Street Journal has a piece on composer/impresario Paola Prestini that is likely worth your time:
Born in Trento, Italy, and raised in Arizona by a single mother, Prestini was one of only three women in her composition class of 50 at Juilliard, where her taste for experimental opera and large-scale multimedia works put her at odds with the school’s more conservative teaching. In 1999, while she was still a student and thinking ahead to staging her own pieces after graduation, she co-founded the scrappy production company VisionIntoArt; its ups and downs gave her a real-world education in getting music in front of an audience. A decade ago, Prestini met Kevin Dolan, a Washington, D.C., tax lawyer and arts patron looking to launch a venue for emerging talent. Seven years and $16 million later, National Sawdust opened its doors. Today it boasts a staff of 16 (10 of them women) and hosts seven diverse performances a week. Prestini dreams of opening satellites in London and Tokyo.
* * *

Curious about the Reigning Divas of Carnatic Music? Well, so was I!
India’s national instrument, the Saraswati veena, has been patronized by many artists over the decades. Even the legendary vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi was a trained veena player. In recent times, the undisputed queen of the veena is Jayanthi Kumaresh, who hails from a family of Carnatic music practitioners. Her mother Lalgudi Rajalakshmi was also a noted veena player. Her maternal uncle was the famous violin maestro, the late Lalgudi Jayaraman. Known for her technical expertise, strict classicism and authenticity, Kumaresh’s music has gained considerable global popularity. Kumaresh is also a composer. Her albums, like Mysterious Duality (2013), and her work with the Indian National Orchestra, a syndicate she formed along with 20 other musicians in 2011, have shown her to be a composer of high musical standards.

* * *

The Globe and Mail has a thoughtful article on the reign of Charles Dutoit in Montreal before his fall from grace:
An old story caught up with the board and administration of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra last week, as allegations of psychological abuse of players by former music director Charles Dutoit were spelled out in detail in two francophone newspapers.
The scenario resembled that of many recent accusations of sexual misconduct – including those against Mr. Dutoit – with one important difference: The players' complaints of bullying from the podium were made very public 15 years ago, and ignored.
An open letter alleging the abuse, in April, 2002, was the precipitating factor in Mr. Dutoit's abrupt resignation days later. "The reality of life in the MSO for most players," wrote Quebec Musicians' Guild president Émile Subirana, "is unrelenting harassment, condescension and humiliation by a man whose autocratic behaviour has become intolerable."
Regarding the way marketing and promotion can lead to abuse:
As shown by the Dutoit case, and by that of James Levine at the Metropolitan Opera, selling your leader as an indispensable wizard makes it hard to control him if he steps out of line. It also confuses the public about what an orchestra is. It's not a band of puppets waiting to be activated by an inspired pair of hands. It's a gathering of individual artists, who together maintain the sound, traditions and personality of the ensemble. However great the conductor, nothing would be heard without the craft, dedication and art of the players.
There is a complex relationship between the conductor and the orchestra. I was just talking with someone about her experiences. For quite a few years they had to contend with an erratic and abusive conductor. He was finally replaced with another, much easier to work with but, at the end of the day, rather boring! Some of the best conductors can be temperamental, but as long as it does not become actual abuse, that probably gives better results than a conductor who is bland and mediocre.

* * *

And the soap opera that is the Oregon Bach Festival just keeps a'coming:
Destrubé said he couldn’t continue as program director. “I have … relinquished my role as program director of the Berwick Academy,” he said by email. “As it was I who invited Jaap ter Linden, also at the suggestion of several of the other faculty members, and as the OBF/UO administration decided to un-invite him following your article, unjustifiably in my opinion, I felt that my position as program director was untenable. As simple as that.”
It's complicated, but as best as I can make out, the festival administration's hypersensitivity to anything outside the strict parameters of political correctness, combined with their utter lack of a sense of humor, seems to be causing a string of firings and resignations.

* * *

Once a meme gets firmly rooted, it is hard to get rid of it. Case in point, the ongoing complaint that classical music programs are larded with compositions by dead, white males to the exclusion of women and people of color. While there is certainly truth in this, the explanation of why this is so and the social justice ideology surrounding it are both deeply flawed. Let's look at this recent example: Systemic Discrimination: the Burden of Sameness in American Orchestras.
Classical music lovers feel a rush of excitement each year when orchestras release their plans for an upcoming season. Marketing brochures feature glossy photos of conductors and soloists, hopefully enticing patrons to swoon over the year’s top-flight catches. But many listeners also take a closer look at the musical programs. And every year, social media platforms explode with disappointment as one orchestra after another tries to sell a season riddled with music by dead white men.
I like that "riddled with" phrase: it suggests that white men are akin to termites or a deadly virus. Crude claims like this are the norm:
Simply put, lack of diversity on concert programs is built into the institutional structure of American classical music organizations, leading to systemic discrimination against women, people of color, and other historically underrepresented musicians.
Let's dismantle this, shall we? First of all, the buzzword "diversity" is simply code for saying that concert programs, membership in orchestras, conductors, soloists, and in every other aspect, classical music organizations must mirror exactly the gender and racial makeup of the society as a whole. Why is this? It is nothing more than a numbskull's concept of "justice." I think that one of the best ripostes to this kind of argument was Jordan Peterson's to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's virtue-signalling action of making sure exactly 50% of his cabinet were women. His reason? "Because it is 2015." Peterson's comment was that this was idiotic because what you have to select for in cabinet posts is not gender balance, but competence. Justice is not served when group identity trumps everything else. Similarly, we should apply a multivariate analysis to these other claims. For a variety of reasons that undoubtedly include child-bearing and raising, education, social biases, interests and the fact that men and women tend to have different goals, European music history has vastly more male composers than female ones. There are no women composers of the stature of Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. Now, if you want to simply decide by fiat that your music history starts in the year 1950 or 2000, then fine. I'm sure that you can find a great number of women composers. But good luck getting audiences to attend your concerts! Oh, and the whole notion of "systemic" discrimination is only hauled out when you can't find an actual individual to blame.

* * *

So if you don't get to shoehorn in women composers and composers of color just because they belong to "oppressed" identity groups, then how do they enter the canon? Just the way dead, white males did, through merit. Joseph Haydn is not widely performed because he is dead and white. If that were the case then his brother Michael, also a prolific composer, would also be widely performed. He's not and the reason is that Joseph is the far better composer. The process of canon formation is a constant one and there are always people advocating for the addition of neglected composers. A good case in point is a recent article by Alex Ross in The New Yorker about neglected composer Florence Price who was a woman and partly black.
Price was born in 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and grew up in a middle-class household. She returned home after attending the New England Conservatory, one of the few conservatories that admitted African-Americans at the time. Her early adulthood was devoted largely to teaching and to raising a family. Life in Arkansas was oppressive; lynchings were routine. In 1927, Price moved with her family to Chicago, where her horizons began to expand. She divorced her husband, who had become abusive, and struck out on her own. Until then, her compositional output had consisted mostly of songs, short pieces, and music for children. She increasingly essayed larger symphonic and concerto forms, winning support from Stock, a conductor of rare broad-mindedness.
Beginning in 1931, Price wrote or sketched a total of four symphonies. The First and the Third have been published by A-R Editions, under the scholarly guidance of the late Rae Linda Brown, and recorded by the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble and the Women’s Philharmonic, respectively. The Second was apparently never finished; the Fourth, whose score turned up in the St. Anne house, will receive its première by the Fort Smith Symphony, in Arkansas, in May.
And that is how it starts. Over time, the music of Florence Price may or may not find a niche in the repertory. What will determine that is the collective aesthetic judgement of performers, conductors, critics and audiences.

* * *

Here is a piece by Paola Prestini for solo cello with pre-recorded cellos and electric bass titled "Mourning" from a larger piece titled Body Maps. The cellist is Jeffrey Ziegler.

And here is the first movement of Florence Price's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major. Blogger doesn't want to embed, so just follow the link:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Diminished Blogging

I haven't put quite as much time into blogging the last little while for several reasons. First, I have had other responsibilities that have taken up quite a bit of time. Also, I am working on my piece for violin and guitar in which I am wrestling with some compositional problems that I have avoided until now. The piece is now titled Dark Dream and I read through it in its current form with my violinist friend last Sunday. It has some unique problems of ensemble.

I am also reading Jordan Peterson's new book, 12 Rules for Life which is, astonishingly, the most sold nonfiction book at Amazon. That would be worldwide! Pretty good for a guy from Fairview, Alberta. That's in the Peace River country in northern Alberta about twenty miles from where I was born. He also graduated from McGill, as I did. I do recommend the book, by the way. It falls into a odd sort of category: it has intellectual substance, but it is really about the practical problems of life.

The other project that is taking up time, most delightfully, is listening to Haydn. I'm up to the Symphony No. 17 which means only 155 CDs to go!

I do intend to get back to Sofia Gubaidulina pretty soon and to continue my series of posts on aesthetics, which have been in abeyance for much too long.

Just to get back to Peterson for a moment. I think one way to describe what he is up to is a revival of what are some hard truths: life is suffering, humans have the capacity to create a hell on earth, and you need to tell the truth, or at least, avoid lying. He connects totalitarianism with the propensity for human societies to allow a web of deceit to slowly develop over time to the point where everyone, nearly, is living some sort of lie. Yes, it is often, perhaps even usually expedient for us to avoid confronting the truth, but that road leads to a place that no-one wants to go.

The sorry fact is that the rise of various forms of relativism over the course of the 20th century allowed for the development of ever more sophisticated forms of lying. A lot of criticism of Peterson is along the lines that he is repeating worn-out platitudes and he lacks nuance and sophistication. It is interesting to watch some of his YouTube videos, especially when he is speaking to a non-university audience as you can hear the wry astonishment of the listeners as he tells them some pretty hard truths. We have become all too used to the empty recitation of comfortable deceits. I might well have put this up before, but here he is exploding some of the most popular of those regarding oppression. I want you to notice how the fellow on the left is reacting when the camera pans in that direction.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Haydn Edition

I have two confessions this morning: I have a weakness for those big boxes of CDs that are such good value these days, and I have an abiding enthusiasm for the music of Joseph Haydn. Given this, plus the news that Brilliant Classics released a big box titled the Haydn Edition in November, it was inevitable that one thing would lead to another.

So yes, I just received the box yesterday and I'm already deep in the symphonies that occupy the first thirty-three discs of this 160 CD box. Yes, I already have the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra thirty-seven CD box of all the symphonies, but those performances, fine as they are, are all taken from live concerts. The ones in the Haydn Edition are by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra and were recorded in the Haydnsaal of the Esterházy Palace where they were originally performed. From what I have heard so far, they are brilliant and energetic performances. Down the road I'm sure I will do a post comparing the two sets.

The other box of Haydn already on my shelves is a box of the complete string quartets with the Angeles String Quartet, a perfectly serviceable version but not one that keeps drawing me back. So I am looking forward to hearing the Buchberger Quartet performances. Some of the other reasons I got the new edition is for the piano sonatas and trios, the operas, the masses and, heck, even the baryton trios which I have never heard. Why oh why, I cry to myself, could not the Prince have been a serious guitar aficionado instead of a baryton player? Then we might have had dozens and dozens of guitar trios from the pen of Haydn and the history of the guitar would be quite different. Alas...

There are lots of things to bemoan about the general state of culture these days, but the accessibility of great music is not one of them. These CDs are less than a dollar each and contain a vast wealth of truly great music.

The wonder of Haydn is that, even from his very first symphony, he wrote energizing, charming, delightful music, and kept doing it with greater and greater subtlety for forty or fifty years.

Here are the first five symphonies performed by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra conducted by Adam Fischer:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

I was hoping to avoid this entirely, but I don't have another convenient topic to post on this morning, so, I guess I have to talk about a performance I saw Friday night. It was a miserable night with a cold drizzle and I was standing waiting for my driver getting wetter and wetter. I nearly threw in the towel. But I had a ticket waiting for me, so... A ticket for what, you ask?

Each year the local classical music series schedules an opera. In past years they have put on Madame Butterfly and other romantic operas. For various reasons, I have not made it to any of these performances which they have been giving for, I guess, four or five years. The cast is made up of singers from the Mexico City opera, sets are minimal and, instead of an orchestra, there is a lone piano. So I wasn't exactly in a hurry to hie myself hither. But this year they are doing Don Giovanni by Mozart, so I thought I would go.

Don Giovanni is one of the few operas I sort of know. I played mandolin in a production of it years ago, shoehorned into the orchestra pit, so I didn't have a good view of the stage. Heh! It was also taken up in a couple of music history courses at university and I have listened to a CD of it along with all the other Mozart operas in my big box Mozart Complete Edition.

I decided to opt for a side balcony ticket instead of a more expensive box or orchestra seat (down in front). Alas, my seat gave me a view of about 10% of the stage and it seemed to be the 10% where very little happened. The production started about fifteen minutes late and the first disconcerting thing was: no overture. We immediately launched into "Notte e giorno faticar." OK. The singing was all right, though not really to my taste. But as time went on the somewhat shaky piano part, the so-so singing and the inability to actually see any of the stage action became more and more tiresome. Also, the handling of the accompaniment of the recitatives showed little sense of 18th century style.

When the intermission belatedly arrived, I just left. I have left lots of concerts in the middle, but never an opera before. I guess I am a bit spoiled by seeing some productions in European opera houses. Sure, there are extreme and understandable limitations on what the local group can do. They have no access to a proper theater. The one they use seats 400 to 500 at the most and the sight-lines are bad for a lot of the seats. There is extremely minimal lighting and the set is nothing more than a painted backdrop. Also, there is no orchestra pit, which means nowhere to put an orchestra even if they could afford one. If the singing was less bombastic and they managed to tuck a string quartet away in a corner somewhere it might have worked. But as it was, it gave the impression of a not very accomplished high school caricature of a Mozart opera. Am I just being a curmudgeon? Well, yes, probably.

If I were to give some advice, it would be to suggest they try and put on something less ambitious, something that they have the resources to handle. But I'm sure that advice will be ignored. What they want to do is familiar works that everyone will want to attend. Well, everyone except me, I guess!

Here's that missing overture: