arts: cheap alternative in hard times?


Alex Ross has an excellent article in the current issue of The New Yorker, where he talks about the fine arts as a more reasonable alternative to other forms of entertainment in difficult economic times:

The image of the classical concert hall as a playground for the rich is planted deep in the cultural psyche. When Hollywood filmmakers set a scene at the symphony, twits in evening wear fill the frame, their jaws tight and their noses held high. The monocle returns to fashion for the first time since the death of Erich von Stroheim. One day, an intrepid art director will come to a concert and discover that the classical audience is well populated by schoolteachers, proofreaders, students, retirees, and others with no entry in the Social Register. They can afford to attend because classical events aren’t nearly as expensive as most people assume, especially in comparison with the extravagant pricing schemes for élite pop acts. (Prince infamously charged more than three thousand dollars a seat for a series of shows in 2007; standing room was a mere three hundred.) The cheapest seats at the Metropolitan Opera are fifteen dollars, slightly more than the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Chamber-music concerts at the Frick, the Met Museum, Tully Hall, and Bargemusic are in the twenty-to-fifty-dollar range; most new-music events go for ten to twenty. Concerts at churches and music schools are usually free. Students can get in to the New York Philharmonic for the price of a movie.

He then sets out to find out how much music one can hear live for a total of $100 or less.  Here’s what he was able to see:

  • The Metropolitan Opera’s productions of Thaïs (with Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson) and Rondine (with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna).
  • An open rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic.
  • Composer Gabriel Kahane performing his own works at a Greenwich Village club, Le Poisson Rouge.
  • Juilliard musicians performing in the lobby of a downtown building.
  • An organ prelude concert at St. Mary the Virgin.
  • An ACJW chamber music concert in Brooklyn.
  • Pianist Alon Goldstein at Town Hall.

Grand total? $88.  Not too shabby!

In a similar vein, many local arts organizations around Portland are offering cross-pollinated deals amongst their various subscription and ticket holders.  The Oregon Symphony, for example, is encouraging its concertgoers to keep their ticket stubs and sign up for their e-mail list – Symphony in E-mail, to be alerted to such discounted opportunities.  Sounds like a good idea…

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