Thursday, June 12, 2014

Digital orchestra for opera, at least from smaller production companies? A threat to musicians?

Could opera companies, at least smaller community ones, start using digital orchestras?  The idea is quite threatening, of course, to the musicians’ union establishment, as explained in a front page New York Times article Thursday by Michael Cooper, link here. The specific plan concerns a staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
I recall that the Ring was staged on PBS in 1992 with James Levine conducting the Met.  I recall that “Gotterdammerung” ended at 1:30 AM (on a weeknight) with the famous sunrise and the concluding D-flat major held soft chord.  In fact, I do have a EuroDisc BMG CD of the first opera (“Das Rheingold”) with the Dresden State Opera conducted by Markek Janowski.  That first opera ends with a brazen brass conclusion, also in D-fat (according to my Casio) that anticipates Bruckner.  The only Wagner that I have seen in an opera house was “Die Meistersinger”, at the New York City Opera (not the Met) in Lincoln Center, I think in 1975. 
There’s another concept of digital orchestra, with the performers playing iPads, in the travesty above of the Beethoven Fifth.  I’m not sure if this is a case of “pulling your legs” (off).
I have noticed that local community musical groups sometimes use recordings for the orchestra parts of musicals in stage presentations.  That doesn’t seem controversial.

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