Monday, March 19, 2012

Size DOES matter

I speak, of course, of the arts. I thought about this after watching an estimable "Sleeping Beauty" by N.C. Dance Theatre and singing in the chorus of "Eugene Onegin" with Opera Carolina, which coalesced on Saturday night in a way none of us might have suspected from the dress rehearsal. ("Bad dress, good show" -- that's what people say, but it's not always true.)

As well as both came off, I imagined what might have been possible with greater numbers in the corps and chorus. Part of the impact of full-length story ballets and grand opera comes from sheer magnitude, from the spectacle of seeing a stage full of Wilis menacing Duke Albrecht in "Giselle" or rank upon rank of Egyptians screaming for war in "Aida." And Charlotte can't afford those.

The size of the venues available partly limits the performances: Even the smaller ranks of NCDT seemed plentiful enough in Knight Theater, and you can't fit more than one horse onstage in "Carmen" at the Belk. But most of the difficulty is financial, and this is one of the rare occasions where throwing money at a problem would solve it.

If I were a zillionaire, I'd give the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra enough money to hire another half-dozen full-time string players. (Or, rather, to expand its endowment, so money would regenerate itself over time.) I'd enable NCDT to add to its list of principal dancers and do pieces by expensive choreographers. I'd back a production that might otherwise be too costly for Opera Carolina: "Boris Godunov," perhaps. Or, in my dreams, a "Ring" cycle. (But I'd have to supply enough money that attendance became irrelevant.)

Audiences satisfied with current levels might not clamor for these improvements, and regular ticket sales won't pay for them. But this is one of the rare situations where bigger really would be better. I hope someone on the brink of endowing yet another business school gives that some thought.


Anonymous said...

Really? Another Charlotte Observer personality knocking the size and grandeur of the performances the Charlotte arts organizations can produce?

No, we are not NYC and we never will be. So let's actually focus on the fabulous talent and range of cultural activities we do have.

Large endowments for the arts are needed, but I doubt your solicitation through a blog is going to get us there. On the contrary, the negative reviews of late (and this is the second with the same theme in less than two weeks from the observer), centered on the "whoa are we, poor little Charlotte - not enough money for really good art," may actually have the opposite effect. If I were not already a patron of the arts, I might say "Why bother? Apparently it's not that good anyway."

Come on! I get that the term critic lends itself to being critical but this is just unproductive.