Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LA Phil at the movies: reax

I wasn't able to make it to our local theatre for last Sunday's Los Angeles Philharmonic live broadcast, but here is some of the nationwide reaction to the event. Most of these focused on the question of whether an orchestral performance could be as compelling in this format as opera performances, specifically some of the more successful of the Metropolitan Opera's HDTV theater broadcasts. At the New York Times, Vivien Schweitzer speculates that "broadcasts might encourage orchestras to ditch the formality of 19th-century tails for contemporary attire." In her review, she gets quickly to the central question:

As with the Met broadcasts, the Los Angeles simulcasts offer listeners outside major cities a chance to enjoy first-rate live cultural events. What remains to be seen, as in the opera world, is how people with access to both will pick a format.
Tom Huizenga's blog for National Public Radio gathered feedback from several of their producers nationwide, who in turn reported on fellow audience members' opinions. The consensus here as elsewhere seemed to be: the orchestra sounded great, Vanessa Williams as host was dreadful, and the jury will be out for some time on whether this has a future. Brian McCreath of WGBH quoted a couple of fellow attendees who made the interesting point that they "missed the physical experience of a literally vibrating concert hall, something that simply doesn't translate, even with the best in surround sound technology."

The L.A. Times itself put a positive spin on the new endeavor, perhaps offering part of an answer to Schweitzer's big question:

Although the Phil declined to provide overall ticket sales figures, attendance appeared to be strong at theaters in many areas of metropolitan Los Angeles and elsewhere. At the AMC Burbank 16, 274 of 294 seats were sold for the screening. At the Regal Cinemas LA Live Stadium 14 in downtown Los Angeles, a mixed-age audience that filled more than two-thirds of the seats clapped and cheered loudly as Gustavo Dudamel, the orchestra's charismatic 29-year-old conductor, led the orchestra through Adams' "Slonimsky's Earbox," Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 ("Jeremiah") and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
    At the multi-screen Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 and IMAX complex, a theater with about 225 seats sold out in advance, leaving a few stragglers who arrived at the box office Sunday afternoon scrambling to make a last-minute trip to another showing in Aliso Viejo.

If nothing else, that might indicate that such broadcasts might have a local impact, that is for audience members who live far enough away from the live venue for getting there to be a hassle (or who prefer the $20 admission to full price tickets for in-person attendance), yet who may feel a "home team" loyalty to the orchestra in question.

The two remaining installments of "LA Phil Live" will be March 13, and June 5. Again, our area's venue for this is the Regal Cinemas at the Village at Sandhill complex, in the northeast fringes of the city. And if you made it out there for this event last Sunday, I'd love to hear your thoughts: the performance, and especially the sound quality at the theater, as well as an estimated number of attendees.

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