Towards the end of the summer of 2021 and nearly a year and a half after the pandemic radically changed the way we live, work, go to school, and socialize we went over the million deaths mark in our country. Some sources estimate that it will not be until 2022 that we will begin to see substantial changes in the way we conduct out lives. For those of us who live and breathe the arts in all forms: visual, performing, live, recorded, be it as practitioners or as audience members, the facts of life we now face are sobering at best, frightening at their worst.
Questions persist. Will we again be able to go to a movie with friends and sit in a darkened room with countless others watching a great film on a large screen? Or will we be indefinitely limited to sit in our living rooms watching our favorite flicks on small screens and listening to the dialogue through small speakers?
Will we again be able to go to a concert hall to watch and listen to four big-voiced soloists and a huge chorus blow us away with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth? Or will we have to content ourselves with listening to a CD of (fill in the name of your go-to orchestra and conductor) as we sit on our favorite recliner?
Will we again be able to thrill to the sound of Verdi’s Aida sung by a big-voiced soprano surrounded by a cast of hundreds (including elephants) or will we have to settle for listening again to the great Leontyne Price recording? Nobody knows the answer to that and other similar questions about concerts and operas and movies and ballets and art exhibits.
But it is fair to ask of our arts institutions the burning question: what are they planning to do to preserve the art forms they cultivate and promote from disappearing?
Reinvention is called for. Fleet-footed flexibility is in order. Imagination is most needed now. In the midst of this catastrophic state of affairs the nimble and agile will live to tell. New sources of income will have to be found. Streaming of performances will take the place of live ones. Outdoor spaces during the late Spring and Summer and early Fall can be put at the service of our arts organizations, even if it means a seven-month April to October Opera or theatre season in which fewer productions are given in a European-style “seasonal” format rather than in the American repertory one, thus reducing the staggering costs of mounting many productions every season.
The reliable subscription audience will gradually have to make room for the one-off attendee. Ticket prices will have to be lowered to accommodate the many who cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices that a ticket to the Opera or Broadway now cost. Perhaps three repeats of the same concert program times the number of concert programs per season will begin to equal the same number of services for the musicians in an orchestra.
The unions will have to come to the negotiating table with management and find ways to help their constituencies survive the exigencies of the times in which we live and work for a common goal good to artists and managements and audiences.
These are not silver bullet solutions but ideas- some maybe good, some perhaps not – that will hopefully begin to pave the way forward for the arts to flourish and not perish in 21st century America. Or so we hope.
Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS