Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Virus and the Arts

Apparently, the coronavirus is also damaging the arts. Not because dancers and stage actors are notably political, but because of social distancing. Concerts, operas, and theatre need an audience. They cannot survive without a rather large one.

One notes that other art forms seem to be doing better. Netflix has been prospering during these troubled times.

Not to be too crass, the great cities use the arts to attract tourists. And to attract tourist dollars. Without tourist dollars, the hospitality industry will suffer. And the city economy will also suffer.

The story is the same in London, Locking down auditoria has pushed companies to the edge of insolvency. So, we begin with London. And with Andrew Lloyd Webber in The Daily Mail:

The coronavirus crisis has pushed the arts to the 'point of no return', Andrew Lloyd Webber warned today.

The composer and theatre impresario lamented the impact of lockdown and social distancing, saying it had made it economically 'impossible' to run theatres.

Lord Lloyd-Webber complained that the Government had given him 'no satisfactory answer' over 'anomalies', such as why people can fly on a plane but not attend a musical without social distancing.

Giving evidence to the Culture Select Committee, he said Britain was a 'leader in world theatre' and should be given the green light to 'demonstrate how we can reopen'.

 'We simply have to get our arts sector back open and running,' he said. 'We are at the point of no return really.'

Lord Lloyd-Webber cited an acquaintance who was 'one of the finest viola players I know', but was currently working in a supermarket.

'There comes a point now when we really can't go on much more,' he said. 

The Government rescue package was 'giving money to buildings to keep the lights off' and going down a 'bottomless pit' instead of 'getting the buildings open', he added.

As for America, Terry Teachout reports in the Wall Street Journal.

Because of the pandemic, live theater is almost entirely shut down, as are most movie theaters. Ballet companies everywhere have scrapped “The Nutcracker,” the cash cow that pays their bills for the rest of the year, and museums are leaving up the exhibitions that were on display in March.

Yes, the art world is trying to sound optimistic, but the writing on the wall consists of two ominous words: social distancing. New York’s newly reopened Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art are admitting only 25% of their regular capacity. The Houston Symphony reopens its 2,900-seat concert hall this Saturday, but it will play for only 150 people, while the Dallas Symphony is offering programs by “smaller orchestral ensembles” to be performed for audiences of no more than 75 in its 2,062-seat hall.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is going to have trouble surviving without patrons.

In an Associated Press story, Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, estimated that he would be able to sell only 400 tickets to a distanced performance in the 3,800-seat Metropolitan Opera House, adding that “social distancing and rehearsing and performing at the Met are contradictory. There’s no way that I can imagine [it] with a company the size of the Met, with hundreds of artists involved in each performance.” In the case of ballet, where physical contact is built into the art form, few seriously believe that performing can be made fully safe for dancers without a vaccine. Even the one big-ticket Hollywood movie of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” grossed just $20 million on its opening weekend of theatrical release, less than half of what it would likely have pulled in under normal circumstances.

Teachout concludes that social distancing is killing the arts. Shutting down the theatres and the museums will severely damage New York City, but empty office buildings, unrented apartments, higher taxes and an exodus of rich people will add severely to the damage. And will remove the paying audience for the New York public performance world.

Of course, the people who support the opera are either tourists or the wealthy. Good seats in the Met go for hundreds of dollars a pop. Taxing the rich is not going to help the opera or the theatre.

Teachout concludes:

I believe passionately in the importance of keeping the public safe from the coronavirus, and I’m in no doubt that the human need for art is a primal urge that cannot be killed off by fear. But the more I think about it, the surer I am that until we can eliminate the need for social distancing—either through a vaccine or, as is being proposed in Britain for its theaters, on-the-spot testing—the arts in America will never fully recover.

I am more optimistic that they will recover. After all, a vaccine will arrive, hopefully sooner rather than later. And, even before it arrives, if Biden wins the election, America's politicians and scientists will declare that the pandemic is over.


urbane legend said...

Giving evidence to the Culture Select Committee,
Why does a country have such a committee? One more waste of money.

Ballet companies everywhere have scrapped “The Nutcracker,” the cash cow that pays their bills for the rest of the year, . . .
That's hilarious. The nut is the amount of money necessary to cover all costs, and The Nutcracker provides it. Best accidental play on words I've ever heard.

Giordano Bruno said...

My season tickets to the symphony are in limbo. No plan for 2021. Mostly old people, so fear of lungflu is understandable. Virtual symphony is pointless; I have that already with CD and DVD. Same for the opera. They say they will bring back 2020 season, but how? The money both ventures must have lost is hard to imagine. Both are on the brink of complete insolvency. Jazz got kicked in the teeth as well.

And one location is right in the war zone. No guarantee of safety in or out. Not inclined to attend.

Maybe they can offer a symphonic hip-hop tribute to George Floyd with lil’ Wayne and Drake to earn some extra money. Except the attendees would likely do more damage to the venue than revenue could recoup.

Good news is the symphony has not embraced the BLM suckup narrative so at least I don't have to endure that nonsense. Smart. They know a large portion of their audience is not onboard. The opera just could not help themselves (more globohomo in their bloodstream) but at least they kept it to a back page thus far. Anybody cuts a check to BLM gets the axe. Anybody who keeps hectoring me about racial justice gets the axe. I'm the ideal ticketholder. I pay full price for good seats and wear a tux. I'm fit, tall, and handsome. I also behave myself, pay for valet, and spend money at intermission. The place is filled with deadbeats and slobs, with their patchwork bum outfits, baseball caps and dirty brown shoes. A ghastly crew of the bungled and the botched. They should pay me to attend.

Giordano Bruno said...

This is what transpires when you slander a divine artist. Did the bugmen think that they could smear and humiliate a favorite son of the Gods and walk away unscathed? Aoede is the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Do you not think perhaps it might not be a good idea to insult such a patron? Do you think Placido is not connected? He is a ‘made man’ His gift is not his own. He should have 1000 chidren.

Heather Mac Donald, who has a fine ear for music, and is beloved by the Gods, has the account of the great lie and the crime against a great artist. The lie of the wahmen and the bugmen to bring down a great man will come back on them tenfold.

Every opera who spoke against him will be destroyed. Justly. Perhaps a virus will come and sweep these artless liars into Hades.

Placido now resides at the top of Trump Tower. He sings the part of Siegfried in the Gotterdammerung, over and over, as New York collapses. He never tires and never sleeps. You can see the divine illumination from satellite images.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Gio,you make me happy. Greek mythology references, symphony AND 5.56/7.62?

Immaculate. Magnificent. Inspiring.

I’m right there with ya, partner!

Mrs. Bear said...

Screw the Arts.

Dr. Mabuse said...

A vaccine won't help. People have been successfully brainwashed into an existential terror of illness itself. Telling them they won't get THIS particular bug won't alleviate their fear of getting ANY form of sickness. Ordinary colds, flus, allergies are all looming black clouds hovering over every human being, and nobody has the courage to tell people they simply have to "power through" and endure it.

I expect those swanky museums will eventually prostitute themselves to the billionaire class, who'll be able to rent the premises for parties and orgies. The right kind of people don't have to socially distance, so their amusements will continue unabated. An opera with 400 spectators sitting in an auditorium designed for 3,000 already has a name: it's called a FLOP, and every person sitting there will feel humiliated at being present at such a debacle.

Giordano Bruno said...

Dr Mabuse, we've had a couple of those flops. One was called "Dead Man Walking" by Jake Heggie. They couldn't give tickets away. I wanted to go just to cheer when the bastard got the needle, but the wife demurred. I thought it would be grand to wave my Stetson around like Slim Pickens rode down the bomb. Almost all the flops had the PC stink about them; some kind of raceclassgender concoction. Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi always sell out.

As for those museum orgies, now that's something I can get behind. Do I have to wear a mask? A hoodie? Can I play the Sidney Pollack role? Will there be testing at the door or can I do that in advance? Will Joe Biden be there?