A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

Places and Spaces II

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A quick follow up. My Gramophone piece never got up. Lots of red pen from Haymarket’s legal dept, and since hearing a very interesting feature about libel law in the UK — basically, from the moment you are accused of libel, you are a loser, whether you win your case or not — I understand their concerns.

But after some great comments, it’s worth a little more pondering about venues, purpose built or no. My brother alerted me to this doozy. It’s designed specifically to house performances of solo Bach. Visually, architecturally stunning, but I guess we have to wait and see if it serves the music.

Of course, don’t forget this gorgeous little number. It certainly pulls the crowds, but it is a bit like a medieval cathedral, built over generations at who knows what cost and never really finished. And don’t ask the musicians of Opera Australia’s orchestra what they think of the pit. Occupational health and safety issues (specifically too many decibels) have meant that some ballets need two sets of musicians rostered on for one performance.

My last exhibit is the much praised City Recital Hall.  I’ve already blogged on about how it’s injected quite a bit of life into the Sydney concert scene, but it’s easy to forget that it was not plain sailing from the start. It took a while, and some creative thinking from the City of Sydney and Arts NSW, to work out how to put the rental fee in reach of a wide enough range of artists to meet its artistic hopes, and I still hear people vigorously debating whether it is suitable, acoustically, for piano solos, or operas, or chamber music…

In the end, that is always going to be the dilemna for any new build venue: the stakeholders all come with wildly differing needs. The musicians want a perfect acoustic, a comfortable green room and somewhere to get a decent bite to eat afterwards. The audience wants all manner of things, including a place to socialise, eat, drink, good sightlines, good sound and affordable tickets. And the person who foots the bill, whether it is government, corporate or philanthropic or a combination of all three, wants a quantifiable return. (Note I don’t say profit. But it’s not unreasonable to expect a decent stab at projections for audience numbers and dollars).

Anna Cerneaz (of Pinchgut Opera and Taikoz) says it all as she reflects on the Melbourne Recital Centre’s first twelve months, “It’s too good a venue not to succeed. Time will heal. Let’s get on with it.”

Wise words.

Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

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