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Prom Night

So the BBC is jumping on the bandwagon and broadcasting the Last Night of the Proms on September 12 live to movie theaters around the world. Does anyone else find it deeply amusing, or just plain sad, that the press release announcing this scintillating fact makes no mention of what the program will be?

Answer: it’s a potpourri of shorter pieces by everyone from Oliver Knussen to Piazzolla to Haydn, with a big British flourish at the end (Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” Parry’s “Jerusalem”), with solo turns by Alison Balsom and Sarah Connolly, all led by David Robertson.

Well and good, and of course The Last Night of the Proms is a big deal in Britain. (The Proms are a series of popular summer concerts, aimed at a wide audience and many of them nationally televised in the U.K., that have been going since1895.) Still, I’m not sure that the American audience is quite as excited about going to a movie theater to see this concert as it is about, say, opening night of La Scala last year – particularly in a year when the Proms didn't include a single American orchestra. Am I wrong?

By Anne Midgette  |  August 14, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  international , news  
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Comments

Anne Midgette poses some interesting questions, so a comment from England - the home of the Proms - might be in order.
May I suggest that the broadcasting of important cultural events - by radio, TV and more recently to selected art cinemas (movie theatres) is very much on the increase. I have often listened to operas from your Met on the radio. Now I can watch them in cinemas, also from the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Madrid etc. Again, as mentioned in an earlier article about Salzburg, it's sometimes possible to view them online with a computer.
I should have thought that in a country as huge as the USA, such facilities would be invaluable to the many who cannot easily visit your major opera houses, let alone those in other countries.
Of course none of these media compare with a live performance. Personally, I'm determined to revisit New York, this time especially to watch an opera or two at the Met.

Posted by: johnfawssett | August 14, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Anne, would you say that an Italian should not want to watch an opera performance at the Met because there are Italian opera companies? Pass up a chance to watch the performances at Bayreuth because American opera companies stage Wagner's operas from time to time?

The last night regularly features some of the greatest classical musicians in the world. Joshua Bell, for example. Anna Netrebko's performaces the other year were spectacular. I wish I could have seen it rather than merely listened. A great concert is a great concert. And it's a party. The energy is infectious, even via streaming audio. I'm an American, and I think it's a great time.

Look down your nose all you like - that leaves one more seat for the rest of us.

Posted by: finlandia1 | August 14, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Anne, would you say that an Italian should not want to watch an opera performance at the Met because there are Italian opera companies? Pass up a chance to watch the performances at Bayreuth because American opera companies stage Wagner's operas from time to time?

The last night regularly features some of the greatest classical musicians in the world. Joshua Bell, for example. Anna Netrebko's performaces the other year were spectacular. A great classical concert is a great classical concert. And it's a party. The energy is infectious, even via streaming audio. I'm an American, and I think it's a great time.

Posted by: finlandia1 | August 14, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I can see Anne's point. I love classical music but have no real interest in seeing the last night of the BBC Proms at a movie theatre. I'd rush to the theatre to see a simulcast of an opera from Glyndebourne, but it's vaguely depressing to sit in a movie theatre watching others making merry at an event half-way around the world that's already happened by the time I see it.

I'd much rather people spend that money on a local concert or on a Met or SF Opera theatre simulcast. Charity starts in the home, so to speak...

I too noted the utter lack of U.S. orchestras at the Proms. Perhaps a non-story but very strange.

I will say that I wish we had a similar event here in the states. Even a Proms-like event that gathers American orchestras and let's them show their stuff...

Posted by: knightstale | August 14, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I didn't interpret Anne's post as looking down her nose at the last night of the Proms broadcast. She's just as confused and/or amused as I am that the concert is being broadcast in the cinemas here without an announcement of the program. I'll also say that seeing an opera at the cinema, by the Met or La Scala or Glyndebourne, is much more appealing to me than watching an orchestra play. I think that's just because opera has more visual information transmitted to its audience.

Posted by: CruzerSF | August 15, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

"I too noted the utter lack of U.S. orchestras at the Proms. Perhaps a non-story but very strange. knightstale."

We had several U.S. orchestras at the Proms last year, and would undoubtedly have welcomed more this year. But I think you will find the problem was for your orchestras to find the travel money, during this period of severe recession.

As for not publishing the programme, it is available on www.bbc.co.uk/proms. But the Last Night, as finlandia1 rightly comments, is really a Party, to celebrate the end of a sequence of 76 concerts performed over 50 days. The first half of the last night is serious classical music. But the second half becomes a fun session, when we all let our hair down, the audience sing "Jerusalem" and "Land of Hope and Glory", and wave the national flags of half the developed countries in the world. PC it is not, but everyone present simply loves it.

Posted by: johnfawssett | August 17, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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