New year, new season
So it begins. The start of the new year brings with it the start of a wave of new season announcements that will continue for several weeks and months to come, letting eager classical-music lovers know what's in store for them in the fall.
The conventions surrounding such announcements have become slightly risible. In classical music, things are booked so far in advance that the performances being announced now have been set in stone for some time. A group of bloggers has predicted, or leaked, the Metropolitan Opera's future seasons, extending up through 2013-14 (hypothetically, of course). Similar speculation about the Washington National Opera would be difficult only because of last-minute changes as the company cuts back on its 2010-11 season (to be announced mid-month).
(read more after the jump)
The mainstream press, however, is not supposed to know anything about this. In the week before New Year's, I received not one but two announcements of upcoming seasons, from the Spoleto Festival and the Seattle Opera, both embargoed until January 3 (Sunday being, as we all know, a hot day for breaking news). I confess this gave me pause. I had to wonder, first, how much any reader, even in Spoleto and Seattle, is waiting for this information, and, second, why it matters what day it is released to them. Does it make a difference whether the public finds out on Thursday or on Sunday that Seattle, next summer, is offering Tristan und Isolde with Annalena Person and Clifton Forbis, or that Spoleto's opera offerings are the first-ever opera performed in the American colonies, Flora (an English ballad-opera), a marionette production of Haydn's puppet opera Philemon and Baucis, and the American premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's Proserpina? (The contemporary "Music in Time" series also continues, and Emmanuel Villaume, the festival's gifted music director, is leading two orchestral concerts.)
In the age of new media, and at a time when it's important to get word about our field out to as many people as possible, the whole idea of embargoes is getting ridiculous. It only feeds into a game, popular on the internet, in which bloggers publish a piece of news as soon as they hear it rumored, and then mock the mainstream media for not coming out with it until several days later. I'm all for transparency. The Santa Fe Opera, for instance, released details of its 2010 season months ago, and appears to have survived.
As for the 2010-11 season in DC: stay tuned. For a while.
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