The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music postmortem: How live blogging went at Madison Opera’s ‘Carmen’

November 13, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

It was just a week ago, last Friday night, that I participated in the first-ever Bloggers Night for the Madison Opera (see below). It was held on the opening night of their production of Georges Bizet’s always popular “Carmen.” operablognight

“It exceeded everything I had hoped for,” says Brian Hinrichs, the communications manager for the Madison Opera. “I am very pleased with how it went and so is Allan.”

Allan Naplan is the general director of the Madison Opera.

It turns out the opera’s two performances were both sold-out houses in  Overture Hall (a total of some 4,400 seats).

But not a lot of credit for that should go to the bloggers, though they might have helped fill the house on Sunday afternoon. Rather, Bizet’s story of gypsy love and betrayal is always popular, and didn’t  fail to be so again.

The Madison Opera’s board of director was also pleased, according to Hinrichs.

So, will the Madison Opera do another Bloggers Night?

“Definitely,” says Hinrichs. It was will probably be in the spring, he adds, when the Madison Opera launches its first-ever Richard Wagner production (“The Flying Dutchman” on April 9 and 11) but NOT for the January 28-31 production of Benjamin Britten’s opera of Henry James’ famous ghost story “The Turn of the Screw,” which will be performed in the much smaller Playhouse rather than in Overture Hall.

Hinrichs says the first time also showed him how to improve it.

Some of the bloggers have said they needed more time, especially during the intermissions. So next time, bloggers might be invited to the dress rehearsal to get down the basics that they can then quickly modify, rather than start from scratch, on opening night.

In addition, the bloggers may be given aisle seats, which will help speed up the process since this time many bloggers sat in the middle of long rows and Overture Hall, unfortunately, does not have center aisles to expedite exit and entry.

Did he hear good things about the bloggers from the audience?

Yes, says Hinrichs (seen below, on the left, in Thailand where he had a Fulbright scholarship after college to study the growth of Western classical music in Asia), from what he heard most people seem to find the new event exciting. Hinrichs in Thailand

But there were some exceptions. Some older members of the audience were a bit confused about what the bloggers were doing there and some said they even felt kind of spied on since bloggers talked about the audience, their behavior and their dress.

But some of that criticism stems from a misunderstanding of the role or purpose of blogging, Hinrichs points out.

Blogs are not supposed to provide finished reviews or critiques so much as they are meant to put readers the feeling on being right there, on the scene or spot.

As for this particular blogger, the night also proved a big success.

I got to see an outstanding production of a great work.

Plus, my blog also recorded a record number of hits with the three opening night postings I filed.

I also got to meet some very kind and friendly readers and fans who said it was good to finally put a face to the words.

And one man strongly suggested that I would get more comments if I asked fewer questions. (Do you think he was right?)

For excerpts for some of the five other blogs, most of which are not specifically devoted to opera or classical music, and for some of the reviews, here is a link to the Madison Opera’s own blog lined to its home page on the web. (I am on the far right in the picture, which can be enlarged if you click on it):

And for information about other Madison Opera productions this season, here is a link to the home page:

Now the question is whether some other performing arts organizations in town – the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the UW School of Music, the UW Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater (which sponsors me), University Theatre, the Bartell Community Theatre and others – will follow suit and try to do more with new media and new audiences, which could be a smart move.

We shall see. And hear.

I’ll ask around and try to find out.

And then of course I will tell.

After all, kiss-and-tell is what news is all about.

So stay tuned.

Posted in Classical music

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