Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Canned Cleopatra Ballet

Union members from the AFL-CIO, along with AFM members from all over the country collectively waged a dynamic protest against the "Canned Cleopatra Ballet," a production of the Texas Ballet Theater in which the ballet company substituted live music with a taped soundtrack.

The performance in late March 2009 was doomed from the start, as ballet company artistic director Ben Stevenson, O.B.E. traveled to Shanghai in June 2008 to buy a recording from a Chinese government-subsidized orchestra for $30,000. The ballet company played this tape of Rimsky-Korsakov's score at the performance, hoping that audiences and critics would not notice the fraud.

Needless to say, they were wrong, and the production was a failure. The review in the Dallas Morning News called the performance "clumsy" and "hamstrung," and particularly panned the canned soundtrack: "Raw, rough-hewn, taped music barged forward, when a more caressing tempo was needed to mirror the emotions…”

President Ray Hair of Local 72-147 and over 300 musicians carried this powerful message to the ballet company and to the arts community in general: attempting a live ballet performance without live music is a travesty. It violates the creative soul of the performers, limits their artistic abilities and perpetrates a musical and visual fraud upon the paying audience and patrons of the arts.

Professional ballet requires professional musicians. Critics and audiences realize anything less is dishonest.

It's rare that a musicians' strike results in such favorable local press coverage. This should have been disseminated nationally by the AFM's public relations firm, which we paid $116,016 in 2008, but which is only ever employed to announce the feeble achievements of Tom Lee's administration.

1 comment:

The Whiz Kid Forte said...

I felt so bad that they have to use canned music from China to accompany a ballet! Having seen two ballets in my childhood, both with live orchestras, if I were at that performance, I'd call it as mediocre as my dance recitals I have performed in childhood. It drove my insides so much that I went as far as contacting Howard Goodall, a British composer, about the issue and to be my guest blogger on it. It's also happening in musical theater, where machines rule the pits!

Please read and comment on my position on canned music in theatrical productions stated on the two blogs: