The Big City

”The more susbtantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer—though not necessarily the happier—he is.."

Kamala Sankaram

First: promotions:

HERE arts center has committed to supporting their artists during the COVID-19 shutdown, and they’re now going to present the first ever Zoom opera: all decisions will be made by consensus comes from composer and performer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Rob Handel, and director Kristin Marting.

The title tells you something about the subject, which “centers on a Zoom meeting of activists with radically conflicting styles.” Expect something absurd. Sankaram will sing, and the cast is filled out by Paul An, Hai-Ting Chinn, Zachary James, Joan LaBarbara, Adrian Rosas, and Joel Marsh Garland. This is some of the finest talent in NYC new music, so tune in. Performances are April 24 at 1pm, April 25 at 7pm, and April 26 at 3pm (EST). Tune in here.

Also opening April 24, and running through April 26, will be thingNY’s SubtracTTTTTTTTT. This replaces a previously scheduled live performance at Spectrum that was one of my personal highlights for this month. Like the artists above, thingNY are at the forefront of new music, especially opera and narrative performances, part of the core of new Robert Ashley players as well as inventive composers in their own right. Performances at 6pm EST each day, streaming here.

Now: a polemic (because that’s why you’re here, right?):

The large institutions that soak up the bulk of donations as well as grants funded by public money, e.g. the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, are all shut down through the summer, and their schedules are going to have to be substantially reworked for the 2020-21 season, whatever and whenever that may be. Meanwhile, small, shoestring groups like HERE and thingNY, which perform in tiny black box theaters, if even that’s possible, constantly struggle on the edge of survival. Yet in this emergency situation, who is it that can find a way to not only keep going, but to keep performing, AND to create and present brand new work?

I do not begrudge the big guys, they do a lot of good work. But right now, they are too big—they won’t fail, but they are paralyzed. I know, I know, this is late capitalist America, where material success is rewarded and quality is effervescent, but on an operating budget of around $300 FUCKING MILLION, the Metropolitan Opera House is dark and will be for the next four or five months. Meanwhile, HERE and thingNY are scheduled to come alive April 24, so maybe, just maybe, the country would be a better place if we spread some of this money around a little.

Now I’m going to go have a little cry because after four weeks I can’t even get the state to complete my unemployment application.

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

“George Grella, always on the money!”

G. Schirmer & Associates

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