When it comes to taking stock, festivals often put forward high audience attendance figures as irrefutable proof of success. That’s fine. In these times of crisis, lack of public support usually has lethal consequences. But it is also worth considering carefully other indicators of good artistic health
Hiring the undisputed stars of the classical music world such as Plácido Domingo, Juan Diego Flórez, Daniel Barenboim and Lorin Maazel is all very well; they provide glamour and almost always guarantee a full house, though bearing in mind the exorbitant fees they are paid it is never clear whether their concerts are profitable.
We are not going to discuss the rules of the market here. In Spain, hiring with an open wallet has been, and continues to be, the main impulse behind the programming at many theatres and festivals.
This is why it is so important to look at other indicators.
It would be best to put the brakes on those festivals which, with public money, openly apply a arts policy based on the cult of the big stars, always hiring the diva in vogue, the pianist who’s biggest in the media or the flashiest orchestra.
One is the production itself, which does not always depend on the artists, orchestras or directors on tour, with closed programmes which often consist of the same old worn-out works so as not to frighten away the public. Take it (if you can afford it) or leave it.
Some festivals opt for higher-risk formulas: they commission works, promote co-productions, design exportable programmes, revive musical heritage, support local musicians and seek a balance between the most innovative proposals and the better-known repertoire, which must never be ignored because it is basic to building up interest.
Though this makes it more difficult to fill the halls, the effort does not fall on deaf ears, because it helps to create artistic fabric from source
, much needed to avoid being regarded on the international circuit as the last haven of profligate concert programming.
It would be best to put the brakes on those festivals which, with public money, openly apply a arts policy based on the cult of the big stars, always hiring the diva in vogue, the pianist who’s biggest in the media or the flashiest orchestra. If the initiative is taken from private sector, we think it’s great, because famous artists are always the icing on the musical cake. But using public resources, the objectives have to be different.