Monday, December 01, 2008

Grumpy old lady rant

Last night I went to the Sydney Opera House to see Sting and Edin Karamazov perform the beautiful Elizabethan lute music from the album Songs from the Labyrinth. I bought the album when it came out last year and loved the arrangements of John Dowland's music, so I was pleased that I managed to snaffle one of the last seats in the Concert Hall for this one-night concert. When I rang the box office to book, they made a point of asking if I was aware that this was not Sting doing his own music, I suppose to avoid disappointed fans.
Nevertheless, the audience on the night was fairly obviously not made up of regular Opera House patrons, judging by the number who had difficulty figuring out where their seats were and exhibiting the following annoying behaviours:
1. Flash photography in the Concert Hall. As if it's not bad enough that they ignore the signs on the foyer walls and the instructions on the back of the tickets, there was an announcement before the start of the concert asking patrons to turn off their mobile phones and refrain from photography -- and the key words are "for the enjoyment of other patrons". Despite all this, in a very dark concert hall with only low spotlights on Sting and Edin, bright camera flashes went off intermittently all night, even during the songs! Apart from the strain it was putting on my retinae, what kind of photos did they think they were going to get anyway? Dim, blurry pictures of two blokes on a dark stage -- the flash doesn't even reach that far. And what is it about Generation Y that they have to have photographs of themselves at every possible occasion? Are they afraid they'll forget where they've been?
2. Mobile phones. Not only did someone's alarm go off during the concert, but in the dark auditorium it was easy to see the subtle blue glow every time someone checked their phone for messages. Again, what is it about Generation Y that they can't even go for an hour and a half without being in touch with their absent friends -- during a concert, for god's sake?
3. People who, despite the box office warning, only came to hear Sting sing his own music. When they had worked through the Songs from the Labyrinth/John Dowland material, the performers left the stage. I expected an encore, because they had not played the lute version of "Fields of Gold" from the album, for example. But some people chose to leave at this point, as is their right. When Sting and Edin returned to the stage, they played some beautiful Elgar, some folky Vaughan Williams, then "Fields of Gold" and a haunting version of "SOS". The latter two songs gained more applause than any other songs in the whole concert. One guy in front of me commented to his friend, "Those people who left before he played his own stuff will be pissed off if they find out." I wanted to smack him in the back of the head and say, "Maybe they actually came to hear the Elizabethan lute music that was the main reason for the show, dumbarse." And here's another Generation Y complaint: did they really pay $140 each to come to an Elizabethan lute concert on the off chance that Sting might play a couple of modern tunes? They do have more money than sense!
Phew, now that I have that off my chest, I'm off to listen to Songs from the Labyrinth again, now with memories of an exquisite live performance to enrich the experience. Sting was absolutely charming, Edin was a lute genius, Stile Antico were brilliant (when they came on stage, Sting said, "These aren't my children, although they're the same age" -- so perhaps there is some hope for Gen Y after all). Slava Grigoryan, David Berlin and Allan Zavod were the support act, playing evocative impressionist-style compositions arranged for guitar, cello and piano. All-in-all, it was a memorable and marvellous concert.

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