A small number of performances are so exceptional that anybody can enjoy them. A small number are remarkably bad.
The overwhelming majority reside somewhere in the middle – not interesting enough to really engage an audience or inspire readable criticism. This is the stuff that seems to take up too much of my work day.
The audiences don’t complain about this because they’re afraid of pointing out that the emperor is naked. The critics don’t point it out because they think it’s their job to commentate on the relative mediocrity of the stuff in the middle.
Pavarotti’s massive crossover success wasn’t a result of selling out. He was successful because almost everything he did was right at the top end of good. Say what you like about his back-story, Gustavo Dudamel wouldn’t be where he is right now without incredibly compelling performances.
In trying to build a bigger business, we’ve crowded the market with things that are only just good enough to sell, and as people’s expectations for entertainment change, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that they’re not buying it any more.
There’s space for classical music to be marketed more effectively, but the biggest challenge our industry faces is an artistic one. Build it, and they’ll stand outside and take pictures of it. Do it well enough, and they’ll come.