Spring Talk May 8 – Are the Classics an Endangered Species? Tradition Versus Innovation in the Performing Arts

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Michael Crabb - author, journalist and Toronto Star dance critic – posed the overarching question of ‘are the classics an endangered species in the performing arts?’ to Academy members and guests at the fourth 2019 Academy Talk. Crabb introduced himself as opinionated and, sure enough, his speech provoked many questions and comments from the Academy audience who listened to his review and analysis of the state of the Canadian performing arts.

Crabb’s speech laid out many contemporary issues and challenges faced by the performing arts:

  • aging demographics – for example, the mean audience age of one major Canadian ballet company is 58 years​
  • trends of fewer potential audience members purchasing a subscription of a “full season of performances” and more people wishing only one-event tickets
  • life style changes – e.g. earlier curtain times, like 7:30PM rather than 8PM, desires of audiences to be entertained and have a ’good night out’
  • lower levels of government funding
  • changing business model of the arts with major costs being artists- financial matters can lead to hiring contract performers rather than have a full time company of artists
  • interests and preferences of long standing audiences in the ’old” classics and hence challenges in mounting new ballets, operas etc.
  • production costs of costumes and sets for new shows
  • higher ticket costs, examples comparing ticket costs to a dinner at a local steak restaurant
  • ​ other forms of arts performance like cinema shows of operas from the Met.

The audience agreed with Crabb on some issues, differed on others and departed with many questions to consider. ….all in all , a very Academy experience.

Submitted by Patricia Stoll