Ross: Today’s arts struggles reflect a shift in the culture at large

Posted on: November 19, 2013

In the November 25 edition of the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes, “Professional worriers in the classical business have portrayed the Minnesota [Orchestra] and the [New York] City Opera situations as symptoms of a systemic disease. To be sure, many other institutions find themselves on shaky footing. The Brooklyn Philharmonic, which has been struggling for years, currently has no staff. More than a few opera companies have scaled back their schedules and ambitions. But other organizations are in surprisingly robust shape.” Ross cites success stories at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, and the Juilliard School. “If there is a crisis, it stems from the culture at large. The extant network of orchestras and opera houses is an artifact of a very different America. City Opera, a pet project of Fiorello LaGuardia, emerged from the ethos of the New Deal, when government funds were allotted to the propagation of the arts for the masses. These days, political leaders are largely absent from the discussion, and the winner-take-all economy is as prevalent in the arts as everywhere else.… In the face of this mentality, it’s remarkable that ‘the People’s Opera,’ as LaGuardia called it, lasted as long as it did.”

Posted November 19, 2013