This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the Boston Early Music Festival. They performed a double feature that included Venus and Adonis by John Blow and Acteon by Charpentier. I thought it was phenomenal, possibly the best show I have been to in my fifteen months of living in Boston. The singing was just marvelous, as was the baroque dancing and the orchestra… oh the orchestra, what can I even say? It was the kind of performance that made want to invest some real time in early music repertoire. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised that I recognized some of the singers who were from Montreal and Toronto (this is something I needed to mention. I have been recently told that we Canadians are a nationalistic bunch). All of this is to say: the concert was awesome. Rock on BEMF!
Here is the conundrum: after the first opera had concluded to roaring applause I turned to my friend launched into my admiration of the music and the performers. I felt a great sense of satisfaction. There was nothing that could take me away from that happy-place. During the intermission we decided to stretch our legs and ended up speaking to one of the many “experts” sitting in the audience. He did not share my opinion. I was slightly irritated when he said, “I didn’t like that piece, it was really weird.” I am not saying that people must always share my opinions on music but little consideration for those who were trying to enjoy themselves would not hurt. On top of that, I felt like this person was expecting us to agree with him and in this case people did. That is what really bothers me. All of a sudden, it turned into a discussion about the faults in the music. I think that we had all heard that piece for the first time and I think that is very easy to be swayed into opinions like that. I don’t think it was the time or place to have such a discussion and tried my best to ignore it for fear that it would color my perception of the second half. I guess that is something that has always been important to me. I like having a fresh perspective on this. This is to the point of always reading program notes where on my way home from a concert rather than before or during. Everyone has their own ways of connecting to a performance.
Here is another conundrum: I have been guilty of the same thing! I remember leaning over to a friend as the applause to another concert was going on and say, “jeez, he sure took a lot of liberties in that…” I was giving my “educated” opinion on the performance. The person next to me was not impressed at all. She had every right to be, I guess, just as I did. Sharing the experience of art feels so important and I think it gets lost in moments like these. I was more upset on Saturday night because I felt alone in my enjoyment of the performance. In the second instance, I had alienated my friend. The moral of the story is not “if you have nothing nice to say, it is better to say nothing at all” but that maybe sometimes it takes a little bit more effort and sensitivity to share a musical (or any artistic) experience. Otherwise, why not just attend a concert alone? I am happy to do it when I travel by myself but it always makes me feel like there is something missing. It’s that connection with other audience members.