Catalonia Addresses the World

September 21, 2013


The three hundredth anniversary of the horrible end of the Siege of Barcelona approaches. It brings with it vivid recollection of an almost unbelievably bloody genocide against a people who, suddenly abandoned by the English allies who had encouraged Catalonia to resist the imposition of a monolithic Bourbon government, fought off the combined armies of France and Spain for over a year. The genocide was pointedly cultural as well as corporal, and the inhabitants of Catalonia are keenly conscious of their ancient proto-democratic institutions that were then destroyed and have never been fully restored. Even worse, the rights that they have achieved since the death of the last dictator that Spain imposed on them are every day being whittled away more. A Web site called “El món ho ha de saber” (The world has to know it), has this admirable short summary of the challenge to let the world know Catalonia’s intentions, which are being carefully distorted by powerful interests. I thought it worth translating for the English-reading sector of that greater world:

Catalonia is getting ready to commemorate the tercentenary of a defeat. It was a huge defeat that led to the loss of the nation’s liberties, the extinction of the country’s institutions, and an enormous crackdown on all levels aimed at destroying us as a people.

Three hundred years later, however, this defeat, which has caused so much suffering to so many generations of Catalans, can only be seen as a great victory. This is because, three centuries after the disaster of 1714, not only has Catalonia not lost its national consciousness, but, on the contrary, that consciousness is more alive than ever, since our country is now close to deciding, freely and democratically, our future.

At the very gates of this decisive process, it is essential to let the world know that the desire of Catalans to be masters of our own fate is not just a bolt out of the blue caused by a brutal economic crisis. The greater world must be aware that our nation has a thousand of years of history, and that the desire for the freedom has endured ever since the defeat of that fateful September 11, 1714.

The world must know that the future of Catalonia is not against anything or anyone, and that Catalonia’s liberty will help to make the world a little more free.




The vast expansion of social media has changed the role of blogs drastically, and there are those who now consider blogs to be obsolete. When I began this site in 2008, it certainly loomed much larger in my confrontation with the world than it does now. Longtime readers will have noticed the much-decreased frequency of posts here as Twitter and Facebook have become quick and easy release-valves for ideas, links, questions, and general contact of a virtual kind.

However, as some of you will know already (thanks to those very same media, in which my reach has, like that of many, grown almost shockingly large), I have changed my base of operations to a spectacular seaside town in Catalonia. The cultural impact of this may cause me to post more in this space, since the stimulus of the environment may call for this kind of outlet more often.

For example, I can’t avoid commenting on the irony of my new street address (a ceramic sign for which can be seen at the head of this post). The complicated relationship between Cuba and the United States did not by any means begin with the deranged state of affairs of the last half-century. The results of the Cuban revolution that are unhappy have sometimes been taken personally by me. As the person responsible for the current-events bulletin board in my sixth-grade class at Miller-Perry Grammar School, I plumped vigorously for the victory of that pro-American democrat, Mr. Castro. He was even a guest on Edward R. Murrow’s indispensable television show, Person to Person, in which the t.v. cameras went into the celebrity’s home and talked with him informally. Castro’s good English and calm demeanor soon became much less in evidence, of course — not to mention his hospitality to media, except that controlled by him and saturated with his phenomenally prolix orations.

But other countries, without condoning the darker side of Castro’s rule, have had a much saner relationship with that remarkable island and its people. That doesn’t mean that their relationship was less complicated, however. One of the greatest blows that Spain has ever felt was over the loss of Cuba as a prime colony. That deprivation was felt differently in Catalonia, where the loss was not one affecting national pride so much as the pocketbook. For Catalans were heavily invested in Cuba, and in more than one sense. They not only were exploiting Cuba for financial gain, resulting in massive fortunes, but many Catalans developed a deep love for the Cuban people and their ambience. Thus, with the Americans driving out citizens of Spain, these magnates returned to Catalonia determined to recreate, back home on the Mediterranean, their prized Caribbean felicity. They built elaborate villas with romantic walled gardens refreshed by both Mediterranean breezes and the sound of habaneras. This development coincided with the climax of a historic renewal of specifically Catalan cultural vigor known as their Renaixença.

In the biography of Xavier Montsalvatge that I published last year, I commented on this fact (so important to Montsalvatge’s use of Cuban culture as a way of being Catalan under the watchful eye of Francisco Franco’s minions). One of the great ironies of my new residence is highlighted by the underlined sentence, in which I mention the very street that has now become my home:


The dictadura of Franco complicated every aspect of Catalan culture, symbolized by the fact that immediate decrees making all public signs in Catalan illegal conspicuously affected street signs. Thus all street signs had to be torn down and replaced with signs only in Castilian:


A Catalan friend who lived through those times has sometimes mentioned to me this matter of pride for him: while the fascists tore down the Catalan signs in the late Thirties, the restored public use of the language has resulted in street signage in both languages — the dictatorship’s signs simply being supplemented by the Catalan ones. It might have been perfectly understandable if the previously imposed signs had been torn down, even as a sort of symbolic revenge after years of cruel repression; but that did not happen. This is more than a statutorially monolingual culture being replaced by an actually bilingual one; it is the difference between intolerance and tolerance. And it implies much else that makes it a joy to live in this place, among these people.




Flute 1

THE MAGIC FLUTE: A Film by Kenneth Branagh
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sung in English | Running time 134 minutes

Lyubov Petrova – Queen of the Night
René Pape – Sarastro
Tom Randle – Monostatos
Joseph Kaiser – Tamino
Amy Carson – Pamina
Ben Davis – Papageno
Teuta Koço – First Lady
Louise Callinan – Second Lady
Kim-Marie Woodhouse – Third Lady
Silvia Moi – Papagena (young)
Liz Smith – Papagena (older)

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Libretto: Adapted by Stephen Fry
Producer: Pierre-Olivier Bardet
Costumes: Christopher Oram
The Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Music Arranged and Conducted by: James Conlon

Last month I attended an assaig general (i.e., dress rehearsal), at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. The opera was a new production (new for them; it had seen the light in Munich) of It turco in Italia. It was delightful. Rehearsed to a fare-thee-well, with action that seemed motivated rather than pasted on, it was blessed with comedy that was actually funny. Every tool was pressed into the service of characterization. (For example, the trampish tendencies of a married character were efficiently communicated when she even flirted with stage hands.) The question kept arising in my mind: did the director devise action that skilled singing actors were realizing, or did he call forth behavior appropriate to these particular singers? Rarely having seen anything approaching this level of precision of stage-work in New York opera houses, I was mostly asking myself: how can we more consistently get this level of professional acting out of first-class singers, in well-prepared ensemble productions?

A moment in IL TURCO IN ITALIA in Barcelona

A moment in IL TURCO IN ITALIA in Barcelona

Well, Sir Kenneth Branagh has an answer. Bring to bear on opera the techniques of film-making, with its multiple takes, the luxury of directorial nursing in the midst of actual performance, and the lack of necessity for repeat performances every few nights. Now, of course, Branagh is not the first to take opera to the medium of film — nor even the first top-drawer director to do it for Flute. Igmar Bergman of blessed memory did that unforgettably, and in his country’s Swedish vernacular. Branagh’s movie is in English that Stephen Fry came up with (who, being a master of so many trades, probably wouldn’t have fatally shocked us if he had imitated Mozart’s original librettist and sung the role of Papageno too).

The story is moved to World War I and loses little or nothing by the transfer. The original plot is murky at times, and though this rendition is sometimes mystifying, too, its vitality and general entertainment value are never in question. If you like Branagh’s Shakespeare, you’ll like his Mozart.

As for the cast: admirer of Joseph Kaiser’s singing though I’ve been, I’d never have thought he would inhabit the screen as though he’d been playing leading-man roles for years, while all the time singing with a consistency and clarity that do him and his teachers and mentors great credit. His performance is above praise in every respect.


Another advantage of a film is that luxury casting of a sort uncommon in a chain of performances in an opera house becomes feasible: hence the welcome appearance of a major star like René Pape as Sarastro.

With regard to the rest of the singing: the level is remarkably high all through by the singers not otherwise singled out here. Of course certain things become easier on film than in the opera house (Sarastro’s lowest notes and the boys’ trio often not being up to an ideal volume in many live stagings), but one never feels that there is undue manipulation or that any vocal effects are owed to switches and dials.

The orchestra employed is of course one of the world’s virtuoso ensembles, but even at that its eloquence here is constantly striking. There simply doesn’t seem to be a false move musically. (And it’s lovely to have another crack at the overture during the closing credits. It almost sounds new after all the action that has transpired since its first hearing.) Though the scenery ranges from battlefield to field hospital to all kinds of outdoor realistic and imaginary locations, the acoustic for the music is, wisely, kept as that of a particularly elegant concert hall.

There are things that any hardened opera fan will bridle at here and there, but no matter; this is a perfectly valid retelling of a story that has always been a little problematic outside the house and atmosphere of its premiere. It is playing in cinemas around the United States this week, and I hope that the comparative neglect of it in this country so far will be overcome, if only by word of mouth from the people whose ears and eyes have been charmed by this consistently entertaining film. It takes its noble music seriously and always renders justice to Mozart’s miraculously expressive achievement.



With minimal choir available for Christmas, this is what we did. It was glorious.

UPDATE: A number of people on the PIPORG-L have asked me if I could post, as one of them put it, “even a verisimilitude” of what the instrument sounds like in the room. So today between liturgies I quickly played through a little music to give some idea. It’s recorded simply via the internal microphone of a MacBook Pro and from the organ loft very near the console (as you can tell when I sneeze), so it doesn’t get the full effect of the space. But you get the idea, I believe, that it’s a pretty grand sound in there. These are off-the-cuff performances with flaws, but you’re interested in the sound, not in the artistry. Organists will hear an occasional pipe not speaking in time, and for the “Greensleeves,” I had to alter the registration on account of dead notes and even rearrange a few of the notes to accommodate the fact that the combination action is, well, out of action. But, again, I think you get an idea. It is very much to be hoped that this 89-year-old instrument, unaltered except by much wear and tear, will soon be brought back to its pristine state.

The samples are these. Click on each to hear:

Noël Suisse (Daquin)
Prelude on “Greensleeves” (Purvis)
And a couple of examples of hymn-accompanying plena

The Catalans: They Deserve It

December 18, 2012


As an American, I have long been deeply interested in the struggle of the Catalan people to recover their great tradition of liberty and self-determination in a country that had elective parliaments before any other nation. My ancestors in this country participated in their own victory over a power, Great Britain, that was then the most democratic in the world but from which they wanted to be independent. The Spanish state, with a constitution forced through by survivors of the Franco regime just after a cruel dictator’s death, is nowhere near that level of democracy; nor is it even competent, as its current economic haplessness symbolizes. It borders on being what is called a “failed state.”

Today, the governing conservative party of Catalonia (CiU) and the left-republican party (ERC) put out this proclamation, upon which they have agreed, even while retaining their very different political principles on almost every other issue. Already voices in Madrid are calling for the army to intervene; this is the way they respond to any signs of progressive movement — an instinct left over from the dictatorships that they have so often found congenial. The idea that people might want to determine their own future is against everything they believe, and, to be sure, any such referendum is against the Spanish constitution that voters ratified under threat of armed restoration of dictatorship.

While the American Declaration of Independence gave far more space to detailing grievances against the British Crown, I find it impossible not to hear echoes of our Declaration in this modern, more streamlined document that came out today.

By the way, the 2014 deadline is significant emotionally. It was in 1714 that the Bourbon Philip V subjugated the Catalans, declared all the Catalan laws, traditions, and liberties null and void, outlawed the public use of the Catalan language, and imposed the Castilian autocracy and subjugation by the army. And still the Catalan people survive, with the culture as vibrant as ever. It seems clear that it’s high time they had their reward, for the first time in 300 years being allowed to speak freely as a people about their own future.

Here’s an English translation of the statement, with a link to the Catalan original.

Xavier Montsalvatge, at the age of 10, writes a letter to his mother

Xavier Montsalvatge, at the age of 10, writes a letter to his mother

14 Novembre del 2012

Als meus amics catalans del Centenari Montsalvatge,

Aquesta tarda vaig visitar per última vegada a l’exposició meravellosa en honor de Montsalvatge a l’Institut Cervantes de Nova York. Va ser un moment molt emotiu quan vaig deixar el lloc, perquè vaig sentir, d’alguna manera, una fi acostant a la relació especial que jo presumia de sentir amb Xavier Montsalvatge durant la preparació de la seva biografia i, sobretot, durant aquest any de la celebració del seu centenari.

A més del gran valor que poso sobre aquest sentiment especial, també hi ha el tresor de la major intimitat spiritual m’ha fet sentir amb el seu cercle musical, incloent Alícia de Larrocha, Victòria dels Àngels, Frederic Mompou, Eduard Toldrà i altres. Però el mestre m’ha donat també l’accés d’una altra manera impossible als grans figures d’altres arts i literatura catalanes.

No és el benefici més petit que tinc el privilegi d’haver format amistats amb molts familiars i amics de Montsalvatge, que espero no perdre mai. La meva gratitud a tots vosaltres és massa poderosa d’expressar. Sempre sereu benvinguts a casa meva, i espero de seguir en contacte amb vosaltres en el futur.

Moltes abraçades,

Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona

Teatro Real, Madrid

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia

In the worldwide economic downturn, Spain — the world’s ninth-largest economy — provides a particularly dramatic example of dizzying rise and decline. One of the most vigorously growing economies in recent years, it had been projected to surpass Germany in per capita income by 2011. Much of this was based on the real-estate boom that has also been central to the global downturn. Industrial production in Spain is now down 25 per cent, bankruptcies have multiplied alarmingly, and unemployment has risen above 20 per cent.

Faced with such a serious financial recession, how are the arts faring in a country where government funding has always played an important role in supporting the arts? And what of opera, that most expensive of art-forms, in this financial atmosphere? It turns out that the three leading opera companies seem to be following the principle that you don’t meet economic challenges effectively by reducing the quality of your offerings. We see a number of imaginative initiatives, not only involving “outreach” — a term the mere use of, sometimes is felt to get management off the hook — but also of responsiveness to changes in the expectations of the public.

Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, the grand old lady of opera on the peninsula, is behaving like a vital young organization on the make. Its trilingual Web site confronts you with three categories: Liceu, Petit Liceu, and Campus. We see a schedule of thirteen major operas on the main stage, but these are accompanied by concerts large and small, designed to enhance that repertory. These range from an imaginative presentation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in connection with his less familiar (and far less cuddly) The Gambler. This season, the anti-war War Requiem is paired with Britten’s 1949 opera for children; it is sung by children with audience participation and concerned with solidarity between children of different social classes. This season they have cut back on supplemental events in the Foyer, but are even taking advantage of that reduced expenditure to broaden the program: in future seasons they aim at partnering with other institutions around the city with the prospect of moving the smaller concerts out of the Foyer and into further-flung venues — thus increasing both geographic dispersal and constituency.

Most opera companies these days try do something for the kiddies, but the Liceu, with its integrated Petit Liceu, goes all-out. This season, besides Peter and the Wolf, there is an interactive show for children to explore the power of song in nature and in their own emotions; a “magic voyage through the world of opera”; a danced dramatization of a children’s story; and special children’s versions of The Magic Flute and Rossini’s Cinderella and Barber of Seville, adapted and directed by the popular Tricicle comedy team.

Under Campus comes the Open Opera program, in which HD transmissions of Liceu productions go to universities, which incorporate them in their curriculum. Similarly ambitious is the Orchestra of the Academy, made up of young professional instrumentalists from all over Europe and providing major concerts, beside occupying the pit for some productions at the Liceu.

If the Liceu is inclined to cut back on the richness of its offerings under economic stress, they are disguising it particularly well.

In Madrid, we find the revived Teatro Real— right across from the Royal Palace and, like the Liceu, receiving about half its income from the State — in evidently fine condition as well. The arrival of the always-newsworthy Gerard Mortier (lately of the Paris Opera) will be seen as a vote of confidence from abroad and of aspiration at home. As at Barcelona, we see that imagination is valued as much as funding — or one is perhaps seen as a prerequisite for the other. The Teatro Real is reaching out to a larger public by offering free tours (including backstage) late at night after a performance and presenting a course for elementary-school teachers all over Spain called Opera: A Vehicle for Instruction. In addition, significant discounts on tickets are available to those age 26 years or less.

All this outreach is justified by a pretty impressive repertory: fifteen operas interspersed with filmed operas, guest concerts and dance troupes.

Having looked at an old house with a continuous tradition (Barcelona) and at what is essentially a new company in a historic opera house (Madrid), many of us will be particularly interested to see what an entirely new establishment in a spectacular new arts complex is up to. Valencia’s Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, whose music director Lorin Maazel until this season headed the New York Philharmonic, is not stepping shyly into the operatic limelight. After last season’s complete Ring cycle (conducted by Zubin Mehta and staged by La Fura dels Baus in a coproduction with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and recorded in HD), supplemented by related concerts, this season’s varied offerings started off with a much-talked-about run of Les Troyens in a production by La Fura dels Baus, conducted by Valery Gergiev (coproduced with the Mariinsky Theater and Teatr Wielki). Significantly, productions from the Palau are being used extensively by other companies, including the Los Angeles Opera. In June, after the end of the opera season, they celebrate the Festival del Mediterrani, which is also supervised by Mehta and includes three more operas.

This is much more a multi-use house than the other two and, as might be expected in a younger company, the overtly educational efforts are more limited — though Valencia is clearly serious about their young-artists program, putting it in the hands of none other than Plácido Domingo. It will be an interesting situation to watch.

It appears that in Spain, the more established a company is, the less it depends on sheer monetary power. A new company understandably must rely on basic funding to set itself up as a formidable musical and dramatic presence, whereas the confident historic house becomes a fountain of imaginative and sometimes outrageous productions, matched with venturesome outreach efforts — initiatives that are not just pasted on or opportunistic but are true to its main product. It would appear that the amounts of money available from struggling central and local government will not be the whole story for these companies. Both those in countries with a history of massive governmental support and those that have long depended on private funding may find much to learn from what happens in Spain. Already they provide an object lesson in how artistic and marketing ventures that are intimately connected can construct a unified front for an organization. This can happen only when both spring from the same vision and process. Such an approach clearly holds great promise for non-profit arts in societies today.

Roger Evans wrote a version of this article for the DCM newsletter.

Even in a stagnant economy, people are still supporting what they value, and many nonprofit arts organizations report that contributions remain strong. With all the robust signs of life in American orchestras, I thought I’d have conversations with the heads of marketing for the two polls of the continent’s orchestras. Both the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have opened new seasons that also debut the régimes of exciting young music directors. On the right, we have a local boy who grew up with the orchestra, Alan Gilbert, while the left coast welcomes Gustavo Dudamel from the hotbed of lively, youthful music that Venezuela has become.

At the NYPO, David Snead, Vice President, Marketing, is clear that innovation and creativity are employed for a reason and that, for thirty years his reason has been the same: “turning people onto the music.” The best way to get exciting and excited new audiences, he has proved, is not to offer them dinner or preferred parking but to offer them exciting music in a way that projects its inherent nature and excitement.

What he calls his “epiphany” came when the twenty-something daughter of a friend visited him in New York. She asked Snead if he would take her to a rock concert. He was a little taken aback that she wanted to trek out to Farmingdale, Long Island to hear Duncan Sheik — on what was for him a “school night.” This was before the Broadway hit, Spring Awakening, and her host was not really sure just who Duncan Shiek was but consented — stipulating that he must be in bed by 11. His visitor also asked Snead to bring his camera to take her picture with the artist. He took this to be an instance of naïveté of the ways of concert life, since he knew her chances of getting that close to a rock star would be slim indeed, and he certainly didn’t want to have his camera confiscated, as he knew to be the practice when a guy showed up at a concert hall with the conspicuous intention of taking photos. Not only did the young woman — and many others of the audience — get an individual photo with Duncan Sheik; not only did he find himself falling into bed at 4 a.m.; but next morning he learned that his guest, far from retiring in contented exhaustion, joined hundreds of other enthusiasts online to discuss what they had heard at the concert. There they not only shared their pictures from the event but dealt with a minority complaint that there had been too many slow songs. Snead was thunderstruck to learn that Duncan Sheik had then appeared online as well, where he defended his programming. All this had been an integral part of the event, so far as the fans were concerned.

That’s when Snead thought, “Here we are in New York. Manny Ax and Gil Shaham live in New York, and they’re very open guys with a great attitude towards the public. Why can’t people hungry for musical fellowship be provided with more access to them and other towering artists than just seeing and hearing them on the concert platform?” One result of this question has been a whole program of engaging interviews with a performer or composer for each event — at least one per concert — pasted on the orchestra’s Web site. These seem to have greatly decreased the sense of perceived distance between audience members and the musicians that they go to hear. In addition, the site also provides downloads of music from the Philharmonic’s internal label, along with access to more material via iTunes and mobile phones.

The free concerts in New York’s public parks, already favorite summer events for large crowds, came to yield an increasingly participatory experience through devices like the two-season-old practice of inviting audience members to contend via mobile phone on behalf of different encore alternatives. At least as invigorating for these events have been the online photo contests, for which pictures of the event taken by audience members are submitted to the site and prizes are awarded for various categories of views from the evening. These have without doubt represented a significant change of emphasis from the stage to the audience experience of the music emanating from that stage. Thank you, Duncan Sheik and young woman visiting from out of town!

“We’re a learning organization,” the thoughtful Philharmonic marketer tells us. This presupposes a vision far different from the idea of marketing as dictating the experience that the public is expected to take — or leave. Snead seems to feel that the most compelling “brand” is created by the consumer rather than by the management. A fruitful result and evidence of this is the enormously successful Create Your Own Series subscription program. This has been a powerful way for younger audiences to form the conditions of their participation in the season for themselves, while at the same time communicating some useful information to the management. Naysayers had predicted that people allowed to design their own series would make a rush for the most popular familiar repertory, leaving the more challenging (read: “unpopular”) evenings comparatively deserted. The facts have been quite otherwise. The Philharmonic has balanced the time invested in learning about their audience with much effort at communicating with that audience about the thrill of discovery available to those who engage with new musical experiences at the highest level. Those who customize their own subscription have renewed at the stunning rate of 90%. What’s more, they are trading up in number of concerts and to better seats — clear evidence that they value the experience that they are getting and want to enhance it further. Thus the organization sees increases in customer satisfaction, longevity as subscribers, and motivation to become donors. Another sign of satisfaction is that, when they are given discounts for various reasons, statistics show that these are overwhelmingly inclined to use the saving for … wait for it: more concert tickets.

All these programs, their devising, thinking-through, execution, supervision, and — crucially — their evaluation are expensive in thought and staff hours. But, in money, the entire online multi-media program, for example, costs for a whole year approximately what a quarter-page ad in the leading metropolitan daily costs. These kinds of comparisons command attention.

An hour of conversation with David Snead was succeeded by an hour engaged with Shana Mathur, who is Vice President, Marketing and Communications at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. After what I had heard about consumer-designed experiences, I was eager to know how the Create Your Own Season program was prospering on the other end of the continent. Evidently we’d have to say that it’s a success when participants in the program have doubled from last season to this. If we remember that this was hardly a limping organization before, such response from the public must be respected — and examined. Naturally the popular fervor that the arrival of a new music director has inspired makes people want to see him, if nothing else. But people are buying not just Dudamel concerts. There is a clear age difference between the modes of subscription: the average age of fixed subscribers is 65, whereas that of Create Your Own is ten years younger. “It takes a lot of 30-year-olds to bring it down that much,” Mathur points out. While these, not surprisingly, flock to the visits of the Berlin Philharmonic, John Williams, or Steve Martin, there also seems to be no letup in the willingness to buy tickets for the non-familiar and adventurous — a legacy of 17 years of steady progress in this direction under Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Los Angeles administration is particularly alert to lifestyle issues as they reflect and affect participation in the seasons. Since the prosperity of the Philharmonic had long been subscription-driven, when Mathur joined in January of 2008, she realized that this round hole, while wonderfully effective in its way, wasn’t quite right for a lot of square pegs who needed to be reached out to. She recognized her good fortune in having two iconic venues that in themselves drive audience interest (the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl), each with a distinct season. She found “a well-oiled machine” in place that she was wise enough to respect. “I didn’t want to stick my foot in a wheel that was running smoothly.” On the other hand, there was no digital team in place, and it seemed an obvious step to create a department of digital marketing. One result of this was a growth in the extent and effectiveness of the e-mail list.

Mathur saw the digital realm as providing greater opportunities for engagement. When the idea of online games came up in internal discussion, she said, “We have an opportunity to have lots of fun here. Let’s just do it.” The resulting games have been an “incredible hit.” One of them introduces “what a conductor does.” It thus teaches nuts and bolts relative to experiencing the Philharmonic, but it also incites commentary and brings new audiences closer to what goes on at the concert venues. She sees the games as a way to involve and engage audiences.

Web analytics are also key. How did the user get to that video? A link in an e-mail or on the site of an educational institution? That will inform what they buy. How does a print ad or an ad on a newspaper’s Web site get the user to a point of purchase? Her staff also created mobile programs so people could text in their photos to a “What Happened Last Night” feature after a Hollywood Bowl evening. The increased return-visitorship has persuaded them that to implement a program tailored for the Walt Disney Concert Hall as well.

The team’s creative thinking was guided by the perception that subscription is a luxury — not so much financially as in presupposing a well-regulated schedule and more or less predictable habits and needs. This corresponds, of course, to the secure and settled retired person — which helps explain the age difference in modes of purchase. On the other hand, they look closely at other lifestyle needs: for example the two-career young marrieds-with-children for whom planning ahead may be the only chance for a night out at the Philharmonic as a couple, with babysitting engaged and demanding work schedules arranged.

The relationship between marketing and artistic administration at the LA Philharmonic is highly collaborative. The artistic side typically comes to marketing with ideas, and the many successful festivals that the organization is known for are necessarily cross-departmental initiatives, since a festival is among other things a marketing package. Festivals like their “West Coast/Left Coast” (in which California was celebrated as the home of progressive ideas in music and society) involve marketing from the very beginning.

But Mathur emphasizes that the kind of marketing we’re talking about here is not all about “what sells/doesn’t sell.” Other motives take precedence all through the discussion. It can’t be coincidence, therefore, that the public too seems to be getting the message that the Philharmonic can be trusted to give them substance that is worth their time and money. “Our role as marketers is to find our place in the larger enterprise.” The result, she says with evident conviction, is “a brand that has love inside it.”

As the Kennedy Center’s Michael Kaiser, renowned as “The Turnaround King,” said in a January 9 WNYC-FM interview: “What’s important to running a successful arts organization is to produce great art and then to market that art very aggressively. Everything else will follow and fall in place… There is money for the arts if one is producing interesting art.”

Roger Evans wrote a version of this article for the DCM newsletter.