Day 3: Where to start?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, live performing arts opportunities are widely available in large and mid-size cities, and often within reach in smaller areas via colleges, civic organizations, tours and the like.
So how can you decide what to see? This is an idiosyncratic decision–like any choice, but here are some questions that might narrow the choice a bit.
- Big or small? performances comes in all sizes, from the intimacy of a lieder singer giving a recital in a hall that seats a couple of hundred, to a blockbuster musical like Phantom playing in a theater that seats thousands. Both can be rewarding, but they are very different kinds of emotional experiences. One acquaintance of mine is mostly interested in seeing grand productions–orchestra performances with huge bands (for instance, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder). Another might want nothing more than an evening with a lone cellist playing the Bach Cello Suites, or a one-person play.
- Familiar or unfamiliar? Although you may think you don’t know classical music, opera, Shakespeare, what have you, I bet you do have some context. (Maybe you have heard Ravel’s Bolero, listened to Carmen’s Habanera, read the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet (or seen one of the many film versions.) If any of those struck a chord with you, look for related performance. Great classics are given all the time all over because they are–well–great. It’s fine, probably more than fine, for your first opera to be La Bohème because you saw it Moonstruck. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by it in person if you liked it there.
Alternately, you can go for something alternative. A new music group, a play reading by a new playwright, a work that explores a time, culture, topic far away from your ken. Some of my most memorable evenings have been walking in to an unknown–maybe folk music from a tradition that is new to you, or a composer and performer you have never heard before.
3. Finally, think about what kind of night (or afternoon) you are up for. Performing arts can be a ‘big night out’ –with all the trappings of a special event. Or it can be as simple as listening to a free pick-up concert in somebody’s home. Both are fine, but planning for what kind of experience you want can help. Matching the emotion and the content to the character of the evening.