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LJ Idol - DW - 7: Steadfast (~850 words)

I don't know why, but my mother always purchases tickets for concerts and plays no closer to the stage than the dress circle, even when money is not an obstacle.

As a child, I did not question it, because I was not a fan of either. But as I slowly grew to like seeing good actors on stage and going to classical concerts, I discovered the stalls.

At first, it happened in theatre. Planning my trip to New York in 2010 to see Alan Rickman, I purchased tickets in the very first row, because if I were to travel all the way across the world to see him, I might as well see.

Since then, I have never sat further from the stage than the seventh row. It is simply not the same, and not worth it when you cannot watch the minute play of emotion on the actors' faces with your own eyes.

It took another eight years for me to try the same on concerts, because while I already knew that my life would likely never be the same afterward, it took this long to break the habit, and the stereotype that music was the same everywhere in the auditorium. I also worried about balancing watching the players and listening to the music (which is hard enough without distractions when you know next to nothing about it).

Today was the second time I sat in the stalls at a classical concert, and in the stalls I will remain in the future.

Today's concert was very special for a reason that had nothing to do with me, but because I was so close to the stage, in fifth row, I saw not only an orchestra and a choir on that stage, but people. People sharing an intensely private moment in public and with the public.

When we entered the auditorium, it was unusual to see a large portrait hung over the stage. Portraits of composers decorate the walls and foyer of the "Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatory", where the concert was held (I even sometimes jokingly call it, "the hall of 14 white men"), but never the stage.

The orchestra entered, and took their seats, and after a while, the concertmaster gestured for them to stand. The orchestra standing up is the usual gesture of respect when the conductor enters the stage, but there they stood, silently, and no conductor entered.

The moment stretched—and one-by-one, members of the audience stood as well, until without a word uttered, all of us stood up to give respect to Gennady Rozhdestvensky, the famous Soviet and Russian conductor who died this summer, whose portrait it was hanging over the stage, and to whom this concert was dedicated.

When we sat down again after a silent minute, we were a different auditorium.

The conductor and the soloist entered the stage soon after, the conductor being very courteous toward the lady and waiting specifically as she sat at the piano and prepared to play. The soloist was Victoria Postnikova, Gennady Rozhdestvensky's widow.

She, and the orchestra, played Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 24 for us, and when it ended, it was touching and private to see her bow to the musicians and thank them.

The second composition chosen for the concert was Mozart's Concert for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, and in it, Victoria Postnikova was joined on the stage by her and Gennady Rozhdestvensky's son Aleksandr, who soloed on the violin.

All this, the subtle interactions, and even the significance of the solos, I would have missed, had I sat, as I normally do, in the circle, even with a programme on hand, because I don't know the music "scene", and I did not even recognize the deceased conductor from his portrait before getting the programme, even if I'd heard of him, and of his passing.

I would have equally missed other interactions, those of the other musicians in the orchestra. Today was the first time I saw a concertmaster act in so overt a manner, or noticed him carrying responsibility for the orchestra over his shoulders like a mantle, a duty and an honour. Or the "seasoned" musicians' practiced affected "ignorance" of the public. Or the lack of such ignorance in a young lady, one of the violins, who sat toward the back and looked—wonderfully new to the group around her. New, and not yet settled and self-assured.

I would have also kept wondering about the balance in watching the people and following the music, when it is so simple: if the music takes you, it does, wherever you sit, like it did in the second part of the concert, when it came time for Mozart's Requiem.

I don't speak Latin, in which the Requiem is sung, or understand its composition, but it moved me deeply how light it was, and how uplifting, like misty trembling air rising above the sand on hot summer days.

Note. I may come off as a privileged swot in this entry, sitting in the stalls everywhere I go, but it is not quite the case. I would rather sit in the stalls once than elsewhere four times, as simple as that.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 29th, 2018 11:37 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.
Nov. 30th, 2018 01:42 am (UTC)
I don't think you sound privileged at all. Not sure if I agree though, that the first few rows give you a much better experience. To me, no matter where I sit, I don't think it's that much of a difference. But I guess I may not be observative enough to catch those nuances like you do.
Dec. 12th, 2018 08:30 pm (UTC)
Are we talking about concerts or plays here? :) I still would sit further back on concerts, but still now I know what I'm missing.

I guess I just love people, and enjoy seeing them at their-at least-good and professional, if not best.
Dec. 12th, 2018 09:21 pm (UTC)
Maybe both, though the only plays I tend to see are local performances where there is no assigned seating. I see more musicals then plays and when I saw Wicked, we were in the waaay back and I don't think it detracted much from my experience.
Nov. 30th, 2018 01:50 am (UTC)
I like this gentle tale for a topic that could have gone so many directions. It makes me wish I knew more about classical music. Our orchestra does a fun Halloween concert that I attend each yeat and each year I vow to go to more concerts and then don’t manage it.
Dec. 12th, 2018 08:33 pm (UTC)
Can you get seasonal tickets? That is what we do: they are both noticeably (at least twice, I think) cheaper per concert, and encourage you to come, because you already have them.
Nov. 30th, 2018 05:41 pm (UTC)
I can understand this, especially with a play, but I'd rather go and sit back than not go at all.
Dec. 12th, 2018 08:34 pm (UTC)
It is a choice I can also understand, even if I choose differently.
Dec. 1st, 2018 12:45 pm (UTC)
I have seen plays and couldn't agree more with you. The closer you are the better the experience. I am yet to attend a concert and would love to do it some time soon :) I enjoyed reading about it and thanks for sharing your insights.
Dec. 12th, 2018 08:38 pm (UTC)
One bit of advice: a few theatres offer seating on the actual stage, with actors reaaally close. If you buy such tickets, choose the second row, coz in the first, you will have to mind your feet - cannot stretch them out for fear of tripping someone up - and sit very still, - I did. *giggles*

I am glad you liked this story.
Dec. 1st, 2018 04:13 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree with you! I loved reading this and think you touched on the important and "moving" aspects of this conscious choice!
Dec. 2nd, 2018 05:56 am (UTC)
Being close does make a huge difference. We always sat in the balcony when I was younger but I have come to appreciate a closer seat. Jealous of your Alan Rickman tickets.
Dec. 2nd, 2018 05:11 pm (UTC)
Wonderful observations! And I completely agree. My sister and I took our dad to see a doo-wop concert for his 75th birthday earlier this year. There were a number of acts performing, most of whom I didn't know by name, even if I recognized some of their songs. Even though I wasn't exactly a fan, it was fascinating to watch them up close, to see all the gestures and glances before them, to see the way the only woman performer flirted with the audience and showed off her powerful dance moves, up in her 70s. I absolutely adored that way of seeing it and wish I could do the same with every concert I attend going forward.
Dec. 2nd, 2018 11:27 pm (UTC)
A privileged swot? Absolutely not. But privilege earned and appreciated is not at all a bad thing.

Your description of the vantage point of your seating choices is wonderful, and as ever with your writing, I felt like I was right there with you. Brava! Brava!
Dec. 3rd, 2018 12:24 am (UTC)
This was a wonderful description of the concert and the interactions that people not sitting close enough miss. That must have been a special concert. I hope seeing Alan Rickman up close was worth it.
Dec. 3rd, 2018 02:36 am (UTC)
That sounds like a very special concert. I'm not familiar with Rozhdestvensky's wife as a performer, but the conductor himself was an immensely talented man.

What a bittersweet experience for the performers and audience alike.
Dec. 3rd, 2018 05:45 am (UTC)
You did not come off sounding privileged. You enjoy your concerts however you are comfortable! 🐭🐁😊✌
Dec. 16th, 2018 07:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Dec. 3rd, 2018 01:30 pm (UTC)
A delightful and interesting read. I love the theatre myself too! Seeing Alan Rickman must have been wonderful - he had such talent <3
Dec. 16th, 2018 07:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, he was. I don't know if you're familiar with the play, Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman". He played the title role there, that of an old dishonoured banker who dies of heart attack at the end of the play. And, well, there are indications that the character is not well throughout, but because I don't read the plays before I see them, I did not know the ending and each time he subtly showed that Borkman was unwell, I was like *jump* *hope ~that was in the play* :D
Dec. 3rd, 2018 09:56 pm (UTC)
I have a similar though process. I would much rather sit in the stalls, study the costumes, see the emotions, figure out the tech.
Dec. 16th, 2018 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. (Before this, I never realized the bows were so long! *embarrassed giggle*)
Dec. 3rd, 2018 11:17 pm (UTC)
I haven't been to many classical concerts, but I agree with this so much. All my best theater experiences have been ones where we sat close to the front. And I feel like it's not really a coincidence that my least favorite is the one where we were almost at the very back. There's just something about being close that draws you in and makes the whole experience so much more meaningful.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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