A scene from opening night at the Dallas Opera, 2011. Credit: Kristi and Scott Redman.

Classical Music Criticism in Dallas: It’s Time for a Makeover

If there's a perception problem with classical music in 2014, is further alienating the existing audience a wise decision?

September is an exciting one in classical music, it’s a month that brings the launch of new seasons from the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphonies as well as several local chamber groups. Next week on FrontRow we’ll have a run-down of the best classical concerts to snag tickets to next month. In the meantime, though, it’s time to have a conversation about the current dialogue surrounding classical music in Dallas. On that point, it could use some updating.

Like any other art form, classical music needs informed, sophisticated criticism that both educates and engages the public. We are lucky in this city to have a daily newspaper that continues to support a full-time classical music critic. Since 1999, The Dallas Morning News’ Scott Cantrell has provided readers with a reliable stream of reviews covering an exhaustive number of symphonic, operatic, choral and chamber concerts. His output is prolific and he has high standards for the art form, but increasingly his tone tends to be off-putting.

It’s no secret that classical music suffers from a misperception as elitist and inaccessible. This is due in part to a stiff, inflexible attitude towards concert etiquette that dominated the genre in the 20th century. By now it has been well documented that this uptight approach wasn’t the norm when much of classical music was originally composed, and there seems to be a growing consensus that, moving forward, we could stand to lighten up a bit when it comes to who claps when or who wears what.

Another factor that contributes to classical music’s image problem is a lack of diversity in concert halls. Compared to the visual and theatrical arts, classical music has been slow to evolve in terms of both gender and ethnic diversity. Between stuffy rules about how to act at concerts and a persistently older, sparingly diverse, male-dominated presence on stage and in print—the vast majority of classical critics at major newspapers in the U.S. are men, too—it’s no wonder that younger audiences often feel intimidated by classical music.

I feel strongly that those of us who write about classical music have a responsibility not only to maintain high standards for the art form, but also to communicate to potential new audience members how accessible and enriching classical music can be, especially when it is exceptionally well performed and interpreted.

Which is why it was irksome when, earlier this summer, Mr. Cantrell posted a blog that was insulting and condescending towards both enthusiastic audience members and The Dallas Opera’s newly appointed principal guest conductor, Nicole Paiement, who happens to be a woman.

In mid-June, The Dallas Opera announced the appointment of Ms. Paiement to the position of “Principal Guest Conductor.” The press release read as follows:

The Dallas Opera is delighted to announce Maestra Nicole Paiement to assume the role of ‘Principal Guest Conductor’ effective immediately.

When the announcement was made, I covered it over on the Dallas Observer’s Mixmaster. I failed to make a point of mentioning in my article the significance of the fact that The Dallas Opera appointed a woman to this position, but in a TheaterJones article published a month later, Gregory Sullivan Isaacs took the time to point out not only that this is significant, but also that Ms. Paiement will be establishing a mentoring program for women opera conductors.

Scott Cantrell also covered the announcement on Guide Live’s Center Stage blog (a site “powered by the Dallas Morning News”). The blog post went up at 1:00pm on June 11th and was harmlessly newsy.

At 2:39pm on June 11th, however, just over an hour-and-a-half after the original announcement went up, Mr. Cantrell posted another blog, this time with a snarky headline (“Easy on the ‘maestro,’ please”). And this is where he crosses a line with his commentary. Here is the text of that blog in its entirety:

Can we give the much overworked word “maestro” a rest?

It probably shouldn’t be applied to any musician under age 50, and then only to the most distinguished ones. Calling virtually anyone with a baton in hand a “maestro” cheapens the honorific pretty much as automatic standing ovations have rendered that formerly rare accolade meaningless.

Nicole Paiement, rehearsing in 2010. Courtesy of the conductor.
Nicole Paiement, rehearsing in 2010. Courtesy of the conductor.

Now, since Mr. Cantrell didn’t mention Ms. Paiement by name in the rant above, the evidence that he was referencing (or should we say insulting?) her is purely circumstantial. But given the curious timing—Mr. Cantrell had not posted anything else on the blog in five days and would not post again for another nine—this post seems clearly aimed at the use of the word “Maestra” in reference to Ms. Paiement in The Dallas Opera’s press release.

The word maestro (or maestra – fem.) simply means “master” and certainly does imply the highest level of accomplishment. While it may be true that the term is overused, Mr. Cantrell’s bizarre assumption that there should be an age limit applied to its use is completely arbitrary. I chose not to inquire about Ms. Paiement’s age for this article because, quite frankly, her age is not the point. Her impressive resume and her work should speak for itself.

If Mr. Cantrell has a problem with Ms. Paiement as a conductor, I do wish he’d write a blog explaining what he sees as her artistic weaknesses. Critics should critique where criticism is due, and certainly women conductors should be held to the same high standards as their male counterparts. But, in a world where women are most certainly fighting an uphill battle and are sorely underrepresented, it seems counterproductive to rant about the semantics of a press release.

If Mr. Cantrell was going to take the time to write a second blog post anyway, why not use that opportunity to point out that Ms. Paiement’s appointment represents the first time a woman has held a conducting position that begins with the word “principal” instead of “assistant” at a major classical organization in Dallas? He could have also focused his energies on the fact that Ms. Paiement has made a name for herself as an interpreter of new music, something that so many conductors shy away from because, frankly, it’s risky and hard. Simply put, passive aggressive jabs that come across as sexist (at worst) and condescending (at best) are not what classical music needs, especially in its current state.

Nor do we need the continued snobbery about how and when audiences should clap. Mr. Cantrell is certainly not alone in his disdain for the frequency of standing ovations at concerts in Dallas. D Magazine itself broached the topic in a 2010 article bemoaning the phenomenon. I get it. There are times when I’ve sat through a disappointingly bad performance only to see everyone around me leap to their feet in praise after the final chord. So what? There’s no award given for obediently staying in your seat longer than your neighbor; doing so doesn’t prove one’s musical prowess. If a symphonic performance lacks rhythmic integrity or strings are out of tune, certainly, that should be mentioned in a critic’s review. But criticizing audiences for their enthusiastic responses, even to less than stellar performances, is, as I’ve pointed out before, entirely unproductive.

In order for classical music to thrive in our city in the future, we need the conversation surrounding it to evolve past a dogged adherence to out-dated, old-world views. There has to be a way to maintain high standards for musical excellence without infusing criticism with undue elitism. Let’s leave 20th-century ideals about classical music terminology and etiquette where they belong: in the past.


  • Bobtex

    Are there standards of behavior at classical performances? Should there be? I look forward to your comments regarding use of a cell phone for calling, texting, or checking in during a concert. How about carrying on a running commentary with your seatmate? What about recording, photographing, or wideotaping during the performance? Unless you say that “Anything Goes”, I am interested to know where the line against unacceptable behavior is drawn, and who gets to draw it, and who gets to enforce it.

    Because a classical music concert is communal experience, it seems that the community of listeners is entitled to set some standards. You can sit around in your underwear on your sofa eating nachos while listening to Itzhak Perlman on your personal sound system, but if you did that in the fifth row of the Meyerson Symphony Center you would justly be ostracized. So, what are the rules, and who makes them?

  • Paul Pellay

    “We could stand to lighten up a bit when it comes to who claps when or who wears what”.
    Oh God, not this again! And after sitting through a splendid performance of Holst’s Planets last night which was nearly spoilt by the fact that some yahoos insisted on applauding after EVERY ONE of its first 6 movements, thus denying any sense of continuity to the music, I will admit to being violently jaundiced about any notion of “lightening up” on such matters. There comes a point when such behaviour has nothing to do with enthusiasm and love for the music and the performance, but raging narcissism! “Lookit me, I love this so much I can’t contain myself!” And the hell with those of us who just want to lose ourselves in the music. And may I suggest looking up the meaning of terms such as “elitist” or “elitism” in a dictionary? I remember a time not so far back when such terms were taken as the compliments they originally were. And if I ever have a craving for an unstuffy atmosphere in a concert, I’ll find plenty of that on the stage with a well-prepared, enthusiastic performance of whatever music is on the program, thank you very much!

  • Thomas Hooper

    On the subject of Maestro, or Maestra, or his opinion as stated in a Dallas Morning News Blog during a period of blogging abstinence as being sexist. Where did that come from? One of the most memorable guest conductors at the DSO in recent years was Alondra de la Parra and her conducting at the DSO of great Latin Music. Scott Cantrell could not have been a bigger fan from her first Dallas performance at SMU, and his review of that concert that led to her DSO invite at Mr. Cantrell’s recommendation to the programming director of the DSO. . Her encore of one of Ginastera’s most famous suites, had us standing on our feet, much like Gustavo Dudamel did when he performed the work at the Proms in London. It was far from stuffy.
    I believe Mr. Cantrell thinks that the way to expand classical musics fan base is to also bring in innovative programming and expose us to more contemporary composers like the FWSO seems to be doing these days. His championing of Mary Preston would be another example. Mr. Cantrell is far from stuffy.or sexist for that matter.

    And on premature or clapping at the wrong time during a symphony concert, it happened at several of the last DSO concerts. It is annoying to be listening to a work, and after a wonderful coda by the symphony, and the conductor still with his baton raised in the air; , to have the audience start almost immediately to applaud as if they were sitting on their hands waiting to clap at the first opportunity to do so. Am I stuffy, because I just sit there and do not clap? It interrupted my mood and enjoyment of the moment. Oh, and on a different note, Handel’s Messiah is a great example of an audience clapping a little to often, and creating movements in the work that were not there in the first place. Why is it stuffy to ask the audience to wait to applaud at the end of the work? Or to not text, or look at cell phone screens, etc, Silence is very powerful.

    I think Ms. Womack doth protest too much.

  • Susan Malphurs

    Bravo for writing this. I’m standing and clapping!

  • Willard Spiegelman

    As the author of the 2010 D Magazine article about the mandatory, ubiquitous Standing Ovation, I can only say that things have got worse. Talking, chatting, texting, whooping and hollering: the whole shebang. It is an American phenomenon, which has not–yet–infected most European venues, but I am sure it will. There is such a thing as polite silence, or silent gratitude. I have attended programs, not too many, and none too recent, when the performance was so overwhelming that the entire audience sat in stunned silence for thirty seconds, or more, before erupting in enthusiasm. And when no one made a retreat to the exit and the parking lot before a curtain or a baton had fallen. Noise is not the only, and certainly not the best, sign of enthusiasm.

  • Muscian

    Orchestras are sitting in ash heaps, throwing them over their heads and tearing apart their garments over what they should do to engage audiences involvement and bring younger people to the concert hall. I would venture a bet that if, at the beginning of a season, the board president got on stage before the concert and said to the audience: “We want you to be engaged in what you hear; don’t just think that you have to be polite and clap at everything you hear. If you didn’t like something, then express your discontent by not clapping or by booing. If you think the performance was up to your expectations, sit and clap politely. If the performance kept you riveted, then get up, clap and shout bravo. We are not looking for “politeness” – we are looking for engaged audiences who discuss among themselves why something was booed or bravoed after the concert is over, and, if they disagree with parts of the audience’s reaction, may get fired up to work on gaining more understanding of the music we perform so they can more actively gauge whether they agree or disagree with standing ovations or rounds of boos. This is not a wake for Beethoven and Brahms; this is a concert performed by living musicians who will react to the level of your own engagement and participation in the concert.”

    When I have discussed the above ideas with various people, they are generally opposed to booing during a concert – though let me stress that I don’t mean booing or necessarily applauding while the musicians are playing but in between the separate compositions – considering it “too impolite.” I don’t quite buy their arguments, because, making the sports events analogy again, commentators on TV can often be very harsh when evaluating a player’s or a teams performance live on TV. If people sneer that “football can hardly be compared to a concert,” I’d ask why not? football requires dedicated training from each player, and if the entire team isn’t playing together, which requires extensive coaching and rehearsing plays, they fall apart and get blown out. If football is not “genteel” enough for such comparisons, I would put to you that sports experts in their field commenting live on tennis matches, golf and cricket are equally harsh in their judgment on bad playing.

    An alternative proposal to booing and clapping during a concert would be for each orchestra to give a concert a twitter hashtag, so audiences can respond in real time and read each other’s reactions as they are tweeted, while the orchestra musicians and management could view the comments after the concert performance is over. There are problems with this solution, however. Considering the average age of audiences today, I doubt many of them have twitter accounts. Second, all those lit-up phone screens would probably be distracting. But a reverse black screen with white text and mildly fluorescent keys could decrease this potential moment of irritation to an acceptable level. Third, some twitter users may focus more on twittering than on the music. Perhaps “twitter seating sections” can be designated in the concert hall. This approach may serve to bring in younger audiences who like to read each other’s opinions in real time.

    A livelier and more spontaneous audience reaction to classical concerts might just be able to reverse the current trend of live classical music performance ossification that we’re experiencing today.

  • Muscian

    Audience clapping at mediocre and even bad performances frequently drives me up the wall. I have attended many concerts where I thought merely “meh” to “awful”, yet much to my surprise, the entire audience stood up and applauded the performance. It happens at concerts with small, medium and top-6 orchestras, so it’s not a symptom of bumpkin provincial audiences.

    For quite a few years now, I have thought that if only some people had the guts to stand up and yell BOOOOO!!!! loudly, we might reap a number of benefits. And bear in mind that I am not proposing booing while the musicians play or in between movements, but only after the full composition is concluded.

    The main one would be in making concerts more exciting again. My line of thinking goes thus: If the lemming clapping and bravoing is interrupted, by boos and lack of clapping from some in the audience, the other people in the concert hall may feel that they are active participants in an exciting event, similar to what we can see at team sports games. There, the spectators are into the game, and if their home team plays badly, they do not refrain from booing them. Why should we care less about how our “home” orchestra performs? If nothing else, the “scandal” concert performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps in Paris, 1913, where audiences would get into fights over a contemporary piece, must have been truly exciting and memorable events for the audience and musicians (though I’m sure quite a few of them didn’t enjoy it). Nonetheless, audiences and musicians were part of a history-making event to which they had bragging rights for the rest of their lives, envied by those who weren’t there after the event took place.

    The second benefit would lie in bringing back some excitement to the orchestra musicians, conductors and soloists, who often play by rote these days. If they felt that the standing ovations were genuine and not automatically pro forma, they would take more pride in their achievements. If they feared that a mediocre performance would get booed, they would always have the motivation to put everything into their playing. The same goes for conductors and, especially, soloists. A modern concert season for a top soloist in the jet age involves performing 2-3 concertos 40 times with different orchestras all over the world. If you are unlucky to be at performance 35, chances are that the soloist is so sick and tired of the travel, hotel rooms, and different conductors and orchestras that the performance will be on autopilot. A hearty boo at the end of such a performance would keep them on their toes throughout the tour or would make them appear less often with more varied repertoire.

    Finally, heartfelt ovations and booing would give the orchestra some much-needed feedback from audiences. Today, if an orchestra plays badly or has bad avant-garde music on the program, audiences express their displeasure not at the concert, but afterwards by not renewing their subscriptions or not coming back – or sending an irate letter to the orchestra’s executive director, which doesn’t do much to influence conductors, musicians and boards of directors. This hurts the orchestra far more than a round of solid booing after a performance coming from an engaged audience which will come back for more. Depending on who gets booed, it would also provide the orchestra with useful feedback about where they may have issues. If the artistic director-conductor gets booed often, then it’s time to not renew the contract. If it’s a soloist, then don’t ask them back. If, when various sections are asked to rise after a symphony, it’s the woodwinds, then it’s time to consider measures to fix the weak links (such as moving musicians higher or lower stands or “retiring” them). If a contemporary piece gets a standing ovation or boos, the orchestra might consider programming more – or less – music by the composer or in a similar style in the future. This would also benefit composers who write good contemporary music, but who, in most cases, can’t get it performed more than once or twice in their lifetime, meaning that “superstar” composers like, e.g. Stravinsky or Shostakovich once were, get lost in the crowd, the result being that we have little “established” contemporary repertoire in most concert halls across the country. A further benefit could be in the form of added exposure.

    At La Scala performances here in the US. Yet, if an opera super-star gets bravoed or booed there, it can make or break their career and makes headlines in the cultural sections of newspapers across the world. That is an exciting concert atmosphere!

  • Muscian

    PS My comments are awaiting moderation in reverse order. Since they are connected, the comment starting with “Audience clapping at mediocre…” should appear before the one starting with “Orchestras are sitting in ash heaps…” if they are accepted for publication.

    Thank you!

  • Muscian

    Rules at concerts are a matter of social convetions, mostly. Recording a performance is not allowed due to copyright issues, Making noise by talking to your companion during a performance of having a bright cell phone on are rightly unacceptable, because they distract other audience members.

    Anything else is open for discussion. In Mozart’s time, audiences clapped while the musicians were playing if they loved a particular passage. Up until fairly late in the 19th century, clapping between movements was quite normal. If they audiences clapped long enough after a movement in a symphony, the movement was usually repeated before the rest of the piece was played.

  • John Parfrey

    I agree. I don’t understand this business of ‘lightening up’ the atmosphere at concerts. I’ve attended concerts at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, Symphony Center (Chicago) and many other venues and have seen jeans and informal attire. I don’t know the scene in Dallas at all (I live in Denver where people show up for CSO concerts in any kind of attire) but would be really surprised if symphony audiences there all show up in black tie and tails, evening gowns, suit and tie and expensive dresses.

    Like Bobtex above, I wonder what the new norm is supposed to be? Should audiences be allowed to bring in popcorn and soft drinks to enjoy while listening to Mozart, or cocktails and apps during Lang Lang’s performance? The reason I like some quiet when I’m listening to music at a concert is the same as when I’m in an art museum and want to view an artwork without people standing or walking by and blocking my experience of what is before me. I have never thought of that as stuffy or old fashioned.

    Audiences in Europe don’t leap to their feet as often as they do here. I don’t really care one way or the other, but I’d offer that audiences in Europe also have a fair number of younger people present who appear (to me at least) to have no problem with sitting quietly and listening. Could this perhaps be unique to each country or even each region or local market?

    But to echo Bobtex again, critics of the status quo at concerts never seem to lay out what they would want to see changed, except for letting audiences being able to applaud whenever they wish, sometimes even during a work. But what else? Catherine, tell us what you think should be the new rules?

  • Muscian

    The excellent article “Claptrap – When to clap or not to clap at concerts” By Mark Caro published May 29, 2012 in the Chicago Tribune will answer most of your questions. Look it up online.

    Clapping between movements of classical music has long been frowned on, but is it time to loosen up?

    May 29, 2012|By Mark Caro

  • Edward Willey

    I think it’s pretty clear that the term “maestro” indicates a “master” of the trade. A principal guest conductor might well be a master, but not everyone is a Bernstein, von Karajan, or Dutoit. In the business world, people don’t get branded a “genius” or “visionary” unless they truly make a big impact. Otherwise they are just CEOs, COOs, etc. Also, as a trained musician I also find myself perplexed by the apparent need in Dallas not only to give a usually hesitant standing ovation (indicating that it’s not exactly an “ovation” at all) but also to declare each concert a masterpiece and further to schedule the same pieces over and over. I have known Mr. Cantrell for years and while I do not always agree with his views, in some cases I find myself taking a much harsher view than he prints in the DMN. For example, I found the Mozart Requiem conducted by Maestro van Zweden (a man worthy of the title) several years ago to be too fast, unbalanced (choir vs orchestra), and lacking in the grandeur I normally associate with that piece. Was it terrible? No. Yet I was very unsatisfied. I greatly disliked the soloist for a Rach 3 performance, too, who made the piece sound like an etude and seemed to think that pushing the tempo (and little else) created drama and suspense. For years I thought that a certain section of the DS Chorus was lagging. I do have friends in the DSO and DSC still and the good news is that even to my admittedly critical ear the vast majority of what is turned out these days is phenomenal playing, whether or not the soloist or guest conductor is delivering A+ rated goods. Those who have performed *for* Maestro van Zweden, as I have, know that he is an extremely demanding conductor for his own part and probably no less critical of the product than Mr. Cantrell (allowing for disagreements on style, etc.). He has pushed the ensemble far beyond the DSO of 10 years ago. I believe that our community has embraced the guy we hired for the top job at the DSO and has begun to raise our own standards. Yet despite a barrage of marketing efforts to go along with this rise in quality, the audience has not turned into am army of 30-somethings wearing jeans. I just can’t believe that audience demographics have any significant link to the views of a critic in a newspaper. If you looked more deeply into the issue, you would know that data exists pointing to the notion that as ticket prices have increased to cover increasing production costs, and both of these have outstripped inflation, which itself has outstripped real wage growth. Seriously. Therefore, we may have made access prohibitive. There are examples of groups dropping prices and selling out the house. If nothing else, Dallas Opera ticket prices are stunningly high, at least to me, in comparison to my FW Opera season subscription in row H of Bass Hall. Finally, lobbing charges of sexism at someone in the public eye merely based on speculation seems almost to rise to the level of hostility and at the very least is unprofessional. You may disagree with Mr. Cantrell’s take on a performance or intra-piece clapping, but I don’t see how your charge of sexism against a critic who writes glowing reviews of women performers and conductors has any merit whatsoever. I sincerely hope that I do not end up at a performance next to you when someone decides to talk during the performance or to start texting, since I certainly will ask them to wait until intermission.

  • ThankYou

    THANK YOU for calling Cantrell out. From my point of view, his articles are less a critique of the actual performance and more a display of his vast musical knowledge and how said performance compares to some “standard” recording or tradition he deems the pinnacle. He doesn’t seem to be ever really happy with the performances unless they match up to whatever was playing in his head. Or he gets invited on tour with the symphony. Then they’re pretty awesome.

  • Katie Womack

    Here are my thoughts on applause: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/mixmaster/2014/03/applause_classical_music.php

    I’m certainly not advocating an “anything goes” approach towards concert hall etiquette. We’ve agreed as a society that we don’t let people talk or text in movie theaters and concert halls have those same rules. Classical musicians who are performing live deserve our attention and respect (as do fellow concert-goers).

    My criticism in this piece is focused more on those who write about classical music and seem bent on using a tone that, rather than being positive and educational, seems judgmental and condescending to those in the audience who might not be familiar with classical concerts.

  • DMNSCantrell

    I’m always happy to spark discussion of classical music, whether commenters agree or not. I’m sorry Ms. Womack finds my “tone” increasingly off-putting, but I’m having trouble following her reasoning here.

    A wise colleague once warned us fellow writers to be wary of assuming or attributing motives. Ms. Womack here imagines my brief blog post on overuse of the word “maestro” as a slap at conductor Nicole Paiement, who had just been named to a conducting post with the Dallas Opera–and maybe at female conductors in general. It was no such thing. The Dallas Opera announcement of her appointment, using the word “maestra,” did stir up long simmering annoyance at the loose application of the term to virtually any conductor. It’s like grade inflation, or automatic standing ovations. It has nothing to do with the gender of Ms. Paiement or any other conductor.

    For the record, I have criticized the Dallas Symphony for the lack of female conductors and female composers; I would love to see and hear more of both. I have written glowing reviews and some not so glowing of conductors both male and female. A conductor’s gender makes absolutely no difference to me.

    As to the applause-between-movement issue, it has become popular in some classical-music circles to advocate letting audiences do whatever they want. Yes, audiences in Mozart’s day applauded between movements, which might prompt immediate reprise of said movement. But for more than a century we’ve pretty much agreed that a symphony or concerto or song cycle has a trajectory from first note to last. Applause after each movement deflates the concentration that really wants to be sustained through the whole piece. Performers then have to wait for the audience to settle down again, then try to crank up the concentration all over again. Once dispelled, the magic can be hard to revive.

    This has nothing to do with elitism. Etiquette is a set of principles we agree to so we don’t have to worry how to behave in given situations. When part of the audience is applauding between movements and the rest isn’t, it’s awkward.

  • Anon

    Get it Katie!

  • Bill Marvel

    That anyone who can understand English prose could read Scott Cantrell’s complaints about overuse of the word “maestro” (or, by implication, “maestra”) as sexist reminds me once again that we read what we expect to read or what we want to read, not what’s actually written. Even when our profession is reading and writing. I guess the kindest thing I can think of to say about Ms. Womack’s comments is “nonsense!”
    There is a case to be made that the word “maestro” has outlived its usefulness, I think, not because it is overused but because it’s used at all. It’s pretentious, in an art that already suffers from galloping pretence. We don’t have a special word for painters or actors or poets who have survived for decades and who stand above the crowd. Nobody would think to call Mick Jagger “maestro.” Not seriously, anyway. Why a special word for certain symphony or opera conductors?

  • DMNSCantrell

    Thanks, Bill. I hadn’t even considered the elitist odor of “maestro.” Valid point.

  • Katie Womack

    Thanks for your response, Mr. Cantrell.

    I don’t think that my commentary assigns or imagines a motive on your part other than that you were referencing The Dallas Opera’s press release about Ms. Paiement in your blog post. Maybe I should’ve been more clear on that point. The problem is that regardless of the intent, your post came across as being dismissive of Ms. Paiement’s appointment. Unfortunately, we don’t yet live in a world where there is equality in terms of pay or representation for women in classical music. Because of that, it is extremely important how you and others frame discussions of women conductors, composers etc. There needs to be a concerted effort NOT to come across as demeaning or condescending towards them. I found your post counterproductive to that end and wished you’d focused your energies elsewhere or made your comments about the term “maestro” in a different setting.

    As for clapping, we could debate this forever (and I’m sure this conversation will continue!). I completely agree that there are pieces in which awkward half-claps between movements are frustratingly disruptive. Not more so, however, than the loud coughing and throat clearing that often takes its place. Also, I think there are times — say at the end of a particularly thrilling first movement — that total silence feels awkward, too. It’s as if no one in the room is acknowledging the emotional excitement of what we just experienced together.

    I think it’s important to note as well that just because a certain set of rules were agreed upon by audiences in the last century, by no means guarantees those same rules should, will or even can work for the next century. Cultures and customs evolve and so we will continue to discuss the evolution as it occurs.

    Thanks again for participating in this discussion.

  • DMNSCantrell

    Read the original blog post again. It neither says nor implies anything about the genders of conductors or any appointment; it is purely and simply about the use of the word “maestro.” Period. I stand by what I wrote. I do not accept your fanciful interpretation of what I may have meant–and certainly did NOT mean. We may agree to disagree on issues of applause, etc., and that’s fine, but accusing me of saying something I did not say is irresponsible.

  • Bill Marvel

    “…display of his vast musical knowledge and how said performance compares to some “standard” recording or tradition he deems the pinnacle…”
    The intended irony of “vast musical knowlege” aside, this is pretty much one description of the critic’s job, wouldn’t you say, Thank you?

  • Muscian

    ^ And there, in a nutshell, is why classical concerts are perceived as pompous and stifling experience by so many younger people.

  • Michael Connolly

    You pay more for Dallas Opera tickets than you do for Ft. Worth Opera because TDO is a fully professional opera company. Ft. Worth does not meet that standard. So, although the voices of even the tertiary characters at TDO fill the house beautifully, one cannot say the same FWO–although in Row H you may have heard more of LYSISTRATA than I did.

  • Mark Landson

    “Musician”, as the Director of Open Classical, I’ve been thinking of implementing some of these ideas in our coming programing. If you have an interest in helping to develop these ideas in a real world way, please contact me through the Open Classical website (http://www.openclassical.org) or my email, [email protected]. Thank you!

  • Bill Marvel

    “And there, in a nutshell, is why ….”
    Just so I’m clear, musician, There, where? I got the nutshell, but I’m missing the nut.