Thursday, 12 November 2015

Jonas Kaufmann and the Curse of Fandom

Joinas Kaufmann has had to cancel   his appearaances in Carmen at the ROH and the fans go into a rage?  But are these fans at all ?  JK can't help being unwell. Forcing someone to perform when he's not well is cruel.  For a singer, working in such situations can damage the voice long term.   JK went through a difficult patch when he couldn't sing for some months, so why risk that happening? So if fans really are fans, they should realize that singers aren't machines but human beings. Surely they deserve basic kindness? Three years ago, Wise Ruth wrote sensibly about cancellations : her words still hold true.  Even further back, Alfie Boe's promising career was destroyed by his "fans" in much the same way.

Which leads me to wider issues: the curse of fandom.  Healthy fandom is positive,: It supports singers and spurs them on to good things. Everyone's happy. But negative fandom is anti-art.   Recently JK sang Puccini at the Royal Festival Hall, interspersing his arias with orchestral music.  Good for him ! That was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, since placing the arias in the context of the music in the operas enhances appreciation. Singers are not machines.  Concerts are not CD's "live".

But one of the Dirty Little Secrets of the opera world is that a lot of fans don't actually like music.  Negative fans want celebrity, not art.  I adore Jonas Kaufmann, and respect hs art, and so do most of his genuine fans. But marketing controls art these days. Horror of horrors, the market is not always right.


Louise said...

Actually glad he cancalled. If he is still not well why risking his voice being dammaged for 2 performances. Don't get me wrong. I have tickets bought for saturday and voyage including eurpean flight, hotel etc costs me a handsom sum of money, and I am no millionaire and have to work a lot to allow these travells. And that is the 2nd time I booked for Carmen with Jonas Kaufmann being sick. But I will attend the performance never the less. I respect his decission which I am sure he did not take easily but that let us have the opportunity to hear him next year as Otello with unharmed vocal cords.
Wish him all the best and take your time to recover.

Unknown said...

the JK fans I correspond with daily did not express "age" about the cancellations. Quite the opposite. There was and will continue to be an outpouring of concern and support. Where there is diswpp0intment and frustration it is directed at opera house mgmt and inconsistent refund/replacement policies. Perhaps a 2=tier pricing {refundable & non-refundable} as used by hotels? A separate issue.
Where are these enraged & destructive fans you describe?


Doundou Tchil said...

With respect NJ, yo cannot speak for "all" the JK fans. Every time a singer cancels, some are always disgruntled. Displacing this disappointment to knocking ROH is also unfair because the show wasn't cancelled. Which proves my case. Some "fans" don't actually care about opera, or even about music. In which case the onus is on themselves. and on themselves alone. Giving into the "fans" would mean giving in to people who don't actually care about opera. opera.

In any case, some truly great singers have had their breaks when big names cancel. Which again posits that some kinds of fans care only about themse3lves, not about music.

Any reasonable person knows that things can go wrong. It's childish to expect things to always go your own way.

Unknown said...

Some of the enraged fans were commenting on the ROH website. They did seem keen to have their money back, so perhaps the 2-tier pricing idea should be explored. I quite like the idea of people who don't really like opera subsidising the tickets of those who do ;-)

Doundou Tchil said...

These complainers don't have a clue aboutnhow much work goe3s into making an opera ghappen. Hundreds of people are involved, from stars to stage hands, hours and hours of work is put in even before curtain up. The show hgoes on whhether the star is there or not. It's about opera, the composer,m the music, the ensemble.

Sure these "fans" are miffed but they see things only from a selfish perspective. Of course it's heartbreaking when what you want doesn't happen but it is not the fault of ROH since the show goes on. Genuine fans, esp those who've travelled from afar, understand that risks and appreciate the art that goes into opera. Fake fans think only of themselves.

Two tier pricing might work for things like airline flight cancellation but for opera it won't work. The House carries costs regardless of whether someone shows up. So why should they have to refund those who do not actually like opera ?

In effect, the House - any house - is hostage to the caprices of those who who don't care about anything but themselves. The premium for a two tier system would have to be so high that only the very very rich could afford it, and in any case, the financial damage to the house would mean costs would have to be absorbed into running costs, raising prices for everyone else. Profit margins in opera are very narrow, and companies can't afford instabilty. But what do these so called fans care ?

Like many houses, ROH does have re selling schemes, which work fairly well. With re selling most of the time you get your money back because a lot of people get something out of the opera experience even if the star name isn't there. With 90% plus booking, chances are most people don't lose out.

Ultrimately the idea of automatic refunds is destructive because it reinforces the idea that opera doesn't matter, only selfish short term interests It's art that really suffers in the longerv term.

Unknown said...

A 2-tier scheme almost already exists in the form of guilds, 'friends', memberships, etc. I have belonged to several for years. While not wealthy (retired, fixed income) I do love opera and am happy to pay what I can. The more you pay the higher in the queue you rise. Ticket exchange is one of the benefits.Glad to see ROH extending it to other ticket holderrs.
How do you define "fan"? To me it is someone with a continuing interest in a singer, work, composer, director or venue BEYOND routine interest. Routine interest can be occasional attendance or annual subscriptions. A "fan" shares their enthusiasm either publicly (as I am) or in conversations. A 'fan" makes an effort to hear/see past & future performances. There are extreme fans and there are average "fans". The difference? Another discussion... I suppose one could become a Kaufmann "fan" first and develop an interest in opera as a result. That would be the exception. Most are like me, previously/always enjoyed opera & music, sing or play an instrument and at some point saw/heard Kaufmann performance(s) that interested or impacted us BEYOND the ordinary. Many of us are "fans" of others (past, present & future?). For a few only Jonas has risen beyond the routine. But we are not ignorant of the needs of opera/music production and we promote it. We are also grateful to him for sharing his art with us. Our lives are better as a result.
If you consider yourself a Kaufmann fan and disagree with what I wrote, please speak up!
Proud to be a Jonas Kaufmann "fan".

Doundou Tchil said...

Sorry NJ it is not all about "yoiu"> You're playing semantics. Basically some of these "fans" are not actually interested in art but themselves - they don't even care about the singer.