The Arts in Columbus: An Updated Perspective

The Columbus Museum of Art. More is more and more is better!(Photo: Wikipedia)
The Columbus Museum of Art. More is more and more is better!(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Metropolitan Opera faces a lockout as of midnight today unless it’s 15 labor unions reach an agreement with management that entails significant reductions in salary, pension and health care. The disagreements are being played out in the New York Times, Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal to name a few. The disagreements have become public, nasty and personal. And counterproductive.

There were Met lockouts in 1969 and in 1980. The bad feelings on both sides and the loss of revenue took years to repair. Today, with the plethora of electronic media and so many new and wonderful forms of delivery, the august Met might be removing itself from consideration. When I can point and click and be “live” at Bayreuth or the Royal Opera in London, do I really care what happens at Lincoln Center?

The past 12 months has seen strikes and lockouts at the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony and the orchestras of Atlanta and Saint Paul. The plug was pulled on the San Diego and Baltimore Operas. I could go on.

I tell you all of this by way of contrasting the of the arts in Columbus.

The Columbus Symphony survived a shut down and a near bankruptcy. Quality has never been an issue with our orchestra. Now, three years post-stoppage, the Columbus Symphony and its management seem committed to attracting new audiences.  Have a look at the audiences in the Ohio and Southern Theaters. Lots of ‘date night’ among the twentysomethings.

Opera Columbus survived lousy productions and audience abandonment in the mid-to-late 1990s. There was a disastrous move to Mershon Auditorium, which alienated the audience. The few productions in Mershon were either silly (Aida) or vulgar (Threepenny Opera).

Fast forward. Opera Columbus as been reconstituted at the Southern Theater. Recent productions of Madama Butterfly, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni looked and sounded wonderful. Opera has gone to Shadowbox, attracting the pretty bar hoppers to La boheme and  The Merry Widow  in English. The future calls for news productions of Pagliacci,  The Marriage of Figaro and La traviata, with many roles cast locally.

The Columbus Museum of Art is completing an ambitious program of expansion. The museum finished a successful multi-million dollar fund  drive, yes, in this economy, and will double its exhibitions space. More of the permanent collection will be available along with the imported shows that have wow-ed the community. More is more and more is better.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra has a dynamic new music director, David Danzmayr, who is married to a lovely soprano. He helps insure ProMusica’s continuing tradition of new work and polished up classics. Also, ProMusica has the best arts administrator around in Janet Chen.

Ballet Met has a great new artistic director, Edwaard Liang. He’s a Balanchine dancer from the New York City Ballet on the one hand (foot?) and a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater on the other. He brings us a style of dance both elegant and exciting. The company looks great.

See my point? We are a B level city with A level performing arts. All of our company’s have been on the brink fiscally in the past ten years. All have re- invented themselves and come back. Audiences have turned up. The Met could take a lesson. If there’s a shutdown at Lincoln Center, hop a plane for Mahler, Balanchine and Figaro in Columbus.