Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Rattle and Hum

August 03, 2010

Simone Dinnerstein in Santa Fe
Photo: mine 2010

I wanted to make one last note about my experiences in Santa Fe before moving on. On the last day of July, wedged between opera performances was a short but very sweet recital from Simone Dinnerstein. The program featured her much celebrated Bach, in this case the French Suite No 5, as well as four Schubert Impromptus, Op. 90. All were played with a striking accessibility and clear-headedness that reinforces her meteoric rise to fame in the last few years. Much has been made of her unconventional path to success. But if there is anything unconventional in her performance style, you wouldn’t have noticed it in the beautiful St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe. In fact I was most impressed by her unbelievable professionalism in the face of some incredibly rude audience behavior.

One of the drawbacks to Santa Fe is its elevation. Over 7,000 feet above sea level, the city presents breathing challenges even to the healthiest visitors. Singers must come to the city weeks in advance to acclimate to the elevation before they start seriously rehearsing. Every year there’s visitors who are unaware of this fact, resulting in a significant number of Emergency Department visits for altitude sickness. Soon, these same folks can be seen dragging oxygen tanks behind them around town. Trust me, given my own personal family experience with the phenomenon, it is no fun.

But perhaps even less fun is trying to listen to a piano recital over the click of someone’s "demand flow" oxygen tank. You breath in and the machine blows a puff of oxygen into your nostrils. A modern miracle to be sure, but a decidedly noisy one for a piano recital. Admirably Ms. Dinnerstein prevailed, but not a second of her performance went by without the rhythmic click and puff of someone’s oxygen tank. The St. Francis Auditorium is a small venue and the noise was clearly audible to everyone throughout and as much as it was ruining the experience for me and heaven knows how many others, I admired Dinnerstein’s cool collection and ability to play despite the circumstances. I know I would not have been able to tolerate it. And perhaps it is wrong of me to say so, but people, if you can’t sit through a show quietly without making constant noise, maybe you shouldn’t be there. (And for those of you wondering, oxygen tanks do not all have this particular kind of “demand flow” system that produces the rhythmic clicking noise.)


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