BBC show gives classical music the 'Idol' treatment
Try as I might, I can't imagine any TV network in this country giving us an American Idol-like reality talent show with a classical music focus. But across the pond, the BBC did just that with a program called Maestro, which wrapped up this week. The gimmick was that several UK celebrities competed as amateur conductors of an honest-to-goodness symphony orchestra, with some training along the way and a panel of judges that included such notables as Roger Norrington. What an imaginative way to demystify classical music a little and demonstrate just how tough it is to conduct. Sue Perkins, a comedian and writer, won the popular vote, edging out an electronic music guy who goes by the name Goldie. (Although I'm prone to anglophilia, most of the contestants were news to me; the only ones I had heard of were David Soul, the Amercian-born, now British citizen singer and actor from way back, and actress Jane Asher.)
Maybe there's a way we could get something like this going over here. What passes for celebrity in this country already hogs the airwaves, dancing and whatnot on various competition shows. So, considering how much has been made of the celebrity issue in the current presidential race, how about seeing what the candidates could do in a U.S. version of Maestro, trying to inspire a bunch of musicians to cooperate and function tightly? I can envision it now: Sarah Palin aiming at the Overture to Weber's Der Freischutz (The Free-Shooter) -- or maybe Ives' The Unanswered Question. John McCain mustering the ensembe for Stravinksy's A Soldier's Tale. Barack Obama charging through the Overture to Verdi's La forza del desitno (The Force of Destiny). And Joe Biden seeing if he could limit himself to Copland's A Short Symphony. To add a little edge to the program, Karl Rove could pop up for an excerpt from Boito's Mefistofele, and, to round things out, various cable news types could take turns with Vaughan Williams' The Wasps. Think of the ratings.Feel free to suggest your own match up of celebs (political or otherwise) and repertoire for an imaginary American version of Maestro.