Can we predict how the audience will react?



Whenever I’m in rehearsal and I hear a colleague make an interpretive decision based on whether or not the audience will find it interesting (most often expressed as “they might get bored if we do that”), I often wonder if it’s worth taking that approach.

Can we ever truly know what’s in the collective mind of the audience?

Frankly, no. I don’t think it’s possible to predict, as a whole, what their reaction is going to be. And maybe it’s a little foolish to pretend as much.

But what about individual opinions?

The same is true for each and every member of the audience.

To put it simply, all we can do as performers is to present ourselves and the music with conviction. The audience is sure to react in any number of ways. The most uninteresting concert anyone can attend is one where the musicians, no matter how well-prepared, evidently have no opinions about the music and it shows through their performance.

Can we predict how critics will react?

Absolutely not.

Take, for example, a recent concert by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra with guest soloist David Daniels (pictured), one of the world’s great countertenors. It’s not hard to imagine that their performance would be anything short of excellent, yet only two of the three reviews I discovered were positive. The third skewered the concert.

The Stark Insider and San Jose Mercury News were really taken by what the soloist and orchestra had to give. The San Francisco Chronicle, however, took it apart, bit by merciless bit.

In an ironic twist, both the Mercury News and the Chronicle reviewers attended the same opening night performance, proving that opinions are as varied and as they are unpredictable.

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(Photo courtesy of the artist)

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