Saturday, March 5, 2016

Low-Water Mark for the Naples Philharmonic

 “Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath …” (Bobby Darin)

The Naples Philharmonic gave new meaning to water music last night, with no apologies to Handel. It was a strong argument for never adding water to your Scotch.

Setting a submerged low in music standards, even for Naples, the performance featured three “percussionists” splashing about in four bowls of water, writhing and sawing away on inverted cocktail shakers while the orchestra tried to show some gravitas. The number was grandly titled “Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra.”

It was scored for six cups, a water tube, a sieve, three submergible gongs, four inverted wooden bowls and a water shaker (you can’t make this stuff up.) Everything for my grandchildrens’ bath except a rubber ducky.

This wasn’t music, of course. But it was entertainment. The finale entailed the head splasher raising a colander out of one of the bowls to create a waterfall (allegro molto agitato). Most of the audience loved it. Naples standards aren’t high.

Everyone had a joke at intermission.

“That last number was all wet.”

“They’re going to give a master class … (pause) … in water aerobics.”

“ Next month Boreyko is going to use blenders and meat mallets.”

“What’s next? Small animal torture?”

Not everyone thought it was funny. The woman sitting next to me said, “If this happened in Avery Fisher Hall, half the audience would get up and leave.”

And they would. But Naples isn’t New York. Or Cleveland or Chicago.

Here the crowd of retirees mostly wants to be entertained. Yodeling. Water music. Sumo wrestling. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. It’s all the same. Reviewers pump sunshine. Let’s all be happy.

And that’s okay. In this world of violence and political upheaval, a little silliness is a welcome respite.

The most devastating thing I heard was from a friend who left at intermission. She said, “As long as we have indiscriminate funding from wealthy donors who don’t care, we’ll continue to get this stuff. There’s no one to say no to van Bergen. Money breeds mediocrity.”

Maybe. But in beautiful, sunny Naples, who cares. Mediocrity in the arts is just a bump in the road on the way to the beach or the golf course.