In today's Independent Rosie Millard asks why we never see politicians at arts events. Are the arts really that difficult? No - it's a matter of image. Read it here...
The reality is a little more complex. The fact is that some politicians do like the arts. But woe betide them if they're spotted there by a tabloid newspaper.
I got Sir Antonio Pappano going on this subject not long ago. It is one of the issues we discussed for an in-depth interview for Opera News in New York - the article is the cover feature for the February issue and subscribers should have their copy by now. UK readers need to know what he said, so here is a small extract.
At one performance in Pappano’s Ring Cycle, several cabinet ministers were spotted in the audience, notably the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, a committed Wagnerphile. The tabloid newspapers pounced. “The paparazzi got to them and suddenly they’re not coming near the opera house because they were accused of taking time off from running the country!” Pappano fumes. “This is absolutely ridiculous.
“Recently I went to my orchestra in Italy to open the season. On the first night the President of the Republic was there; he came to shake my hand while I was on stage, and applauded the orchestra and the chorus. On the second night Mario Monti, the Prime Minister, did the same thing and came to the dinner afterwards – so I was able to talk to the Prime Minister. In Italy politicians are celebrated for coming to a cultural event. But in Britain, if you do so you’re considered an elitist, highbrow snob. These two things occurred within a week of each other. I think we should celebrate culture and I was really annoyed about what happened in London.”
Read the whole thing here.There’s a danger, he adds, that the popular press’s anti-intellectual agenda could deter the government from supporting the arts: “In the end it’s going to threaten the existence of institutions that are supposed to be there for the duration.”
It does strike me that the arts, and opera in particular, are perhaps missing out on a vital chance to engage in a dialogue with this slash-happy administration. There is an enthusiasm there; it must surely be possible to tap in to this to encourage a bit of positive thinking all round?