Throughout the last century, the pinnacle of the performing arts was generally considered to be the big lyric forms which dominated the 19th: opera, ballet and orchestral music. But is it a given that these will continue to occupy the same position? Many question that premise, concerned that the large, permanent organisations which have been considered necessary to perform this work on the stage or in the pit are becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.
Orchestras, ballet and opera companies all recognize that their audience is graying and - given the richness brought to city life by the juxtaposition of white youth with peers from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere - it is by no means certain that the next generations will automatically default to the high art of the Western tradition. Moreover, a new emphasis on inter-activity - manifest in games, in DVDs with alternate endings, in multiple different mixes of dance tracks and in the habits of multi-task consuming bred by the t.v. remote control - promises/ threatens to generate a new approach to cultural consumption. In this environment, many have developed a habit of cultural ‘snacking’ which militates against their preparedness and ability to focus regularly on a longish demanding work.