Il Divo puts Atlanta Symphony on stage but pipes pre-recorded music to audience


Those orchestra players lost in the crimson dusk behind Il Divo may look like they’re playing — but it’s highly likely they’re just part of the stage dressing.

Organisers of male popera quartet Il Divo’s current world tour hired the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for their concert at Encore Park last Sunday — then used pre-recorded tracks as the musicians played in the background.

The concert was billed as “Il Divo and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,” reports Arts Atlanta‘s Mark Gresham. Technically, that was correct. He writes:

According to sources, as the Il Divo conductor announced to the ASO musicians that they would go unheard, he explained that this was the first show Il Divo had worked with a major symphony orchestra. He said that, because so many of the local orchestras they use aren’t skilled enough to read or play the music for Il Divo, the company had prerecorded the orchestral parts to ensure consistent quality.

Those audio tracks are loaded onto a computer wired into the sound system, and a special program plays the recorded parts in the appropriate places. It’s a practice that’s widely accepted in television production, and in pop and country music, but it’s rare to have an orchestra on hand as a musical prop.

Quite frankly, orchestral arrangements for pop acts like Il Divo are usually remarkably undemanding, with unison strings all over the place. The real issue, probably, is that there isn’t time to do more than a quick sound check on a crowded concert calendar that is usually in and out of a venue in a few hours (check their schedule here).

So, was the Atlanta Symphony used as a drawing card to sell tickets to patrons who might not otherwise go to an Il Divo Concert? The musicians were there, playing to anyone within immediate earshot — but not to the people in the park.

It’s a very strange, expensive sort of fraud.

(You can read Gresham’s full story here.)

For the Atlantans, this was the latest slap in the face during what has turned into an ugly summer of conflict between the musicians and management, as the organization desperately tries to come to grips with its nearly $20 million accumulated deficit.

The orchestra players were asked in the spring to take a 25 per cent cut in pay in their upcoming contract. The players have volunteered an 11 per cent cut — and the resulting impasse in current negotiations threatens the start of the Symphony’s season next month.

Gresham has all the latest details here.

John Terauds

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