VOICES: Quality of arts in Dayton matches or exceeds those enjoyed around the world

Since its first performance in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has been one of the premiere ballets of all time, with its tragic story of love versus deceit and good versus evil. In it we see Odette, the White Swan and Odile the Black Swan competing to see who ends up on top and who ends up down under. Consequently, I experienced my own story of being on top versus being down under.

I had the rare opportunity to see Swan Lake on top at the Schuster Center in February, and I had the complementary opportunity to see Swan Lake down under at the Sydney Opera House in Australia in December. (Thankfully, I did not have to fight a snowstorm in Sydney.)

The themes of these two productions were different, as the down under version opened in the classic deep and mysterious lake with captive maidens being transformed into swans, and the on top version at the Schuster introduced the swans into upper class 1912 New York through the dreams of Siegfried. In both instances the theme soon transforms into Odette, as the beautiful swan queen accompanied by a bevy of maiden swans sparkling like fireflies flickering around the stage.

The ballet dancers were magnificent in both productions, and I had a special appreciation of the quality of Tchaikovsky’s music led by the young Brit conductor Jonathan Lo in Sydney and by our treasured Neal Gittleman in Dayton. The story and the ballet steps fit the music like a glove, and gave a special message to the audience as it told the story of love and tragedy.

Both performances were spectacular. In fact, I came away convinced that we in the Dayton community enjoy incredibly high-quality performances in the arts. It’s no wonder that the recent Arts & Economic Prosperity report translated those quality performances into a significant economic impact on the Miami Valley, reporting for example that “4,490 local jobs are impacted by arts and culture” and that audience’ spending totaled $142.5 Million. We are blessed.

In some ways we deserve to be blessed. Our Dayton community gives enormous support to the arts, whether it is the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, Dayton Live, the Human Race Theatre, the Muse Machine, or the Dayton Art Institute. In turn, we are given a cornucopia of high quality art, almost all of which are individually staffed by our arts organizations.

For me, seeing Swan Lake at the Sydney Opera House was spectacular. At the same time, it gave me a good gauge to measure the quality of the famous opera and ballet houses around the world against our own opera and ballet house at the Schuster Center. It was so rewarding to me and so complimentary to our Dayton community that the quality of the arts we enjoy in Dayton matches or exceeds the quality of the arts enjoyed around the world.

Turns out, while Swan Lake down under was great, Swan Lake on top at the Schuster was spectacular.

Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding is a regular contributor.

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