DÉJÀ VU

His­tory just keeps on re­peat­ing it­self…

BBC Music Magazine - - Thefullscore -

In early Oc­to­ber, the fa­mous sails of the Syd­ney Opera House were lit up by a huge ad­vert for the Ever­est horse race. Protestors soon gath­ered, aghast at what they saw as a scan­dalous mis­use of a cul­tural land­mark, while Syd­ney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, called it ‘bla­tant com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion… for an in­dus­try no­to­ri­ous for dam­ag­ing gam­bling.’ Pos­si­bly, though it’s not the first time clas­si­cal mu­sic and gam­bling have en­joyed or en­dured each other’s com­pany…

Back in the early 19th cen­tury, many Ital­ian opera houses dou­bled up as casi­nos, feed­ing the prof­its made from their gam­bling clien­tele back into in­creas­ingly op­u­lent per­for­mances – when em­ployed as mu­si­cal di­rec­tor at the Teatro di San Carlo and Teatro del Fondo in Naples, the savvy young Rossini made it part of his con­tract that he would re­ceive a share of said prof­its for him­self. Gam­bling has also made the oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ance on stage at the opera house in the likes of Puc­cini’s La fan­ci­ulla del West, Gersh­win’s Porgy and Bess and, of course, Prokofiev’s The Gam­bler. El­gar fa­mously en­joyed a reg­u­lar dab­ble on the horses, though com­posers who had a less happy re­la­tion­ship with gam­bling in­cluded Pa­ganini, who ran up enor­mous debts in the process, Beethoven, who was driven to de­spair by his nephew’s profli­gacy, and Peter Max­well Davies, who, to his hor­ror in 2009, dis­cov­ered that his trusted man­ager had been help­ing him­self to his roy­al­ties to fund a badly out-of-con­trol on­line bet­ting prob­lem.

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