Hello, Pop Culture? It's Classical Calling. Hello...?

Classical music gets criticism for not hitching its wagon to pop stars more often. When it does, you have to hope the most is made of the moment. But classical often works hard to parlay pop ties into a more accessible image - only to see those efforts come to naught.

Cases in point.


The Philadelphia Orchestra is hosting Sting for its upcoming Academy of Music Anniversary Concert. The concert isn't sold out. So why isn't the orchestra doing a better job of promoting Sting's presence? In fact, months ago the orchestra asked whether the Inquirer would be interested in interviewing Sting. The Inquirer said yes; its pop critic would like an interview. Then Sting said no. A representative of the singer said his new album is selling well, and he's doing no interviews.

Something similar happened earlier this season with Alec Baldwin, who opened the Philadelphia Orchestra's season. The orchestra offered him for an interview, The Inquirer said yes. Baldwin's representative said she'd get back to us with a date. She didn't. We called. And called. We offered to talk to him by phone, to come up and see him in New York. No response, and no interview. Baldwin is a big Charles Dutoit fan, and hearing Baldwin explain why could have been very nice for the developing image of Dutoit in Philadelphia.

It's pretty standard that when an artist accepts a date he or she accepts some of the responsibility for selling the house by doing publicity. When the house isn't sold out, observers tend to blame orchestra management, as in Why didn't the publicist do his or her job? But what the public doesn't see is the enormous time and effort management expends trying to promote a concert featuring a guest artist, only to be thwarted by the artist himself.

In any case, I see there are still tickets left to hear a bit of Sting on the 30th. In the amphitheater. For $203 a pop.