Ashlee Simpson to guest conduct at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
-Company hoping to start trend in arts world
Pittsburgh, PA – The past year has been tough for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. In order to reduce expenditures the organization decided to let go of their live orchestra and move to recorded music. The unpopular decision prompted many protests and disappointed those who believe that live music is intrinsic to the experience of ballet.
In an effort to put these experiences in the past, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has decided to bring in Ashlee Simpson to guest conduct the opening weekend of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite for the 2006-2007 season. Simpson gained notoriety last October when she began lip syncing the wrong lyrics in front of a national audience on Saturday Night Live. While an embarrassment for her, the management at PBT saw a clear opportunity.
“It is a move that fits with our strategic plan, said Managing Director Robert Petrilli. “We have taken a lot of heat for playing canned music, but now the audience will be able to see a conductor, and it will be pretty darn close to the real thing. You can’t really see the orchestra anyway.”
Ashlee Simpson is currently training at the Juilliard School of music in a crash course on conducting. “Although she is a pop star with little familiarity with the art of conducting, she shows pretty incredible natural talent,” said Julliard’s principal conducting professor Marjorie Hamlin. Her regimen includes intensive training in conducting, including the new field of consyncing. Consyncing is similar to lip syncing, yet focuses on giving the effect of actually conducting music, rather than singing. “She is a natural,” said Hamlin.
Critics see the move as further degradation of the art. Claire Sharp, an ad-hoc professor at Duquesne University said, “To put someone up front to pretend to conducting is simply insulting the audience at a deeper level. It is saying ‘First we will take away the live music because that isn’t important and now we will give you an illusion of music to make you feel as if you are experiencing the real thing.’ These are dark days for the arts community.” PBT believes otherwise. “The PBT is on the cutting edge of the arts world,” stated Public Relations consultant Fred Bidfeld. “The writing is on the wall- the next step for ballet is on-demand from the comfort of your home. We are just fortunate to be among the first in the country to experience that trend.”
Whether insult or opportunity, the audience will judge for themselves when they see Ashlee Simpson seemingly conduct “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” this December.