Appreciating the Art$?

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Viola -frontTwo recent news stories in the New York Times caught our eye as an interesting juxtaposition of the “value” placed on the performing arts today.

$trato$pheric $tradavari. In June, Sotheby’s auction house will host a sealed-bid auction for a rare Stradavari viola built almost 300 years ago. The asking price for this instrument – one of only 10 known Strad violas – starts at $45 million! The previous record for a musical instrument was $15.9 million for a Stradavari violin sold at a 2011 auction.

While rare instruments appreciate in value, some of the performing groups where those instruments might be played continue to struggle financially. The New York Times points out that $45 million is “more than enough to have saved both the New York City Opera, which has folded, and the San Diego Opera, which is also closing because of money woes.”

In$pired For Free. Halfway across the world in Jordan, at a camp serving refugees of Syrian’s civil war, an adaptation of Shakespeare “King Lear” was recently staged. More than 100 children in the Zaatari Refugee Camp participated; rocky earth surrounded by chain-link fence comprised the stage area. Performers wore homemade, makeshift costumes; audience members sat on the dusty ground.

The project’s director, Syrian actor Nawar Bulbul, described his objective. “The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” he said. Over half of the 587,000 refugees registered with the U.N. in Jordan are under 18 years of age; the region’s political turmoil makes their school attendance problematic. Parents interviewed in this article described the theatre project as “a rare point of light in a bleak camp existence.”

Crown-illustrationPricele$$ Experience. Without a musician to play it, a $45 million viola is just a piece of exquisitely crafted wood – a mute trophy for a deep-pocketed collector. Despite lacking fancy props, costumes and scenery, however, the intrinsic worth of this refugee-camp play was realized through the passion of the performers and the imaginative escape provided for the audience. That’s art truly worth appreciating!

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