Poll: Is it Ethical for Musicians to Play During a Heat Wave?

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Although temperatures have dipped this week in the New York City area, the heat wave that enveloped much of the Northeastern U.S. and parts of Europe recently has made for some challenging moments on classical concert stages.

At the BBC Proms in London, musicians have battled soaring temperatures inside the Royal Albert Hall as the city has faced its first prolonged heatwave since 1997. The BBC reported Thursday on a performance of Wagner's three-hour Das Rheingold in which musicians sweated in heavy tuxes and gowns while the building’s Victorian-era ventilation system struggled to keep up.

Reaction on social media was swift and lively, with some questioning the decision to stick with formal attire and others expressing admiration for the musicians' focus.

 

A different scene played out in New York last week. On Tuesday, July 16, the New York Philharmonic performed only half of its outdoor concert at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx due to the heat, prompting audience boos and chants of "We want Dvorak," referring to the scrapped portion of the program.

(WQXR is a broadcast partner of the BBC Proms and the New York Philharmonic.)

And at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Orchestra canceled a sound-check rehearsal due to the heat, and then went on with a performance featuring violinist Nicola Benedetti as temperatures soared into the upper 90s. Philadelphia Inquirer music critic (and Operavore contributor) David Patrick Stearns described Benedetti's challenges: “For all of her apparent poise, she was on the verge of tears by the end of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto's first movement: Her neck was so sweaty she couldn't maintain solid positioning of her violin."

Summer concerts are often wild cards, with the potential for pounding rains, tornado scares and score-blowing gales. Some would argue that other professionals, such as construction workers or mail carriers, have it far worse. But high temperatures can also lead to substandard performances, with wayward intonation and unfocused playing. How do you think orchestras should deal with the hot weather? Take our poll and share your thoughts below.