May 2009

The Nomad Subscription Season

May 29, 2009 06:59

Having decided last month that renewing my season subscription with the San Francisco Symphony was a must ( ) I set about the more earthbound task of financing it. There’d have to be a compromise from last year’s price. Money was not going to spring up in my wallet simply because I’d made a noble decision to choose art over a good restaurant meal or two. With this cut budget in mind I took a leap and went for the cheapest subscription I could get: second tier.

From my current seat, a front row corner spot on the first tier, I can easily observe the rest of Davies Hall, one of the reasons I like the seat. Below me, spread out like a rug, is the traditional auditorium seating. Higher up are the tiers and on the stage, framing the orchestra is the arena-like terrace seating. Center terrace, directly behind the orchestra, is the Holy Grail of cheapies: general admission. Sitting in center terrace, you are Right There, part of the action, whether you want to be or not. You pick your nose, everyone’s going to see it. You come huffing in, late, in some tacky-looking outfit, everyone’s going to see it. You doze off, shake your head in disgust, ditto. Meanwhile, a 180 degree shift and as far to the back as you can go, is second tier, looking so high, you can’t help but wonder if the tall people have to duck while sitting there, that if perhaps some people have been camping out there since the last concert but no one has discovered them there yet. “Superior acoustics for that full orchestral sound,” the brochure boasts. A subtle way of saying “better bring binoculars.”

But second tier is wonderfully cost-efficient. At $180 a season, for six performances, you can be tight on money and still afford a season subscription here. It seems like a small miracle to me. Maybe that’s because I haven’t sat through a performance there yet, although I’d gone up there once during intermission to check out the view. The stage looked so very tiny, the ceiling of Davies Hall so close. A flicker of uncertainty passed over me.

One might suggest that I simply choose three performances and pay the same price for a higher quality experience. But it’s being at the symphony I love just as much as the music. Dressing up, having Somewhere Special to go. Sharing in the other patrons’ experience as we all mill around in the lobby, still so pretty and airy following its 1992 renovation. And I’m comforted by the feeling, the security net, that comes with a season subscription. I can exchange tickets at any time. I can order single tickets before they go on sale to the public. (YoYo Ma in recital; center terrace, here I come.) If our finances magically change I can switch the remaining tickets back to first tier if I like. Further, each subscription comes with one upgrade certificate. My favorite upgrade is to premier orchestra, center, roughly twelve rows from the front. A peerless seat for recitals or small string orchestra performances.

Not holding a premium seat means I’m free to try other spots, shelling out a few bucks if I want to upgrade for the night. Another seat I’m now curious to try is the side terrace seat. True, once again, you are Right There, in plain view, but this time only your profile is exposed to the audience. Theoretically you could pick one side of your nose here, with the audience none the wiser.

So. I’ve dubbed the 2009-10 season my year of nomadic wanderings through Davies Hall. It’s an adventure I’ll try to make the most of, before I return, hopefully, to my trusted first tier front-row corner seat, the following year. Or who knows—maybe I’ll discover a new favorite spot.

They say there’s not a bad seat in Davies Hall.

I’ll let you know.


© 2009 Terez Rose

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