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Podium Witteman has lost the stage, er, way

Throughout the year, the public broadcaster spends a lot of time on sports. For World Cup, Tour or Games, cultural broadcasts are cancelled for weeks without pardon. If you can't beat them, join them, Paul Witteman must have thought, or perhaps the ratings were disappointing, because he devoted an entire Podium Witteman broadcast on 1 May to cycling. Don't.

The reason for the cycling special is the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Apeldoorn this week. Of course, you can use a news event as a capstone. An earlier episode focused on the attacks in Paris. Of course trend watcher Floris Kortie can show how people make music on bicycle parts in a Giro broadcast. Of course, comedian and musician Mike Boddé can make an excellent song about cycling jargon. Of course you can highlight Italian music - in this case an Italian medley by Nationaal Jeugd Orkest, demonic Renaissance singing by Gesualdo Consort and the echo of Sicilian fishmongers in probing music by Jacob ter Veldhuis, played by house band Fuse.

Oh dear, your bike is ready there

But cycling is not a capstone this time, but main topic. Witteman, who says he does not know a single cycling term except 'suffering', quasi-expertly discusses cycling stages and crashes, comparing them to the Way of the Cross. He talks extensively with cycling commentator Maarten Ducrot about sports coverage, dragging the wafer-thin link with classical music by the hair: 'The inspiration to compose music' would be the same as 'to endure suffering, you must know what you are doing'. And company Opera 2.0 performs an opera about cyclist Tom Dumoulin. In it, they retranslate existing arias by Verdi, Mozart and Puccini: O mio babbino caro according to them, speaks to modern man only if you make it 'Oh dear, your bike is ready there, no one in course is pedalling more fiercely.'

Competition and harmony

It is a trend to compare everything to sports to connect with a large audience. So newsreaders express surface in 'football pitches' and politicians point out the 'rules of the game' of asylum policy. But sport is something fundamentally different from music. Sport is about competition, about wanting to be better than someone else, about struggle. Music seeks harmony, togetherness, emotion in creator and listener alike.

Against countless sports programmes, Podium Witteman is currently the only programme about classical music. [hints]The Tenth of Arrows, Matthäus/Messiah Masterclass, Maestro and Jaap van Zweden - A Dutch Maestro have ended for the time being.[/hints]It is then an odd choice to make a broadcast that is uninteresting to its own target audience except for the cycling fans within it. Are cycling fans suddenly going to watch Podium Witteman now? I don't think so. You don't get better ratings by borrowing from a popular genre, but by offering quality in your own discipline.

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Frans van Hilten

I am a freelance cultural journalist. Because I think an independent cultural voice is important, I enjoy writing for this platform.View Author posts

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