DALLAS Dozens of protest signs dotted the sidewalks in front of the Winspear Opera House on Saturday night.

Taped music is tacky, sat on one corner. Stop the tape, said another.

These posters and protesters stopped couples and families heading to the Texas Ballet Theater performance of The Nutcracker.

We are out here on the sidewalk, not in the orchestra pit, said one frustrated musician.

The familiar sounds of this holiday tradition are not from a live orchestra. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the other performers dance to pre-recorded music.

The experience is totally different, said Mike Haynes of Dallas. I mean, with a live orchestra, it envelops you; with canned sound, it's just kind of there.

Joe and Iasmine Friedheim didn't know about the change. We assumed that there would be a live orchestra, Iasmine said.

I'd expect their best foot forward with a live orchestra and provide the whole enchilada, Joe Friedheim added.

Financial challenges forced the ballet company to silence the orchestra, but on their Web site promoting the show, there is no mention of canned music.

Members of the Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association say leaving out the orchestra for the ballet in this new multi-million dollar arts district showplace doesn't make sense.

They are playing recorded music, said Forest Aten, who plays clarinet with the Dallas Opera Orchestra. That just doesn't seem to match the caliber of all these ideas and lofty thoughts about our great halls.

No one from the Texas Ballet Theater was available for comment on Saturday night.

The organization started using recorded music last year; other ballet companies across the nation are doing the same.


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