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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Live Broadcasts for Dead Audiences

This Met Tristan backstage (and onstage!) drama has me so excited. I wonder if somebody is out there working out some kind of chart or graph of every configuration of Debbie Voigt and Ben Heppner and Gary Lehman and John Mac Master and Robert Dean Smith and Richard Dean Anderson (pictured) that has been onstage in the course of this run. I think Peter Gelb wanted to make history with this show, putting Voigt and Heppner onstage together—and he has made history, albeit not the sort he intended. Boos! Vomit! Head trauma! Oh, yeah, and apparently some frickin' excellent singing, some of it from relative unknowns. I'm awfully jealous of everybody who's caught one of these performances—reading Maury's report on Heppner actually made my heart beat a little faster. (And not just because I made a meme!!!) Which means I'm jealous of JoJo, who made it to the Met HD broadcast of the Voigt/Smith Tristan (Voigt/Smith? Have I got that right? I lost my scorecard). These new theatrical opera broadcasts are a dazzling experience. I was a bit skeptical until I actually saw Hänsel at the Mall of the Victor Valley in Victorville, CA with my mom on New Year's Day. All the musical goosebump-moments came off, the production was visually splendid, the acting was gripping and true (except for the Witch—sorry, Langridge), and my mom finally knows who Christine Schäfer is. I've had less intimate and exhilarating moments in the actual house—and unlike watching the broadcasts on a little TV set in an empty living room, there was an audience there with me, old folks and parents with children, granted not a BIG audience (this was Victorville, CA), but when the curtain came down I heard a half-dozen pairs of tiny hands applauding, little kids who had come to see their first opera and loved it. They loved it! I saw them smiling and laughing afterwards, after that grim conceptual opera production! My other HD broadcast adventure was the new Peter Grimes, which I saw in nearby Branford, CT. This time, the auditorium was PACKED. "You're the only people here under fifty!" one audience member said to our party, and it was dismayingly close to the truth. Again, it was a phenomenal experience: the camerawork was great, as it was in Hänsel—and as I am told it was NOT in Tristan—which may have actually been the best way to experience the gratingly monotonous set design and choral blocking of this new production. But that's a relatively minor complaint, since the singing, acting, and playing all knocked me out. I was literally in tears by the first Sea Interlude. I finally understand what everybody's going on about when they go on about Peter Grimes. I only wished that I'd seen more people my own age there. God knows I love all these damned indie rock, R&B, electro, whatever albums that the kids are listening to these days. So how come they're all so resistant to any music written more than ten years before they were born? What will it take to get their asses in these seats? I don't know, but I'm thinking Gelb is on the right track. Look how this HD thing is catching on—after hearing me & Mom rave about Hänsel, after seeing the broadcast repeated on TV, this morning my dad went to hear La Traviata rebroadcast from La Scala. He went to see it here, at the new movie theater in Apple Valley, CA. Okay, it's not actually on that map, since like I said it's a pretty new theater, but you get the idea: it's in the middle of fucking nowhere. Note the trailer park directly southeast. This is how you get people's attention, is by sending important productions—a beautiful Hänsel, a world-class Grimes, a historic Tristan, directly to communities who might otherwise lack the resources or even the inclination to seek out this kind of event on their own. (Oddly, the La Scala broadcasts cannot be seen anywhere in Connecticut.) On the wrong track? San Francisco Opera. When I griped to a Friscan friend of mine about Pamela Rosenberg's departure, he pointed out that she fulfilled only one half of a world-class opera company's dual mission: to serve and expand the global opera audience (check) and to serve the existing, local audience of opera lovers and supporters (uh oh). So, fair enough. But David Gockley is making the opposite mistake. In place of Rosenberg's pioneering new-music repertoire (Adams, Ligeti, Messiaen) and adventurous new productions, he's giving listeners an uninterrupted diet of more of the usual. And having gotten his prestige commission (Glass's Appomattox) out of the way, the only new opera he's offering out of San Francisco is the American Tonal Melodrama (Heggie, Wallace) that's always served up to mollify local subscribers—even as his expensive new HD editing suite makes the opera's global mission that much more important. Most heinously, the HD broadcast of Appomattox? Dropped. Now the only twentieth-century opera on the schedule is La Rondine. And that doesn't count.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hate to break the news to you but Opera is dead. This is why almost no-one under eighty bothers to go any more. Theater, stage, opera are all dinosaurs of a time before tv. If you want you're share bad acting, gross racial generalization, and homo-erotic overtones go watch pro wrestling because that is de-facto the new opera. Either that or porn, it's one of the two but I forget which.

I'm a little concerned about your tacit condensation. Do you actually like indie rock/pop or do you think that you have to pretend to like it in order to prove to everyone that you can 'relate' whatever that means.

Face it, you're a music snob and you should have no shame it. It's a noble profession and someone has to carry the burden. This world could use a lot more of them. The youths these days care nothing about true art music and never will. Revel in the fact that you're one of the few who has been initiated into the secret knowledge in what good music is. Cherish in the fact that most everyone else hasn't a clue what a good tune sounds like.

Youths these days can't relate to good music because they don't care about culture. No one in America does. There is a gapping chasm between the average joe who thinks Justin Timberlake has talent and you. Do your duty and don't ever let him be able to jump across and come to the knowledge of the truth!