Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bearing It All In Opera

On Thursday, I read an article in the New York Times entitled: “Take It Off Brunnhilde: On Opera And Nudity” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/arts/music/18nude.html?ref=music . The article discusses the appropriateness of nudity in opera. It states the obvious thing by saying that if done in an artistically, there really shouldn’t be a problem. Now directors and singers too are “making opera as dramatically visceral an art form as theater, film and modern dance, traditional boundaries of decorum have been broken. Opera productions have increasingly showcased risk-taking and good-looking singers in bold, sexy and explicit productions.” I think this sentence from the article basically outlines a many major issues effecting opera today. Whether or not there is nudity is really a non-issue to me, it is the implications that it brings that I find more interesting. Perhaps the Tommasini should have replaced the word “visceral” with “visual” because I think that is the aspect of opera that is really gaining a lot of importance. It seems almost as though the music and the voice is secondary. For me the visceral quality of opera is the language of the music and the way in which the artists bring it to life is what creates that quality in this opera. But, I wonder if it is enough. I don’t really think that this focus on the visual is a marketing ploy because I don’t really think it would work. Perhaps it is a change in tastes or maybe it is just the next step in a greater continuum that I am not able to see. It could also be boredom with past productions. There was a time, however, not too long ago, when the visual aspect was not so important. Singers were not choreographed at all and it was really more about the singing. Finding a happy medium seems to be the challenge in an age where singers are sent away because they don’t fit into little black dresses or just don’t have the right “look” for the part. Is it a lack of imagination on the part of the audience? I still prefer a beautiful and compelling voice to tell me the story of an opera whose plot may be otherwise lacking (there are many exceptions, of course). The art of opera is story telling through the voice. In opera the voice is the sincerest form of expression everything else is just completes the full package of this art form.

I guess my point is it doesn’t really matter to me whether or not Brunnhilde literally bears it all. I just want to hear some good Wagner.

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