Video killed the opera production?
I thought a lot, after my “Walküre” review last week and some of the reactions to it, about whether posting video clips of opera stagings is actually helpful to a discussion of a production. The short video of the Achim Freyer staging that I posted at the end of the review gives you a kind of Cliff’s Notes version of what went on. It doesn’t, however, communicate any of the things I most liked about the production, which had to do with the use of physical space and the pacing -- things that had to do with the experience of being present, physically, in the room -- and I’m not sure the snapshots it affords are an adequate representation of its strengths.
(read more after the jump)
I wonder how well the Freyer Ring would be served even by a complete video. Mark Swed last week reported in the Los Angeles Times that there was as yet no funding for a video version, which is a shame, because this production, though flawed, is important enough to be documented. But it is so specifically designed as live theater that I’m not sure your typical opera-video direction, complete with close-ups on the singers and significant shots of the orchestra at distracting moments, would do it justice.
I also had pangs of conscience after linking to the clip of the Hans Neuenfels “Nabucco,” which was a cheap shot: it’s easy to laugh at a chorus dressed as bees, wiggling their abdomens in time to the music. But of course it’s meant to be funny -- even the most deluded stage director understands that a chorus of dancing bees has a humorous element -- and out of context it’s almost meaningless. Since I have been known to criticize Youtube for cheapening the discourse about serious stage direction by reducing it merely to “gotcha” moments which everyone can gleefully pile onto, and I know that Neuenfels is more serious than that, I feel guilty at having participated in the piling-on myself.
One reason to link to the videos at all is that opera companies themselves are putting them out there more and more as a way to promote what they’re doing. Which is well and good; but it’s a mistake to equate them with a movie trailer in terms of giving you a sense of what to expect when you get into the house. Yet since many productions don’t travel, such videos are the only way we have to get an idea of what they’re like.
Anyone have examples of telling videos of particularly notable stage productions (with links)?
June 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: music on the Web , opera , random musings
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