January 9, 2007

SURRENDER, THEATERGOER:

A Night at the Opera ... With Nachos (FRED BAUMANN, January 9, 2007, NY Sun)

With Ohio State University in the national championship, could "I Puritani" distract a city from college football? Yes, indeed -- at least for the crowd of about 150 that attended the opera broadcast at the Georgesville Regal, in a suburb of Columbus. [...]

In opera, all the elements -- the music, the spectacle, the underlying feelings -- gradually merge into something that gives a trancelike sense of heightened life and meaning. But some things got in the way. Seeing the choristers up close, with their highly expressive and contemporary faces, made it hard to entertain the illusion that they were followers of Oliver Cromwell. Backstage shots that included the orchestra had a similar effect.

But by the second scene of Act I, it became easier to give myself over to the experience -- one similar to, if fainter than, being there in person. Eventually, the movie conventions of close-ups and changed perspectives intensified the experience. Though I had thought a warhorse like "I Puritani" was an odd choice, once I saw and heard a fair bit of Anna Netrebko, I got the point. Listening to her, watching her, and losing oneself in the process is as easy as it is pleasant.

Still, applause was a problem. Clapping seems like the natural release for aesthetic enthusiasm, but who in Columbus, wants to feel goofy clapping for a singer 500 miles away? At first, the audience's response was only slight, embarrassed, reflex clapping. Yet by the end of Act II, the rousing curtainclosing bass/baritone duet got a real, if moderate hand. We had given into the illusion, even at long distance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2007 12:00 AM
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