Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Extreme close-up... WAAAAAH!

So today we finished up newswriting boot camp...holy hell! I can't believe it's done already - yet another one of those things in life that is totally intimidating as you approach it, and then before you know it you've gotten through all the deadlines and papers you thought would be so difficult. Not that it wasn't hard, but my point is that now it's nearly mid-August and I'm going home on Saturday and I've already completed 1/6 of the credits required for my master's! Awesome.

To commemorate this occasion, I took a picture of the AJ Lunch Club outside Newhouse i will miss it (not!)

Aaaanyhoo. Now to the "real" blog material.

Today in arts journalism class, after all the stories had finally been turned in, we had a lecture to prepare us for our field trip to the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown this Friday, where we'll see Janacek's opera, "Jenufa." Frank Macomber, emeritus professor of fine arts here at SU, gave a general overview of opera in terms of characters and subject matter and briefed us on the opera's background and plot.

After about an hour of that, we popped in a DVD of a Glyndebourne production and watched the first two acts. Having done this will enhance everyone's experience, I think, because with opera I find it's often advantageous to know at least somewhat what you're getting into. Friday's pre-performance lecture (which I'm looking forward to because I've never done that before) should prove even more enlightening.

However. Though the DVD format creates a convenient and cheap way to see and get acquainted with an opera, I HATE it. Opera is quite simply meant to be experienced a) live, b) from a certain distance, and c) Live! Voice and Opera programs around the world spend countless hours teaching students to project to the back of the house (to the peanut gallery, as the infamous Rae-Gae called it), not only with their voices but with their bodies. That's actually the hardest part for a lot of people, because it's easy enough to sing loud without feeling stupid, but when you're trying to convey facial expressions and emotions that might otherwise be subtle to the hypothetical last row of a 3,000-seat house, well, sometimes you just feel like an asshole.

And here's the main problem with opera-as-film: opera-scaled subtely usually equates to a cinematic slap in the face. To see these larger-than-life emotions from the distance of an onstage camera can be really jarring - particularly if acting is not the singer's strongest suit. And that's when opera on film starts to be unintentionally humorous, even more so when coupled with the often awkwardly worded and punctuated subtitles.

On top of that, when an opera is shot with multiple cameras, or from any perspective aside from that of a static audience member, as most operas are, a lot of the fun is taken out of it. The viewers see what the director wants them to see instead of getting to create their own experience by taking in the entire stage and making their own observations.

But enough of my soapbox rant. I thought it was unfortunate that today was a bunch of my classmates' first exposure to opera - but it's really not so bad, because there's nowhere to go but up, in terms of the overall experience. Plus, it doesn't hurt that this production has been getting rave reviews in all the big papers - apparently this is the Glimmerglass hit of the summer. Friday promises to be a well-deserved treat and an amazing conclusion to boot camp!

1 comment:

Raquel Laneri said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you. I hate watching an opera productions on film for the same reasons.

Another reason why distance is so key in an opera production, particularly with the one we watched today, is that -- dude, the singers are not at all the right ages for their roles. Janufa looked way too old up close to be swooning like a silly schoolgirl whenever Steva was nearby. And Steva, when you saw him up close, was, frankly, not at all attractive... and not at all young... which made his status of ladies' man kind of unbelievable.

Is this superficial? Maybe, but when you are casting films, age and looks are important. Especially age. On the stage, age isn't really a concern, since you can't see the singers' faces all too well.

But I'm looking forward to watching the opera Friday... from a distance.