Saturday, April 14, 2007

file under "u" for unintended consequences

In the broader thirty year cycle of opera performance styles, as operas slowly oscillate between theatricality and musicality, the over-titles have caused a fundamental shift, that has pushed performances towards theatricality at a faster than expected rate. Without pulling out the MRI scans to show why it is a fundamental structural mistake to read while listening to music, at the recent performances that I've seen, performers completely neglect their pronunciation in favor of acting and their emotions, and the experience is a bizarre hybrid.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mean pronunciation or 'elocution?' Big difference but connected and I agree, over-titles are a problem but consider this: what the trained or informed opera fan perceives as a bizarre hybrid or aberration might, for the novice, be an invite and opportunity to go deeper. Nevertheless, i would prefer the audience do a little homework with the libretto and get the meaning from the music in the words.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is it a mistake to read while listening to music?

2:41 AM  
Blogger georgeborrow said...

I may have been too rash: it depends on the kind of "listening". When I want to give the music its due, I find myself concentrating on the structural-compositional aspects of music; when I was younger, I would simply let it "wash" over me. Both styles of listening use a type of concentation that, in my own case at least, precludes the use of linguistic centers -- much as mathematical reasoning does. As the first respondant says, if one is familiar with the narrative and even some of the words of an opera, the total experience can have astonishing aesthetic complexity, but when going to an Opera is reduced to "reading with background music", it is not utterly unpleasant, but it may prevent people from ever quite learning what the fuss is all about.

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Borrow meant it was a mistake to 'read' while 'listening' to music. But with the over titles, you are adding something, scrolling print, to an art form that has never required it before. Why does it need it now? Who is making that decision? And for what reason?
Really, do you need that blocky print with so much else going on? When the fat lady comes out, do you need it broken down?

12:04 PM  

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