I won’t link to their “Enchanted Island” review out of spite, but I suppose you can find it if you google. A representative quote: “The theory behind the Metropolitan Opera’s The Enchanted Island is that modern audiences don’t have the patience for actual Baroque opera.”
No, the theory behind the thing is that, back in the day, Baroque opera was an all-singing-all-dancing half-vaudeville/rock concert variety show that billed itself as the puppy’s nuts, so come on in and have a good time. And oh, that heartthrob with the high notes is singing lead, the diva’s costumes are fab, and there’s some really cool special effects.
Seems to me that’s precisely what they ended up with — a true-blue recreation of what Baroque opera looked, sounded, and felt like to an audience. The problem with this idiot reviewer is that she has developed a very tight 19th/20th century opera sensibility without even realizing it. Opera, she tells herself, is By The Book — candles and crucifix in place, and you sit down, shut up, and listen or else — because it’s always been like that for as long as she’s been alive. Verdi and Wagner are opera to her, and she’s expecting an artistic sensibility of several hundred years prior to behave the same way. It’s as if she’s gone to see a Buster Keaton movie and gone away complaining because someone forgot to turn the sound system on.
I’m also amused that she seems to think that the audience for this thing isn’t exactly the same as the audience for Real™ Baroque Opera. Is she on another planet? The same people who are going to see the Haendel biggies (and eagerly awaiting the renovation of Vivaldi’s opera as well) are in the audience for this. Given the popularity of Baroque nowdays, this thing is an experiment to determine whether or not a real Real™ Baroque Opera — singing, dancing, puppy’s nuts and all — is still appealing to today’s audiences.
Plainly, it is.
Which is just driving her up the wall. How dare they let in the barbarians. If classical music and opera are dying because their audiences are dwindling, then better they die than she has to sit next to someone who isn’t part of the cognoscenti. The fact that anyone familiar with the history of Baroque opera would recognize this thing instantly as probably closer to any actual 16-1700s staging only magnifies the irony of her complaints about Real™ Baroque Opera. (For crap’s sake, she’s complaining about dancing in a pasticcio? That’s what they did! What does she think Baroque opera is — Puccini without balls?)
Next up on the chopping block is her canned complaint about the short attention span of Today’s Young People. Ignore that some of the most popular movies of the past decade clocked in at over 3 hours long. Ignore the fact that Real™ Baroque Operas are roughly the same length and still wildly popular today. Ignore the popularity of movie serials that take a decade to be produced and multi-part book series that span thousands of pages. Kids Today Can’t Sit Still … or something … so she’s just using this thing as an excuse to channel Andy Rooney and get some of her old-grump mojo on. I can sympathize. I’ve got some old-grump mojo myself.
But the ADHD tendencies of today’s youth is not one of my favorite targets, mostly because it doesn’t exist. Today’s audiences have the tenacity of lobsters when they latch onto something they like, and they’ll sit still for movies that run considerably longer than a Baroque opera. And they don’t come with intermissions, either.
She’s an idiot. But then the best way to get up the nose of some stodge someplace who doesn’t like their assumptions challenged is to do something truly positive, revolutionary, and interesting. Thumbs up for the Met! 🙂