Friday, 2 November 2012

simulacra, simulcast or a night at the opera

The Bavarian State Opera is offering this season, with an aim to expand its audience and nestle culture comfortably on the sofa, by premiering a live-feed and streaming video on the internet of its stage performances. This outreach initiative is at no cost for any viewer who cares to watch, unlike some other houses that charge a subscription fee, and quite a bit of enhanced production value is going into the making, with dozens of cameras and microphones and back-stage tours and interviews with the performers during intermission. Anything that one can assay alone and with divided attention of course does match the experience of the commitment and being part of an audience corralled as a fourth wall, but I think the efforts are laudable in themselves and will garner a good return for the stake and investment, and I plan to play along at home.
Although this installation is not part of the historic opera house in Munich but the State Opera of Saxony in Dresden, I thought it was a comical touch to put one of the world’s first “digital” clocks (with Roman numerals that scrolled by the minutes and hours) above the stage—I suppose so patrons could be discrete about wondering when the show would end, without having to dig out their pocket-watches. I do think it’s important that it be live, however, and an occasion for dressing-up—even if one is only going as far as the living-room. Opera was never meant to be elitist and inaccessible and was traditionally quite the opposite, but I think now people shy away from the commitment of time and would rather call it so. What do you think? Is this offering expanding the audience, like a pay-per-view match or post-game camaraderie, or is it like putting church on television and only mildly engaging?