The following quick guide to how to write an opera review for one of Toronto’s (inexplicably) prestigious newspapers is based on extensive analysis of the same. Given that those papers seem hell bent on sacking anybody with actual knowledge of the arts it is felt that such a guide might prove useful to, say, the Gardening Correspondent, when he or she finds that they have been assigned to cover an opera.
- Tell your audience how the piece should have been performed. This can be based on your memory of a student production in Hamilton thirty years ago or, failing that, borrow a DVD of a twenty year old Met production from the library. It’s about all they have in the opera section anyway. Remember you are the expert.
- Detail how this production differs from what it ought to have been. This is easier than engaging with the actual production and reinforces your expertness.
- Make a joke about the director being European or his brother being European or his brother having once worked in Europe. Europeans are weird and notorious for thinking. Clearly this has no place in the Toronto arts scene. Your readers will see this as proof of your common sense and lack of pretension.
- Check to see if any of the singers have ever sung at the Metropolitan Opera. If so mention this often. It’s much easier than analyzing their actual performance and your readers know that if it’s good enough for New York it’s good enough for Toronto.
- Ditto if any of the singers are on the official list of “singers beloved in Toronto”. Never mind if they are over the hill or have bubonic plague, any criticism of them will be resented and will provoke angry letters to the editor from people who weren’t even there.
- If the opera in question was written in the last fifty years insert a snidey comment about the lack of Canadian works on the COC stage. Do not suggest that your paper or its proprietor would be willing to underwrite such a venture.
- Mention that the audience applauded rather than booed as they would no doubt have done in Munich and Milan. Your readers will think you are praising the legendary politeness of Torontonians. This allows you to be condescending without actually getting sacked.