I last saw a live show in a theatre on March 13th. Eight months later I’ve watched a lot of web content as well as continuing to review commercial opera recordings. A month ago I wrote in Opera Canada that “there’s no substitute for live” and I stand by that view. I do think though that there’s an opportunity and a need to rethink how opera and song is produced for webstreaming.
In normal times where a show is primarily being produced for a live audience there’s a case for recording that and making the experience as similar for the video viewer as the live audience member. It’s pretty much the norm for video recordings in normal times. But what when there’s no real expectation of an audience? Does it make sense to design an opera production for the “fourth wall” or to solemnly stage a song recital with singer and pianist trooping on and off stage at intervals? I’m not sure it does. I’m much more engaged right now by the people producing “made for TV” content. Tapestry’s Lovesongs – A Saxophony was a brilliant example of what can be done when the use of space is reimagined. (Watch for my review ion Opera Canada‘s website sometime soon).
It’s not just relatively large, sophisticated companies doing this. I’ve seen impressive efforts from Alexander Hajek, Domoney Artists, Red Truck Productions, Opera Revue, Essential Opera and others. (All on Youtube). There are even more exciting ideas afoot. Vancouver’s Re-Naissance Opera are creating a Virtual Reality opera meets choose-your-own-adventure product based on a version of the Orpheus. myth. Who knows where the limits are?
I understand that people are still creating shows based on the hope that they will have at least some sort of live audience but how realistic is that when we are at the mercy of a provincial government whose “thought” processes seem to run along the lines of “We can’t provide enough buses in the Finch corridor so let’s close the theatres”?