Wednesday, October 17, 2007
But, What Is Great Opera Acting?
First let me say that yes, opera is theater, and theatre demands acting.But what, after all is great operatic acting? Histrionics?? Hand gestures?Flashing eyes? Sashaying in your gown all around the stage?? Laying on your back and dangling your hair into the orchestra pit????I would say that 95% of great opera acting in done IN THE VOICE.? If you sat in the top balcony of the Old MET, as many of you did.? There really wasn't much difference in what you could see in a Tosca by Milanov or Albanese or Callas for that matter. What gripped you emotionally and caught you up in the drama of the moment was the passion and intensity of the singing.? Without that there was no drama at all.?This is why we can watch some noted actresses of today at the MET and marvel in the theatre at their whirling and twirling and laughing aloud in Mad Scenes and then return home and turn on the radio a week later and hear the same cast and wonder what became of the drama. In fact we are more likely to note the vocal flaws on the radio that are often covered over by the whirling, twirling, and laughing we witness on the stage.?Everyone is sooooooooooooo fond of pointing out Maria Callas these days as the epitome of great operatic acting, and yet if you watch her videos she often hardly moves a muscle.? But her voice is imbued with white hot intensity.?So, Indeed!? I am all for great acting on the opera stage.? In fact I need it to be satisfied with the performance.But flashing eyes, dangling hair into the pit, whirling, twirling, and laughing aloud are merely empty gestures when the chromatic scales are fudged, the trills are faked, the Eb flat, and the inner vocal intensity vacant.?