The five or six of you out there who are following my recent rants on various ‘operatic’ themes know that something is up with Detroit. It ain’t like I’ve got a deep, dark secret about it. What it is, is more a matter of ‘packaging’ or rather approach.
I’ve written that, although I love opera now, the reason I didn’t love it in my youth (aside from all the fat people screaming in Italian) was that I didn’t know that it was already dead. And by ‘dead’ I mean, no longer a currently relevant art form. Oh sure, people still write operas, but people still try to finish Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Big deal. It doesn’t mean that these pieces have anything to say to me. This is tough talk as I know that Adams, Glass and Corigliano win all manner of fancy schmansy awards for long works about Einstein and Nixon and so on. How clever. But just between us girls? The last real opera; the one that will last beyond the composer’s lifetime? That was probably written by someone of the era of Stravinsky or Debussy.
What I have always loved, even as a kid, was Broadway. The King And I. Oklahoma. West Side Story. The Music Man. And I further hadn’t realised that Broadway had evolved into something just as deep as Falstaff and just as complex as Siegfried. And as a bonus? It was immediately entertaining! It is the gesamtkunstwerk of the twenty century.
But as the years have gone on, I am having second thoughts about the relevance of Broadway. Frankly, I don’t enjoy most of what’s been done in the past twenty years. And I wonder if that is just the style of writing now (which seems tired and cliched) or if, as with opera, the medium itself has outlived it’s time of creativity.
I don’t have the answer yet, but I do know that there is an idea I have. And the idea is big and important to me. So I don’t want to put it out there; and devote so much of the time I have left; towards a medium that is not in the now. I don’t want a good idea to not reach it’s potential because it was held back by an outdated form.
I still believe in the gesamtkunstwerk. I used to believe that this was film. But now, as much as I love the cinema, I’ve realised that live singing, acting and dancing can project levels of emotion that simply cannot be reached on a screen–no matter how large. Sure you can overwhelm people with technical details in film, but you can’t get to the raw emotion and true subtlety of feeling for which live performance allows.
There’s a message I want to send. And I can see it reaching people through songs on a real stage. It’s not an opera, because that speaks to an aloofness that can’t reach down to where things are today. And I don’t know if it’s Broadway, because even Broadway has reached a place that takes itself far too seriously.
In short, how does one put something out that simply makes people feel without being constantly aware of (and distracted by) the ‘show’.