Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Popstar To Operastar #17 - critic-proof?

An interesting, equivocal piece about Popstar To Operastar blogged here.

My position has evolved into one in which I find the show cunning but ultimately disingenuous. I understand that this position can seem dismissive of other values that pertain to the show - the proper response is, "sorry about that but you're indivisible collateral, so bad luck". Here's the text of the comment I wrote in case the blog author rejects it (italics reproduce the author's words):
It's easy to make fun of Popstar to Operastar - but rather more difficult to justify that. The budget isn't low, it's large. The panel is a huge celebrity with nothing to say (Meat Loaf) a nobody who will become celebrated as he has something to say (Villazon) and two others instantly recognisable to the core audience. The performers are genuine performing musicians, not "faking it" nobodies.

I’m also trying really hard not to take the bait for two reasons:

1) When we say “you don’t understand how difficult opera is” we mostly just make ourselves look like snobs. The problem is that the audience aren't getting any OPERA from the show in the first place, irrespective of the irrelevance that is the difficulty of performing it.

2) The point of the show is to generate entertainment content that will a) fill the hour of broadcast and b) give the phone voters [and social networking=marketing sites] a focus for transacting. The quality of the content is irrelevant, naturally - but then the voting is not being cast on the quality of performance but the audience's response to the 'reality' element of the show, the personal drama of the performers being fish out of water.

3) The show might only narrowly miss the point, but it does so in a highly canny fashion. It's carried out in a bet-hedged manner in which it is impossible to argue effectively against anything being lacklustre, dishonest or simply crap without seeming like a killjoy. It makes a Teflon-coated virtue of its own mediocrity.

I agree with you that the standards are lower than the budget might appear to be. The problem is that the audience implicitly understand that the programme is not about opera at all. It's just a hook. The only way to deal with this lazy co-opting of opera is to ignore it or to damn it unequivocally. This is what Christiansen did in the Telegraph, attacking baby Villazon along with the bathwater of the show, even though, in an earlier article, he recognised that Villazon is opera's one hope of coming out of the show with any credibility.

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