In New York, at least, opera coverage in the regular press may be better than it's been in decades. The Gray Lady has reviewers who may actually like opera (previous chief critics seem to have been shocked at how much disreputable singing their worthy job required them to hear); the upstart Sun covers most everything, often featuring the new (to me) and excellent Fred Kirshnit; meanwhile Peter Davis and others are happily still active. So why blogs, now?
This article set me to thinking about what, ultimately, this enterprise is getting at. It rambles a bit and is too long to excerpt, but is certainly interesting in this context. The author contrasts the journalistic mindset -- which is, of course, his own -- with that appropriate for scholarship or religious faith. Blogs, in this split between engaging what is now and unearthing slower, more lasting truths, are by format pretty much with the former. What's made their name on the wider stage is just that: blogging as a jumped-up, perhaps even ideal form of journalism -- an instrument of unlimited responsiveness and minimally encrusted convention.
In the wider world, part of the recent blog explosion was surely people's sense that eternal truths are now turning on their heads -- or indeed are dead, while others are being born from the previously-humdrum patter of daily news. Did that day change everything? I'm sure of it; but the question here is -- did it change opera? Not visibly, not yet.
Still other currents are afoot. That Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on operablogging suggests one:
The second factor here is the perception that monolithic American commercial culture is breaking apart.I think this is on the right track. The transition of our classical music/opera infrastructure* -- with pretty much every other cultural business -- from a broadcasting to a narrowcasting model seems to me the background story of the age, with eventual repercussions far beyond how we do or don't listen to remote (in time or place) performances. Will it drive arts blogging? Could be.
"For the past 50 years, mass culture" -- as consolidated by network TV, Top 40 radio, Hollywood, major trade publishing and the like -- "has permeated everything else," says McLennon. "But those rules don't apply anymore. Niches are much smaller for everything. Even the top-rated TV show will only be 20 percent of the total population, and the best-selling song in a given week might be Christian rock. Everything's become a niche."
[* Made more difficult, of course, by its attachment to what was just before "the past 50 years [of] mass culture": that myth-laden age of art's broadcast eminence.]
But I've little more to say about this, really. My main experience is different: while there may (soon) be no scarcity of bandwidth, live performance -- unlike an audio/video stream thereof -- isn't infinitely reproducible. That raw thrill of the unamplified human voice, the dramatic charge of simple presence onstage -- that these may survive or thrive as authenticity-bearing luxuries in complement to a generally more-diffused culture (as, e.g., this sort of marvel now) isn't interesting to me except that they do survive. Then, as now, the elements of opera will carry their own truths, which if eternal are nonetheless most strongly bound up by the irreplacable "is now" of present human performance.
I'd like to blog that -- with a dash of everything else.
UPDATE (2/22/05): More paper media scrutiny.