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Missing 'the undiscovered'


I’ve been trying to articulate what is missing for me personally, in the tsunami of online performing arts content - excellent, slick performances, trained singers in Brady bunch configurations singing sentimental songs, cute snippets of opera singers and celebrities in their ordinary houses singing ordinary songs extraordinarily, people speaking truth to power with friends from their homes without filters, without editing, without quality equipment - fuzzy archival footage (like ours - just a record, a tool for artist reflection) never meant for a public forum, quizzes, links to historical recordings, cheerful, artistic people sharing freshly baked bread pictures and duck ragù recipes - and sorry to say, I feel overwhelmed, and disinclined to listen or watch any more than a tiny portion of any of it.

In amongst all the wonderful outpourings of creativity at my fingertips, it strikes me that I am truly yearning for my music-opera-theatre to be conceived, rehearsed, crafted and delivered for me (amongst others) in a designated performance or theatre space. I’ve seen enough of the inside of people's homes from Grand Designs and aspirational trawls through real estate video brochures.

Richard Brody’s article in The New Yorker has him missing ‘the obscurity of the undiscovered’ in the movie theatre. It strikes me that ‘the undiscovered’ is what opera - or any live performance - has in spades, over the online variety. One aspect of live performance that we cannot reproduce online is the lack of filter; the element of danger - something could go slightly or ridiculously wrong - and because in the performance space the individual’s capacity to press pause, turn down the volume, get rid of background noise, be sucked into multitasking is surrendered for the duration, we ramp up expectation and potential for exhilaration. We draw a room full of strangers into an undiscovered connection, and often unanticipated effect, that comes from the transfer of waves, vibrations and emotions in human-with-human contact. Every audience member is alone - isolated to some degree - but essentially in the same place as the art: enfolded within the performance - the vibrations - the skill - the shared.

The clamour to be seen ‘being artistic’ online - particularly on social media - possibly mirrors how unseen we - the performing arts - are feeling, in the grand scheme of government priorities and understandably, health crisis management.

There is pressure for all arts organisations, irrespective of financial capacity, to join the online chorus - and we’ve put a toe or two in, with another couple to come - so as not to be antisocial, and to maintain some kind of contact with our sorely missed friends and supporters - but sigh; Iive is live is live, and I, for one, long to be back on the boards with ‘my’ people - on-stage, back-stage, off-stage and front-of-stage - being there, together.


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