Friday, December 9,2011: Motion, Emotion…

Young dancers and the Prague Symphony prepare to perform

Editorial: Motion, Emotion, and Music

How many times do you suppose Mozart’s classic opera Don Giovanni has played in Prague? How many different productions of it do you imagine have been created around the world?

And what – besides the glorious music itself – could keep this 18th century opera fresh, fascinating, and satisfying for typically jaded 21st century audiences?

One answer: visuals.

Look, They’re Everywhere

As we’ve noted before, today’s audiences thrive on visual stimulation. None of us can actually avoid images – on our computer screens, television and movie screens, even while walking down a city street, beneath revolving billboards, flashing ticker-tape stock reports, and rotating news headlines.

Because we’re so used to and immersed in moving pictures, it’s no longer enough for many in today’s audiences to just go to a concert hall to see someone stand and sing. Today’s audiences want action.

And that’s what you can find in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Don Giovanni which was recently broadcast live, and in high definition yet, via the network of Aero-affiliated cinemas around the Czech Republic.

Here, the camera picks the audience up by the shirt collar and plops it right on stage with the singers, right in the middle of the action. All the best camera techniques adopted from film are employed: close-ups on soloists, extreme close-ups on soloists, reaction shots to close-ups on soloists; dolly shots, pans, and zooms. At certain points the camera even rotates around the singers. Sometimes it sits at the singers’ feet, looking up.

The result is an unforgettable opera experience that seems to zip through an hour, not the usual more-than-three that the Don takes to tell his tragic story.

Senses and Sensibilities

Simple slides help associate the music with the maestro

Scientists and psychologists can tell you that you engage more deeply and you remember more when you use more than just one human sense. A nice example of this was presented at the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) Children’s music program on a recent Saturday.

Not only did a huge video screen project information about the composition and the composer (just PowerPoint-type static images, but still, it’s a good start); three of the pieces were accompanied by choreographies performed by the teenaged dancers from the Prague Ballet Junior dance conservatory.

So children and their parents got to see and hear the music, and to a certain degree even feel it as the dancers moved. And this created a valuable bonus for the young dancers, too: the rare chance to stretch themselves by performing to a live symphony orchestra, not a recording.

We applaud and encourage these producers, and hope they will continue to find creative ways to speak to today’s audiences.

And if you think that all classical music and opera is simply a stage full of people who stand and sing, don’t be too sure. Things are changing, and your support and attendance at the most creative performances will help create the demand for even more. – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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