Jan
21
2010

  American Idol Auditions vs. Met Auditions

While Terry and I are watching American Idol this season, we're not interested in the show that follows on Wednesdays. So we flipped through the channels and starting at 9pm on PBS was the feature "The Audition" which is a documentary (which is just what you call a reality show that has only one episode, right?). The PBS film followed 11 singers through their week preparing for the finals of the Metropolitan Opera's national competition.

It was an interesting contrast. Interesting because so much is similar, but the overall effect is so different. The ages of the contestants were about the same. The American Idol cutoff was 28 this season, I think the oldest competitor at the Met was 30 although I don't know if there is an official age limit or not. The odds are long in both genres for becoming a marquee performer, so that's similar. Both sets of singers really benefit from the recognition they get from winning the contest.

The opera singers seem much more mature. In most cases they ARE more mature since they are in their 20s, while some of the American Idol contestants are still in their teens. The opera singers dress better-- they perform in gowns and tuxedos. Although they didn't wear finery to all the rehearsals, they still dressed like professionals. Backstage at American Idol the kids don't typically look so put together.

I find both stories equally compelling, but then I already like opera. I used to want to be an opera singer, but I wisely abandoned that pursuit. Terry thinks someone should make a show to bring opera to the masses the same way "So You Think You Can Dance" has introduced people to various dance forms they never would have seen otherwise. I know Terry and I don't exactly rush to Ticketmaster when we see that a dance troupe is coming to town. But now I think we'll consider it.

I really don't think the opera show would work. With dance all you need are eyes to witness the expression of that art form. Opera is more than just the songs. The total package-- acting, singing, orchestra, and story working together is what makes opera so compelling. Individual arias are a little more difficult to appreciate. But that aside, since individual arias can be great, there is still the hurdle of language in most cases. If you don't have the libretto and aren't familiar with the opera's story, you don't have a lot to go by when listening. Yes, you can get the general sense of the song just by tone and expression, but a lot is lost. Subtitles help, but they are a distraction. I don't know, I just don't think opera would appeal to the masses no matter how it was packaged for TV.

BUT, if you like opera at all, I do recommend watching the show "The Audition". I don't know if they'll be re-running it, but PBS usually reruns shows fairly often.