Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond


December 21, 2008

I have taken to seeing some of the Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcasts even in those instances when I’ve seen the same show live in New York. There’s a lot to be learned in this process. This season we’ve already learned that total frontal nudity is out during the broadcasts as evidenced by the cut away from Karita Mattila in Salome.

So here is what I learned by attending this weekend’s broadcast of Massenet’s Thaïs with Renée Fleming. It is not OK to show two women engaged in a lascivious kiss. This rather ridiculous gesture, so prominent midway through Act II when I saw the show live on December 11, was mysteriously absent on the big screen, replaced instead with a meaningful stroke of the hand. I’m assuming the bit was toned down for an easily-ruffled audience who might be upset at the sight of imaginary homosexual desire.

But, while that is strictly forbidden, it is permissible to pronounce the personal importance of one’s real Christian faith, as did Concertmaster David Chan during an intermission interview with Mary Jo Heath. (This protestation of faith was most odd in its utter lack of irony coming as it did smack dab in the middle of an opera about the dangers of religious fundamentalism.) Certainly that wouldn't offend anyone now, would it?

At least we now know what the target audience of these broadcasts is supposed to look like. But, of course, this is an age of pandering, so, if our next president can invite a bigot to his inauguration, who am I to criticize a little white washing of an opera broadcast?

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