Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting the word out

I just returned from a brief little interview with the local Fox news affiliate here in St Louis. It was the local morning news show, and David Kravitz, (the baritone singing my dad) and I were interviewed by the human interest reporter for about 3 minutes to talk about The Golden Ticket. Except we barely got a chance to plug the opera because the thrust of the segment ended up being us giving the reporter a "voice lesson" and him making opera-like sounds into the camera. I'm sure it probably made a good morning tv moment, but I wonder if anybody will come to the opera as a result of that interview.

When we arrived at the studio, we entered the lobby to find a pair of clowns from the circus (one of whom tooted a trumpet upon our arrival), a pair of blue grass musicians strumming their guitars, and a pair of racing greyhounds wearing vests with numbers on them. We were ushered back to the studio, where, as we waited for our interview to begin, we watched the reporter who was about to interview us get down on all fours in the hallway and "race" with the greyhounds. How can you possibly follow up a human versus dog race with anything particularly serious? You can't, which is why he wanted us to give him a little singing lesson to keep the mood light. Each of us tried to plug something about the Opera - David managed to mention the special effects which will be required, and I mumbled something about how having adult opera singers playing naughty children is funny, but we mostly showed the interviewer how to breathe like an opera singer, and listened to his "opera voice" which happened to be falsetto. After the interview was over, I was kicking myself for not mentioning some facts that might get novices interested in coming to an opera - like the fact that we don't use microphones, but still can reach as many as 4000 people with our natural voices, but it all passed by in a blur, much like the previous greyhound race. The clowns were warming up to the side, and before we knew it, our mikes were being yanked off and we were back in the car on our way home.

So how do we publicize opera to the public who may have absolutely no exposure to the art form? The easiest way is to try to be funny, but then we run into the issue of reinforcing the stereotypes instead of breaking them. This reporter did have a pretty good falsetto, and even a little bit of vibrato, but watching a non opera singer try to sing like an opera singer is probably not going to entice anybody to come to the opera. It's exactly that idea people have about what opera voices sound like that repels them. But how do we educate the general public without talking down to them? How do we make them want to come to the opera within a 3 minute segment on a local morning news show?

Obviously, any press is better than no press, even if we don't have the opportunity to tell them everything we think is wonderful about this particular opera and production. And while it's the opera company's responsibility to get us on tv, and it's the reporters job to do something to entertain the public, I, as an opera singer, feel I that it's my responsibility to find ways to talk about my art form to people who haven't been exposed to it, hoping to get them excited about it. I wish I would have done a better job with that this morning (I have to give props to my "Dad" David - he had much more coherent thoughts to share than I did), but it was a learning experience. Next time I do a tv interview, even if it's short, I'm going to prepare some points I want to make ahead of time, and find a way to work them into the conversation. 1. Opera as theater (combining all the elements in one - music, drama, stagecraft, choreography, sets, costumes - better than the circus!!!) 2. Opera as a sport (the only place you can hear the human voice un-amplified!!!) 3. Opera as emotion (ever notice how when the soundtrack comes into a movie you suddenly feel something - now imagine if the characters were actually singing the soundtrack!!!!). I didn't manage today, but there will be more chances I'm sure.

Hopefully next time I'll even be able to compete with sporting dogs and circus clowns.

UPDATE - The clip is already on youtube:


Liz said...

It's not as bad as you think. Typical of this type of show. I would be inspired to see the show...sounds like fun.

Katypracht said...

Man, those interviews are always at ridiculously early hours and it's hard to take control unless you've got some spiel prepared. Great job at playing along, both of you! The important thing is that they heard the name of the opera, performance dates, and the familiar story.

Have a wonderful shift to the stage! :)

Unknown said...

You did just fine! Don't beat yourself up!


I think that you were a hit!

grahamophone said...

Oh my goodness! I just discovered this when I was blog-hopping. I'd be ever so grateful if you'd read my old entry about the perception of modern-day opera singers:

That's from my website which includes the 20 comment discussion thread. Otherwise, I'm just plain old "Christine's Voice" on Blogger. Good work - and good luck with your run of Willy WonKA!