Sunday, July 10, 2011

The 10,000 Foot View and the 1,000 Foot View

When technical writers talk about documents, you hear phrases like "30,000 foot view" and "10,000 foot view" tossed around. The idea is that different documents, or the same document, can look at a product from different perspectives. To make complicated software work, you need high-level views to understand how the software fits into a stack that might include hardware, the local area network, a database server, client software, APIs, and so on. You need low-level views to get the right arguments for a method.

My Ring review is a high-level overview of the Zambello/Runnicles Ring that ran for three cycles at San Francisco Opera in June and early July. I called it a triumph and I'll stand by that.

Still, I have some quibbles, which I'll be discussing in a posting that I expect to put up shortly. But I need to make a couple of things clear first.

I'm fine with modernizing or interpreting the Ring (and any other damn opera) according to the director's ideas. You want to put the Ring in feudal Japan or on the moon, fine by me. You just need to be dramatically convincing and reasonably consistent about it. Wagner's fairly sparse stage directions aren't the Holy Writ, to be obeyed without question or alteration.

I feel the same way about Shakespeare, as it happens. It would be silly to always perform Shakespeare the way his plays were done during his lifetime: outdoors, rather rapidly, in Elizabethan dress, and with boys or young men playing women's parts. Hey, I'd love to see that from time to time! But any playwright or composer knows that theater changes and audience expectations change. Once the work is released into the wild, it's open season.

So for people out there complaining that the Zambello Ring is Regietheater or Eurotrash or in some way illegitimate or wrong - you're just wrong yourselves. This stance is obviously objectionable - and ludicrous - when the complainers haven't even seen the production. Hold your fire, buy tickets, and wait until you see the whole, which is greater than the sum of the parts that can be described in any review.


Henry Holland said...

This stance is obviously objectionable - and ludicrous -when the complainers haven't even seen the production

Tsk, tsk, Lisa, don't you know that by Ringhead rules, if a production of The Greatest Work Of Art Ever In The History Of Ever is taking place anywhere in the world, said Ringheads are compelled to have an opinion, so that The Master's intentions (which they alone can parse, of course) can be carried out to the letter.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You know who I'm talking about, right?