Ignorance Really Can Be Bliss

Ignorance Really Can Be Bliss

I went to the opera last night, to see the WNO’s production of “Norma.”  It was absolutely spectacular.  It might be the best thing I’ve seen at the Washington National Opera in ten years of going more or less regularly.

And then this morning I read the review in the Washington Post of the performance (the review is from an earlier performance in the run).  I don’t think the reviewer (who I don’t think much of, based on her other reviews) saw the same thing I did, at all.  She calls it “turgid” and “earnest to the point of parody.”  She makes a special point of mentioning the weight of the two sopranos (Angela Meade as Norma, and Dolora Zajick as her romantic rival Adalgisa; the reviewer gets a crack in about her age as well).

More than half of the review dwells on the sets, which, granted, were not the most exciting ever put on a stage, but with the amazing singing going on, who really cares?  And of course the review also dwells on every missed note, which I don’t think a single person in the audience last night heard.  The review closes with the comment that “the evening was a bit of a clunker” and then, in a later blog posting at the Post, this same reviewer calls the production “a turkey.”

And this is where I prefer ignorance.  I’m glad I don’t know enough to realize how much was wrong with what I saw last night, or how much I should have disliked it and been disappointed by it.  I’m happy not to have a discerning enough ear to hear the one flat note out of three hours of perfect ones.  And I’m thrilled that I’m so unsophisticated that I couldn’t see how the set design and lighting spoiled everything and made the evening a disaster.

If being an “expert” means having to see what’s wrong with something beautiful and tearing it down just to show how much smarter you are than the people who put so much time and sweat and blood into the work you’re watching, than you can keep it.  I’ll stay ignorant, thank you very much.

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One Reply to “Ignorance Really Can Be Bliss”

  1. Well expressed. I so agree with your assessment of “expert” reviews. I am a fan of Broadway musicals, any live theater, and symphony performances, and I have a similar issue with reviews, or with friends who are quick to point out any tiny flaw they might see. It’s all about how much we enjoy it.

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