Category Archives: carmen

Professional Crap Sifters

sep 07 049It seems that London’s opera critics think that Sally Potter’s Carmen is, well, a bit crap. I can’t comment, I haven’t seen it yet – but I still love the blogging and videoblogging over on the ENO’s mini-site. A couple of the critics have been a bit sneery about the whole 2.0 angle on this but I think they’re missing the point – the show may be gimmicky (err.. I don’t think opera folk call it a show, but you know what I mean) but the blog isn’t – I really think it’s taken a big step in a new direction for the Arts, opening up the creative process and the backstage, as the production progressed, rather than filming a fly-on-the-wall and then stitching it all together later. This shows up “what *were* they thinking?” as lazy rhetoric – you could have seen what they were thinking by following the site. The real question for the critics is “if they’ve been talking about what they’re going to do for so long and in such detail, why did the bits you don’t like in the production come as such a surprise to you?” and why weren’t you writing something about it back then?

I really hope that the ENO has the courage to keep that material up and to carry on with this experiment now and into future – it adds a layer of interestingness before you see the show as well as afterwards – it’s icing on the cake. As I say I haven’t seen the show, so I don’t know if this is an occasion to peel the icing off and give the cake to the dog or whether this is professional critics talking out of their arses again. Now is the time for the Carmen folk to get the conversation really going – fight back or surrender, doesn’t matter which, but say something.

The thing is that critics are part of the problem with opening up performance to a wider audience. The good news is that their power is diminishing as we gain the opportunity to hear people we know and trust talk about what they like and don’t like. I much prefer getting recommendations from my friends and I look forward to seeing some ordinary people’s reaction to Carmen, people who don’t have any prejudice against ENO and don’t already have a fixed opinion about how this opera needs to be done in London today.

I went to a C4 Education screening last night entitled “TV is dead?” My answer – read my blog (two years ago! – funnily enough about the same time as I started thinking about blogging for theatre) The bit in the programme where, if I’d been at home, I’d have been shouting at the telly, was when someone from the Beeb trotted out the old line that in future, as media professionals, they would be the people that we could trust to sift out the crap. NO, BBC, STOP! I don’t want your opinion on what’s crap and what’s not, I want you to make excellent programmes that no one else can make. More “Dr Who”, “Comics Britannia”, “Windscale”, “The Mighty Boosh” (oh God! *More* Storyville, not less!!!!) and fewer animals stuck up trees and celebrities who can’t tap dance.

Phew!

I really liked that younger people were included in the debate in a fairly unpatronising way, though friends and other regular readers know what I think of panel sessions.

Missing from last night was any recognition that the internet is about social interaction not content delivery (just like TV has always been) and so you should be concentrating on making stuff that people want to interact around rather than worrying about how they get it and whether everyone’s paid exactly the right money (whole other rant on that one – tell us straight – how much money gets spent on protecting rights? – how much more or less is it than the amount of money you currently lose to “piracy” – how much more money might you actually make if you weren’t so tight arsed about it all – *hint* watch Radiohead very carefully)

Also missing was any glimmer of understanding that advertising might not work any more. The real question here is “TV Advertising is Dead?” And it comes in two parts – 1. People don’t want to be interrupted or fed commercial information any more, they want it self-service and 2. The current advertising sales model is based on pulling the wool over the eyes of advertisers with extrapolations from sample audiences – what happens when you (and they) start to get real audience numbers in real time based on actual attention data from your viewers/subscribers in a form that makes comparison with other online media forms more like-for-like?

An amateur writes…

Thanks Adam for pointing to Michael Billington’s piece on theatre criticism.

I wish I had more time to respond, but in the few minutes before I get in the shower, I would add these points:

A great number of the theatre directors I’ve spoke to about in-house (marketing, if you like) blogging they have seen it’s *primary purpose* as circumventing what they see as piss-poor print-bound criticism which can kill a show’s sales just because the critic had a hangover.

Mr Billington should have a look here for an explanation of how to deal with that “relentless din”

I sat in front of Mr Billington at a press night last week. He was very well behaved, as you’d expect. The same can’t be said for one of his peers who threatened to disrupt the beginning of the show because the seat he’d been given didn’t suit his taste.

Is anyone doing (new)media literacy classes for these poor old hacks? How can we help them distinguish between the different types of blogging in theatre, spot the good stuff in among the rest and understand that you don’t have to read them all, any more than you have to read every column-inch of a newspaper.

ENO getting it spot on for Carmen

I just love the Carmen blog from the English National Opera.

It’s exactly what I was talking about here

Well done to the folk at interesource who got it going, but super well done to the ENO people who seem to have taken to it as naturally as I’d hoped. I was really grateful to get to talk to John Berry a few weeks ago and hear his take – I came away understanding that ENO was an obvious place to do this – democratisation of access to opera is one of their cornerstones. We also talked about ‘bootstrapping’ online and offline relationships and I thought I saw a small lightbulb go on.

There’s a ton of cool video on the site – perhaps too many talking heads (but who am I to talk!) but some fantastic music and behind the scenes action. Go look.

I think it’s a great example of post-geek bloggery – as I’ve been saying for a while, make your own fly-on-the-wall documentary of what you’re doing rather than getting a crew in to follow you around and then stitch you up after the event.

When I’ve pitched this idea to other people, the perceived barriers have been (lack of) editorial control and shining the light on the creative process too early. I don’t know what the process has been for creating content here, but I can’t imagine that Sally Potter has had to get her blog approved by a committee every time she writes.

One suggestion – a more obvious place to find CC-licenced images for bloggers to use to illustrate their posts about you :)