Viewpoint: Staying on Message
© Dario Acosta 2015
I had no idea that so many evening gowns had pockets for cell phones until last year’s OPERA NEWS Awards, when it seemed as if everyone (i.e. the winners, the presenters and the hosts, as well as the guests) spent the evening in candid photographer mode. Nobody could resist sharing the occasion via selfies, which kept showing up in my inbox for weeks after the event. (A “selfie,” for those of you who are not yet fully digital, is a self-portrait photograph taken with a hand-held digital camera or phone and often shared through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking services.) If you want a small taste of the merriment that went on at last year’s OPERA NEWS Awards, check out “Selfies Gone Wild” on the Facebook page of Joyce DiDonato, who co-hosted the awards gala with her friend David Hyde Pierce. I ask you — selfies of Renata Scotto, Marilyn Horne and Martina Arroyo? Top that, Ellen DeGeneres!
Like everything DiDonato does on social media, her pictures are spontaneous, classy and great fun. But the mezzo says that she’s “more than a little torn” about the nature of selfies. “I’m not a huge fan of what it represents, which is quite narcissistic. But people love it — those are the most viewed pictures on my Instagram or Twitter. Selfies. I don’t really do it in everyday life, but there are some occasions when I can’t resist. Last year I did one in the elevator after the Juilliard graduation, with Viola Davis and Frank Gehry. Oh, my gosh, that was amazing. I rarely do it of myself — except before a concert when I have good Tamsen Z jewelry on, or something like that. But I love doing it with other people. That’s a lot of fun. And at the stage door, that’s what the kids want to do — take a selfie with me. That’s not something that was available to me when I was their age, but now I say, ‘Bring it on!’ Seriously, the best thing about [selfies] is that I can control the angle of the camera. That is not insignificant!”
In early November, when DiDonato was in New York for the release of her new Warner Classics disc, Stella di Napoli, and appearances at Carnegie Hall, she had a conversation with me about social media — how she uses it, and what she uses it for — that I found revelatory. All performers have to strike a balance between their private and public lives; social media has brought artists and public much closer together, and that closeness now exists long after the curtain comes down or the music stops playing. We are all members of the same community — and now we are with each other twenty-four hours a day.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
CORRECTION: The role of Penelope in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s recording of Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria is sung by Norma Lerer, not Cathy Berberian, as stated in Recordings (Feb.).
The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.
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