Before I begin this entry, I’m going to acknowledge up front that some may see this post as snobbish and/or (gasp!) elitist. I’m ok with that. Honestly, if there are enough readers of this blog to even garner such an opinion, I’d be thrilled!
Amid the daily grind, I still find myself pondering the great mysteries of the universe, such as “Why has Survivor survived so long?” or “Why are there so many brands of mustard but only a few brands of ketchup? (Ok I admit it, that last one isn’t mine, but I like it. Malcolm Gladwell’s gonna explain it all in a few pages, I hope). Or, more relevant to my work; what is good and what is not? For example – some will say that Riverdance is not good. But thousands, nay, millions, have come to see it and left happy. I may say that a depressingly dark theater piece is amazing, while others may say it’s total, self-absorbed drivel. In most cases, it’s a matter of opinion.
Opinion aside, though, I believe one of the hardest concepts for an arts community to grasp is that there’s a continuum of quality. Sometimes, (more often than not, actually) you don’t need the absolute best to have a wonderful, inspiring time at the theater or a show. How boring would it be if there were no amateurs, semi-professionals or working professionals out there, learning, achieving, trying new things and always getting better? A healthy arts community has it all – local, regional, national and international artists of all shapes and sizes, performing in coffee shops, on the street, in formal concert halls, on high school stages, etc.
But once in a while, my job lets me experience that most transient of concepts; true artistic excellence. How do I know it’s happened? It’s when you don’t have to explain to someone why what you just saw was amazing. It just was.
Tonight, I got to listen to two vocal titans put on a little concert on our stage. I admit I don’t know much about Frederica Von Stade, aka Flicka, and Samuel Ramey, but I do know they sang at the Met and they are the best of the best in the opera world. This concert showed why. These singers could whisper a note and it would fill the hall. They didn’t need microphones or costumes or fancy lights. They needed a great piano artist to accompany them, and they needed their voices. That’s it. Enough said. They are masters of their craft, and they were excellent.
I maintain that we need excellence. It inspires us. It takes us out of the every day. Sure, it might humble us, but why is that bad? It teaches us that there is always more to do, to learn. What excellence doesn’t do is make us somehow less than we were before. Far from it. It says to us: “Look what humans can do. Look what’s possible. Isn’t that just incredible?”
I think so.