The description of “The Marriage of Figaro” in the Pittsburgh Opera’s season ticket solicitation marks a new low in dumbing down the arts. Here it is:
“What is this thing called love?
Imagine protecting your fiancée from a lecherous rival, finding your long-lost son, and healing an ailing marriage – all in one day! Most of us would pull out our hair, but this is Mozart, and on Figaro’s dizzying wedding day, love is in the air, behind a door, under a chair, and in everyone’s hearts. And you thought your wedding day was chaotic.”
Now let’s disregard the fact that there is no connection between the headline and the paragraph that follows it. And let’s also disregard that there is absolutely nothing in the description about the magnificent music, nor about this most literary of librettos, based on Beaumarchais’ play, one of the most subversive, anti-establishment works of the past 250 years.
Let’s focus on the way the paragraph tries so very hard to connect with those who regularly read and take seriously fashion and bridal magazines. Arts organizations, and especially serious music ensembles, have been engaged in this kind of dumbing down for about 10-15 years now, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to work. I can’t say specifically what the Pittsburgh Opera’s financial situation is, but most arts organizations have not been helped by dumbed-down marketing gimmicks; ticket sales are still down for virtually all arts organizations. But these gimmicks do manage to piss off those core customers who don’t like the anti-intellectualism and mindless consumerism that are the ideological bedrock of fashion, bridal and similar periodical fluff.
For the record: I would be even more perturbed if the description of the opera took a smutty or Sinatra-cool laddy-mag approach.