The purist Baroque pioneer Joel Cohen has been watching the Met’s potpourri on a television relay. Expecting irritation, he found a certain truth.
Here’s a sample:
What pleased me about this televised broadcast was precisely the silliness and superficiality of the presentation. Viewing the three hour long show on the tube was not totally dissimilar from taking in a Neapolitan opera from one’s own box at the theater. During a slow bit on the screen one could move about, discurse to one’s neighbor, run to the fridge for a snack…now that’s a “historically informed” experience!
Another historical verity made evident again via the telecast is the relatively less-important role of the compositional ingredient in the whole operatic enchilada. When “Ercole Amante,” with music by Cavalli, was given at Versailles to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIV, contemporary accounts apparently neglected to mention Cavalli’s specially-commissioned music. What got commented on at the time were the impurgated ballet sequences by court composer Lully (as I recall, Cavalli, disgusted, went home to Venice, never to return).