Technology and Spectatorship
GAIA VARONOvertures on Screen 91
Overtures on Screen GAIA VARON The overture of an opera – by which I mean any instrumental intro- duction – always has a somewhat ambiguous status: Is it part of the opera? Is it music meant for an attentive hearing, should we listen to it with a contemplative, aesthetic attitude? Or is its main function to call for attention and introduce something that has not started yet? When we sit in an opera house, we know full well what to expect: the conductor appears and lifts his baton; it is time to be silent and listen. The opera has begun. Music is in the foreground. We do not have to watch, although in some theatres and in certain seats we may be able and willing to watch the orchestra playing.1 But what happens when we sit in front of a screen? Should our mental behaviour as we listen to an overture correspond to the formal dress required for the theatre or the concert hall? Or is it legitimate to listen to it informally attired, maybe chatting with the person sitting next to us, as we normally do in cinemas during the film opening titles? A video production, whether on film or as a television broadcast or a DVD, by definition implies watching – the existence of some- thing to be watched – at all times. Normally, when we sit in front of a screen in a cinema or at home, and something begins, the first things we see are the opening credits, and most...
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