There are two sides to the popularity of talent shows. The great news is that they probably encourage a lot of young people to explore their creativity. The bad news is that the shows gloss over the responsibilities of the performer.
One thing I love about So You Think You Can Dance -- which has picked its 10 best men and 10 best women dancers to begin the weekly countdown from the Top 20 tonight -- is that, in every episode, we are reminded of the dancer's responsibility to work as hard as possible to earn his or her audience's time and respect. In return, the judges usually reward those dancers who are able to grow with each new choreography.
It's the opposite of the Got Talent series, which we heard and saw far too much about last month. There, the Scottish Contestant returned to the finals with an old audition piece, which she sang worse than the first time. And she still managed to earn millions of votes from the British public.
Everyone, from rapt-faced judges to oblivious singer to TV viewers, pretended there was no need for any hard work in the background.
Cut to Sunday night's Tony Awards. Liza Minelli joined her gang to accept the award for best special show. In a breathless little ramble, she told everyone how her one-woman show almost didn't come together and that it took months of work to put it into some semblance of shape.
Liza, who turned 63 in March, has had many health problems and her voice is more rasp than warble. But hose obstacles were nothing hard work couldn't overcome.
I interviewed pianist/vocal coach/conductor Martin Isepp a few days ago (the article is scheduled for tomorrow's print edition of the Star). He is in town to conduct the upcoming Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio production of Mozart's Così fan tutte.
He may be in his late 70s, but he still regularly leaves home in England to coach young voices. (His next stop is the wonderful summer festival in Marlboro, Vt.)
I asked Isepp if there were any young professional singers he would like to accompany in recital. He smiled. "I think you're asking me that question a few years too late," he began. There are many fine young singers out there, but he was staying loyal to the people he used to accompany, especially Dame Janet Baker. He also worked with soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006), and would have accompanied her when she toured through Toronto decades ago.
After she stopped singing, Schwarzkopf spent many years passing on her wisdom to younger singers, and became known as a particularly strict and demanding teacher. For her, nothing beat careful attention to detail -- the least glamorous and sexy aspect of a performing career and, yet, one of the main reasons that a career will flourish.
I thought it might be insightful to share a snippet of a 1980 Schwarzkopf masterclass, to show how much a singer needs to do to help Mozart's "Non so piu" from The Marriage of Figaro sound like a masterpiece:
John Terauds started at the Toronto Star as a freelance writer in 1988, and has been on staff since 1997. He began writing on classical music in 2001, and has been the full-time classical music critic since 2005.
He is also the organist and choir director at St. Peter's Anglican Church, a parish founded in 1863 in downtown Toronto.
If he's not listening to, writing about or playing music, it means he's either asleep, unconscious, walking his dog -- or all of the above.
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Toronto Star or www.thestar.com. The Star is not responsible for the content or views expressed on external sites.
Distribution, transmission or republication of any material is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. For information please contact us using our webmaster form. www.thestar.com online since 1996.