A few weeks back, The New York Times published an article titled “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables.” In it, the author, Dan Kois, spoke of those works which many folks don’t enjoy, yet endure anyway because they know their status as a well-educated, in-the-know member of the intelligentsia depends upon having experienced said work.
What was especially fitting about the timing of the article was the fact that just the night before, I’d attended a showing of Dialogues des Carmélites, a contemporary opera by Poulenc that has to be one of the most boring spectacles I’ve ever laid eyes and ears upon.
To begin with, opera is often touted as a “love it or hate it” medium, and I’m still on the fence. I love the idea of opera; it’s just that I’ve been consistently disappointed in its practice. The characters fall in love or hate too quickly; too many events have happened before the start of the story; or the librettist attempts to cram in too much character development. All this, without even mentioning the sorry state of most opera singers’ French pronunciation or acting ability.
Needless to say, I didn’t much care for Dialogues, but at least now I can say I’ve seen it. This opera joins an ever-expanding list of acclaimed* cultural artifacts I haven’t really enjoyed, including Heart of Darkness, Mellon: An American Life, Pickpocket, A Clockwork Orange, The New Tenants and the Pappa Tarahumara Japanese dance troupe.
Though I fully reserve the right to revisit any of these works at a later time and perhaps warm up to them a bit more, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve eaten my share of cultural vegetables over the past several years.
I firmly believe that “misery loves company,” so share your cultural vegetables in the comments.
*I don’t even want to begin to list the vast number of vapid, useless or just plain stupid “cultural” works I’ve been subjected to over the years.