It figures the Canadians would turn the “American Idol” formula into something less mean-spirited, more down-to-earth than glamorous, and yet in the end smarter and classier.
Instead of “pop” singers and performers, “Bathroom Divas” is a show about people who have an itch to sing opera, and enough of a voice and, in some cases, training, to maybe pull it off, with some help from professionals.
Another difference from “Idols,” the judges on “Bathroom Divas” are tough, opinionated, and sometimes cuttingly blunt, but not in the juvenile, nah-nah, Simon whatever-his-name is way. More like professionals can be in any field, but because they are opera lovers as well as professionals they want each contestant to do their best and to help them do it.
I don’t watch “American Idol” but got turned on to it when I was in Georgia recently, and could see what captivates the TV audience—becoming enamored with a contestant and then rooting for them, caught up in the competition, etc.
But the judgments meted out on "American Idol" often seem way too arbitrary, once they get past the contestants obviously chosen to be ridiculed, or exploited for their lack of talent (but, unfortunately for these contestants, genuine ambition and dreams).
That meanness doesn’t appeal to me.
But while staying with my older son and his family in the Berkshires the past few days, I caught this Canadian show, “Bathroom Divas,” on which hundreds of contestants vie for six spots to go to “opera boot camp”—where in the span of a few weeks they get intense coaching, and after five are eliminated, one gets to perform on stage in concert with the Vancouver orchestra.
No “Hollywood” hype and “fame”—just a dream come true for these Opera aspirants.
One of the six finalists is a construction worker who’s never even been to an opera (I had never been to one either until I was into my thirties, and only a few more since then, but enough to see no matter how boring aspects of it can be, the high points are unmatched anywhere else). He’s a working-class guy with a wife and kids, who cried when he made it to the final six. Another is a big, burly, 24-year-old, country-boy hunter, who’s had some vocal training but is undisciplined (he smokes, likes his beers and pulling gags, etc.).
The other four are women, including a mother-daughter pair—the mother 58 and the daughter in her 20s and both of them with incredible voices—a “native-American” Canadian, and a Cher-and-Celine Dion impersonator.
According to the judges, The “Indian” woman has the voice with the most potential, but she’s also the most insecure and has difficulty taking in and acting on the initial lessons.
I can’t believe how into it I got. Mainly because they’re all just working people not trying to get Hollywood fame and fortune and all the glitz and bling that “Americans” seem to think will bring them happiness, no matter how many Owen Wilson, Heath Ledger, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan stories the media covers.
These Canadians would maybe like careers as opera singers. But most of all they seem to just want to be recognized for the power of their voices and the hard work they’ve put into their attempts to sing arias. And they want to learn how to improve and be in the company of people who share their love of opera and have succeeded in some area of the opera world. i.e. the judges—two men and two women, singing coaches and a director, who don’t always agree, and can get adamant about their preferences and criticisms, but always for the love of, and good of, the voices.
And that, in the end, is the most compelling thing about the show, the voices. The reality that the human voice can even achieve the demanding operatic range of pitch and emotion in the first place impresses me. But then to watch as a few lessons and hard work and discipline improve on these natural gifts is mesmerizing.
At least to me.
If you see it listed on your plethora of TV choices (on the TV I was watching it was a channel called “Ovation” which unfortunately I don’t get back in Jersey, a big disappointment), check it out and see for yourself if it isn’t compelling in a way “American” “reality” TV shows usually aren’t, and probably wouldn’t care to be. Our loss.