On the last season of ABC's The Bachelor, soprano Sharleen Joynt made a strong impression not with her voice — she was reluctant to sing on the show, lest she be pigeonholed, she told Fred Child — but with her strong personality, especially when she made the unusual decision to leave the reality TV show of her own volition after failing to strike sparks with former pro soccer player Juan Pablo Galavis.
Andi Dorfman, another of Galavis's would-be suitors who took a pass on riding the love match out to its conclusion, is the eponymous Bachelorette in the current season of the show that alternates seasons with The Bachelor and operates under the same premise. There's an opera singer on Dorfman's season too: Bradley Wisk, a 32-year-old tenor from Michigan who told ABC that if he could have lunch with one person, it would be "Pavarotti, one of the greatest tenors of all time. Talk about what he had to do to fulfill all his dreams."
Well...there was an opera singer on Dorfman's season. On last night's episode, Wisk was one of two contenders who failed to receive a rose from Dorfman, which per the terms of the show required his immediate departure. Wisk was tearful as he left, understandably disappointed given that last night's "group date" activity involved singing with R&B group Boyz II Men.
Despite the fact that Dorfman's other suitors were shown to be almost uniformly terrible at singing, Wisk still ended up with the short end of the stick, as the show's directors made merry with his nervous resolve to impress with his vocal gifts. One moment, where Wisk erupted in full-throated, vibrato-laden glory, was shown in several teasers — teasers that then cut to a member of Boyz II Men wincing.
In the end, though, Wisk — whose experience is much more wide-ranging than his portrayal on The Bachelorette would suggest — looked to walk away a winner, his heartfelt avowal that he's ready for a real love contrasting sharply with the smug grin of another contender who remained on the show despite the revelation that he'd been flirting with a restaurant hostess even while he sought Dorfman's roses.
If there's any moral to this story of lost love, it's that Sharleen's instinct was right: when it comes to an operatic vocal gift, sometimes it's best to save the singing for the stage.
"You can sing when you're meant to but he just breaks it out everywhere," writes Joynt, "always with that look on his face that is devoid of self-awareness or humor. Some may think I'm being harsh, but I promise: If there was the slightest shade of irony in him, or a twinkle in his eye while he did this, I'd probably be a lot more receptive. But it's a painfully blatant and literal belt for attention that I just can't deal with."
I assert that no classical musician or artist of any kind should "share" their talents with a popular entertainment program like this. The market & demo aesthetic of these shows will always, by necessity, have to present any kind of 'high art' as eccentric and weird, something that fundamentally cannot be normalized. Which is why any time these popular television shows present classical singers it is either in the language of effusive praise ("She is twelve but sings like an opera star!", "He works in a factory by day but has an amazing opera voice!") or sly insinuation (pop music gurus wincing, something else to indicate that the intensity of classical singing is out of place). Artists should remain silent in these contexts, even at the risk of keeping their craft a secret.