I recently went to a performance of Verdi’s nineteenth century opera, La Traviata. Like modern musicals, it was a multi-media spectacle, combining singing, dancing, narrative, an orchestra, scenery and lighting.
The outdoor harborside setting boosted the opportunity for grandiose effects, including fireworks and cast members arriving by boat. An enormous 3.5-tonne chandelier with 10,000 Swarovski crystals overhung the stage.
SWEET SPOT REACHED
The whole enterprise was over the top – almost. This is surely the key to success in entertainment, communication or almost anything, which is knowing how far to push and when to ease back.
The sweet spot is the point just before the effort falls over the line into absurdity or ridiculousness.
Changing entertainments, watch any motor race and check the lead car. You’ll see lots of small evidence of the traction limits being approached, such as brief wheel locks during braking, sideways judders on the bends, tail wag under acceleration.
The winner is the person who can drive fastest without spinning out, colliding or failing to take a corner.
JUST THIS SIDE
The skill of motor racing is not to drive safely and under control, but to keep the car just this side of catastrophe. Similarly, an accomplished producer or communicator knows exactly where the traction limits lie.
Of course each medium has its own parameters or variables. Opera is not the same as motorsport or a politician’s speech.
But people who have mastered the sweet spot principle are invariably the most successful. This was just as true in Verdi’s time as it is today.
Photo by Borna Bevanda