Paul Potts and Gadamer

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino offers this odd juxtaposition in the Manila Standard Today (Philippines) (for Sophie Schulte-Hillen):

‘Britain’s Got Talent” is the United Kingdom’s answer to “American Idol.” Simon Cowell also sits as judge and he is also referred to there as “the nasty Simon.” When Paul Potts, a salesman, announced that he was going to sing opera, it was not really incredulity that registered on the judges’ faces, just a dismissive “Oh, God…”. But as Paul sang the first bars of Nessun Dorma it became clear that here was someone who was not to be dismissed nonchalantly. As he took the song to its climax many in the audience wiped their cheeks, and the lady-judge shed tears unabashedly. Simon put it best when by calling the rendition “a breath of fresh air.” So why does Nessun Dorma appeal in an age of punk and metal?

If an aria from Puccini’s Turandot propelled Potts to stardom almost overnight—although he did figure in several singing events prior to this competition—then indeed Nessun Dorma is a classic, as The Illiad is a classic, as is Macbeth, as is a Bach fugue! Poll Pots won because he sang a beautiful aria beautifully. That is a truth-claim, and the common riposte: beautiful to you, not to me, is just naïve, if not uneducated. I am not saying that whoever dislikes Puccini is a boor (although that might very well be the case); I am saying that whoever recites with unction that well-worn refrain: good to you, not to me; beautiful for you, not for me, should be more reticent about exhibiting intellectual bankruptcy!

Gadamer dwelt on the subject of whether there can be a claim to truth absent the method of scientific inquiry. Do works of art, for example, make a claim to truth? Quite clearly, what truth there might be in a work of art will be different from the truth that astronomers tell us after receiving photos from the Hubble telescope—and even in this respect, we must be warned that they are not just reading, but always interpreting.