Monday, February 16, 2009

Opera Populism

Music Monday can even include opera. Twice.

From yesterday's NY Times, an article on opera broadcasts at movie theaters:

Thanks largely to the efforts of the Metropolitan Opera, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are seeing live opera performances in movie theaters, and many others in repeat showings. A dozen other important opera companies are now sending out broadcasts of their own.
If you hadn't noticed the option on Fandango, you can now buy tickets at certain movie theaters to see broadcasts from the Met. As a member of the opera-going public who is too poor to see much opera (and certainly too poor to see more than one production at the Met every few years), Fosco is well-served by this innovation. And while the Met has been televising operas for a number of years now (to say nothing of the weekly radio broadcasts), a movie theater offers much better sound and a much more enveloping experience. So hooray, right?

Well, of course someone must complain:
The dissenters say that the movement will lead to more conservative programming; that the voice will become subservient to appearance; that listeners will be trained to hear something electronic and lose an appreciation for a live experience.

Some worry that vocal training will change, de-emphasizing the ability to project, and that the Met’s effort is a deal with the Devil, because it will divert audiences from local opera houses to make the easier, cheaper trip to the mall.
Some of these criticisms are more worrisome than others. For one thing, the voice has already become subservient to appearance--that happened over a decade ago (if not longer) when opera houses (and major classical music labels) decided to market the sex appeal of their performers. And while Fosco does indeed fear more conservative programming, the Met's programming is already pretty conservative. To be honest, the Met is not where you go to hear the newest avant-garde opera.

As for those who fear that the Met is diverting audiences from local opera to the mall, well... fuck off. Just because I'm poor doesn't mean that my only option should be the Santa Cruz Opera Guild's version of Eugene Onegin (in English!); if you care about the quality of opera in this country, anything that makes Renee Fleming affordable to the masses should be celebrated.

Suck it, haters.

[N.B., there is no such company, to Fosco's knowledge, as the Santa Cruz Opera Guild.]

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