Opera: for the elite or not?

Discussion of all things opera: Wagner, Verdi, Toscanini, Zeffirelli, prelude, leitmotif, Regietheater, etc.
User avatar
Pantenor
Posts: 33
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 20:32

Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Pantenor » 29 Jun 2016, 20:59

Discuss.

User avatar
Jimlejim
Posts: 98
Joined: 04 Jan 2016, 05:50

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Jimlejim » 01 Jul 2016, 17:30

Opera will never be as accessible as musical. It's probably impossible to shake off the idea it's for the elite. It's complex music, it's foreign language for most and even native speakers struggle to understand opera singers due to vowel modification. Opera for the masses is a pipe dream.
Tenor freak. :D

User avatar
LaGioconda
Posts: 53
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 13:43

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby LaGioconda » 08 Jul 2016, 11:56

opera never exclusively was an elite thing and it should never be. Unfortunately it has become such a thing. At least it has this image. I think this "elite" thing kind of started after WWII. Small and middle-sized opera houses and touring troups became lesser and lesser, opera itself was not as popular any more. Cinema, radio, Jazz had strongly influenced peope´s taste; "entertainment" had become a different meaning.
Now we have discussions on a German forum whether or not to applaud after arias, whether to applaud during the opera at all and only at the end - whether spontanuous applause while the orchestra is still playing after an aria is appropriate or not. - Church-like meditation with folded hands reserved for some elite events is not the way I see opera AT ALL. It´s also not true when people complain that tickets are so expensive - in Vienna you get a standing room ticket for any performance really for 3 Euros... I did not even have trouble getting one for Netrebko´s Manon Lescaut - was there 1,5 hours before the performance started...
Opera is emotio and passion, it should transport you into another world, its stories and interpreters should make you laugh and cry, applaud, cry bravo or boo if it´s not properly done.
If you mean "elite" in the sense that it´s very time consuming to get to know the plot, the music, understand its style and meaning, get to know different recordings, performers, different approaches to different roles - then yes, I would probably agree. The more you know about it - the more there is to enjoy.

User avatar
Jimlejim
Posts: 98
Joined: 04 Jan 2016, 05:50

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Jimlejim » 08 Jul 2016, 23:23

LaGioconda wrote: If you mean "elite" in the sense that it´s very time consuming to get to know the plot, the music, understand its style and meaning, get to know different recordings, performers, different approaches to different roles - then yes, I would probably agree. The more you know about it - the more there is to enjoy.
You need money, patience, time and intelligence for all that.
Tenor freak. :D

Geoff
Posts: 153
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Geoff » 12 Jul 2016, 23:10

Unfortunately Jim, you're right. Musical entertainment these days requires none of the things you mention. Thought is not a spectator/listener requirement. One only has to look at the TV programmes that are served up under the pretence of 'music.' 'The voice'; Britain's (or the US) got talent' ; 'The X factor' . (Lord save us!). Musically, they are without merit. If I try to play some decent music to my children, their children, their children's children, all I get are vacant looks and eye-rolling impatience. When it comes to opera, I fear that as a musical entertainment, it's slowly dying for any number of reasons which I don't think I need to go into again. Opera's demise started with the advent of (a) The gramophone (b) Radio, (c) Television. In other words, progress. Unfortunately us musical Luddites can't turn back the clock. Have another Gin, Geoff !!!.
Regards,
Geoff.

Jim
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Mar 2016, 13:58

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Jim » 23 Jul 2016, 21:21

I agree with a number of points here. I feel that you are perfectly correct La Gioconda opera should never be elite, at least no more so than play going. It has however a number of disadvantages over plays which make it more complex and certainly more costly. An orchestra and conductor being but two. Star singers are expensive and many works require significant choruses. There is also the halls they are performed in, which have had to get bigger throughout the nineteenth century to attempt to make the activity economically viable with the consequent change in voices (not directly relevant, I know).
I do not think that there is a counter argument regarding, say, concert performances for the reasons both Jim and Geoff mention. Opera, whether we like it or not, is and intellectual exercise as well as an emotional one which is going to limit its appeal when all of the other distractions that Geoff mentions are taken into account. Concert performances seem largely of appeal to those who already know the work. We get a lot of concert and semi-staged performances here to keep costs down with no dedicated opera house in Dublin. Attempts to dumb it down are patently not working and the modern egregious stagings are, it seems to me, hastening its decline.
So Geoff to your question...
Opera is in fact for the elite depending on how elite is defined. It is necessary to have a number of prerequisites; money for the tickets; interest in that type of music (not just the popular arias); and a willingness to understand the medium.
Having just reread this I am depressed now. I would join you with the Gin, Geoff, but unfortunately I don't drink. Bjorling does wonders though.
Jim

oddjobman
Posts: 32
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 08:23

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby oddjobman » 24 Jul 2016, 03:48

Attending an opera performance is not expensive, when compared with other live entertainments. The cheapest ticket in ROH is 13.00 pounds sterling (standing) and one could get a seat in the gallery for as low as 25 pounds. That's a lot less than going to a football match or a pop concert. On display there are a 100 piece orchestra, a conductor, at least four principle singers and the chorus, whereas in a soccer match there are 22 players on the field plus 6 reserve players and five match officials. But the enormous effort that goes into an opera production makes it impossible to price the tickets at it's true economic rate. It requires subsidy. In English speaking countries, operas are performed in languages that is not spoken by most people, although the detractors of opera neglect to mention that even those who speaks the language will have difficulties understanding the words sung to music. It is a 'foreign culture', why put money into it when there are more important thing to do is the most used argument against. Museums also receive government subsidies but it is considered an essential cultural heritage. Schools organise trips for their students. By and large the kids enjoy their day out and no body can object to giving money to museums. But there is no school trips to an opera house because children have very short spells of concentration. So it is left to those small section of the society that have time and patience to enjoy opera. Over time it becomes an 'elitist' pursuit and no doubt it has attracted those who attended for the wrong reason. Hence it becomes the easiest target to draw fire.

My son is trained in classical music and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Music when he was at school. He predicted that opera as an art form will die in the next fifty years. I hope he is wrong.

User avatar
LaGioconda
Posts: 53
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 13:43

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby LaGioconda » 29 Jul 2016, 14:57

Jim wrote: Having just reread this I am depressed now. I would join you with the Gin, Geoff, but unfortunately I don't drink. Bjorling does wonders though.
Jim
haha like your sense of humour!! :-)

User avatar
LaGioconda
Posts: 53
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 13:43

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby LaGioconda » 29 Jul 2016, 15:02

oddjobman wrote:Attending an opera performance is not expensive, when compared with other live entertainments. The cheapest ticket in ROH is 13.00 pounds sterling (standing) and one could get a seat in the gallery for as low as 25 pounds. That's a lot less than going to a football match or a pop concert.
Exactly! This ongoing complaints about how expensive opera tickets are, that you hardly are able to get any if big names are in the cast. I have never had more effort than being at the opera house 2 hours before the performance started, do some waiting in the queue and spend 3 Euros for a standing room ticket (gallery). "Better" tickets are a different matter, of course. Just depends how urgent your NEED is to see a performance.

Jim
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Mar 2016, 13:58

Re: Opera: for the elite or not?

Postby Jim » 21 Aug 2016, 19:40

I do not think that trying to get someone interested in opera with standing room or cheap tickets in the recesses of the hall is likely to be productive.

Singers are different in their capabilities and halls are different in their requirements (I know, the statement is like teaching my granny to suck eggs. Not sure how many will understand that one; but however).

My view about trying to get someone interested in this 'elite' activity is;
Know the characters and the story in advance. They are unlikely to pick it up easily from the surtitles.
Start with a popular opera with well known tunes.
Cheap seats in a concert hall, maybe, but not in and opera house. They may struggle to see and hear what is going on. The seats should be where they can clearly see and hear the singers, which also means they should not be too near the stage effectively looking up their nostrils. The singers will be singing over them and they will mostly hear the orchestra.
Staging is important. Many stagings confuse seasoned opera goers. It should bear some resemblance to the original setting.
Singers and orchestra should be capable not necessarily world class. Such productions tend to be cheaper.

Even with all that, success is not likely to be great. The amount of active concentration required over three hours or so is well beyond the attention span required for almost any activity nowadays. People are not used to it.

I differ slightly with La Gioconda in that opera was always an elite activity although slightly less so in the 19th century as patronage was withdrawn.
Jim


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest