Why is opera so hard to like?

Discussion of all things opera: Wagner, Verdi, Toscanini, Zeffirelli, prelude, leitmotif, Regietheater, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Oct 2016, 09:19

Why is opera so hard to like?

Post by Negenbari »

For the past weeks I've been trying to get a friend who loves vocalists and musical into opera. Sometimes I manage to get him impressed with a snippet of great singing, but he just doesn't take the bait. I don't get it. He clearly loves vocal performance, not only in terms of aesthetics, but also as superhuman performance. If anything counts as superhuman, it's operatic singing. Yet after everything I showed him, he remains lukewarm or even indifferent. He surely is not curious enough to go out and listen to more. Why is opera so hard to like?

User avatar
Posts: 100
Joined: 04 Jan 2016, 05:50

Re: Why is opera so hard to like?

Post by Jimlejim »

Popera/crossover is very popular... so I think the key to the answer to your question is in that. What is popera that opera is not?

Tenor freak. :D

User avatar
Posts: 39
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 07:16

Re: Why is opera so hard to like?

Post by Darksoprano »

Language barrier, context barrier, complexity barrier, financial barrier...that sums it up.

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

Re: Why is opera so hard to like?

Post by Geoff »

First experiences count for a lot. Many years ago, a very beautiful friend of mine was on holiday in Vienna and she was taken to see 'Der Rosenkavalier'. She fell asleep ! I was not with her at the time (my wife would have objected strenuously!!) but it was not the opera that I would have advised that she attended as a first experience. I would have suggested something more easily absorbed like 'La Boheme' or 'Rigoletto'; preferably with someone who knew the opera and the plot (i.e. myself !!) who could have explained everything as it progressed etc. She never did gell to Opera. Oh well, perhaps I should say no more.

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

Re: Why is opera so hard to like?

Post by Jim »

This is a very interesting topic as I also have tried to interest various people in opera with very variable success.

In my case I was listening to opera since I was 5 years old. The first opera for me was Gounod's Faust. I still have the records. I also loved Rigoletto, La Traviata and La Boheme. I also still have those records. Because of this I have always loved the medium and it was never an issue. One thing I always knew was the stories, and who the characters were, even though I did not understand the language.

There is an element of coming to the medium when young and, as is usually the case when young, things often come easily. This is not happening so much now. The following is a slightly laboured example but bear with me. There is a game played here called Hurling. This is a game which if you do not start when a small child, as I did, you cannot successfully and safely take it up as a teenager. Many of the skills can be learned as a teenager but not how to instinctively stay alive and not get injured. It is actually a very safe game because the exponents started as young children. By the time I was a teenager I only needed to practice the stick work and not worry about the rest. If you don't know what I am talking about look it up on YouTube. Clearly opera is entirely different but because I started so young there was no understanding barrier and no effort barrier to enjoyment. The conventions were entirely natural.

Darksoprano is, I think, exactly correct except I do not think that finance is a significant barrier to the audience (a barrier yes, but not as significant as the others). People get from opera what they are prepared to put into it and if someone is coming to it as an adult then there is a very significant intellectual effort required. They must not only understand the story and the characters but also the conventions and a large part of the story is in the orchestra. Virtually all the media that presents itself today seems to be structured in such a way as to require little or no such effort. People are no longer used to paying attention for any length of time.

I am going to finish waffling now with one question. Did the medium effectively stop progressing in the public imagination in the middle of the 20th Century?


Post Reply