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Thread: Is opera a decadent bourgeois pastime?

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    Senior Member Garlic's Avatar
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    Default Is opera a decadent bourgeois pastime?

    Don't get me wrong, I love opera. But sometimes it feels like a secret club for people who have made it, a way of showing to others how successful and cultured you are. I'm not denying that people genuinely love the music, but it seems to be a bonus rather than the whole point for some. Maybe I'm just insecure and paranoid, but I can't help feeling judgement coming down on me from other audience members - what is he doing here? He's not even dressed properly, doesn't even talk properly, doesn't even know the rules, who let that oik into our special club?

    Am I being grossly unfair? I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but is it totally unnecessary? Is anyone who wants to get into opera welcomed with open arms, or is there a certain standard to maintain? Should some people stay away altogether? Is this a peculiarly British problem/non-problem?

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    Senior Member ahammel's Avatar
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    Worried about getting stuck up against the wall when the revolution comes, are we?

    I don't get out to the opera too often, but the classical music scene in general is pretty casual and non-exclusive where I'm from.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    No. Striving for, acquiring, and watching a seriously big big screen flat-screen TV for which you pay thousands of dollars is THE current bourgeois pastime.

    I should probably reach for that handy Brahms quote as a shield of self-protection about now....
    "I apologize If there is anyone here I have failed to offend"
    Last edited by PetrB; Dec-04-2013 at 07:37.

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    Senior Member (Ret) moody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garlic View Post
    Don't get me wrong, I love opera. But sometimes it feels like a secret club for people who have made it, a way of showing to others how successful and cultured you are. I'm not denying that people genuinely love the music, but it seems to be a bonus rather than the whole point for some. Maybe I'm just insecure and paranoid, but I can't help feeling judgement coming down on me from other audience members - what is he doing here? He's not even dressed properly, doesn't even talk properly, doesn't even know the rules, who let that oik into our special club?

    Am I being grossly unfair? I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but is it totally unnecessary? Is anyone who wants to get into opera welcomed with open arms, or is there a certain standard to maintain? Should some people stay away altogether? Is this a peculiarly British problem/non-problem?
    I think this may say more about you than opera.
    Fools talk because they have to say something, wise men talk because they have something to say.

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    Senior Member Oreb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garlic View Post
    ... sometimes it feels like a secret club for people who have made it, a way of showing to others how successful and cultured you are.
    Well I'm sure there are members of opera audiences with that mind-set, but I would question whether they make up the majority.

    My own experience has been pretty positive. I go alone to operas (my nearest and dearest finding the 'caterwauling' not to their liking) and never have trouble striking up conversations about the performance with other audience members during act breaks and afterwards, walking to the train. And I don't own a suit (although I try to make sure my fly is buttoned and that food stains are obscured...)

    Keep in mind, however, the wise words of Frank Zappa at the end of (I think) Burnt Weeny Sandwich: "Everyone here is wearing a uniform: don't kid yourself."

    In other words, every social gathering is somehow exclusive and rule-bound. Try going to a dance club dressed in outer suburban clothes, or an "Occupy" sit-in dressed in a tux. No point singling out opera audiences for what is a far more common phenomenon.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oreb View Post
    I try to make sure my fly is buttoned and that food stains are obscured...

    Keep in mind, however, the wise words of Frank Zappa at the end of (I think) Burnt Weeny Sandwich: "Everyone here is wearing a uniform: don't kid yourself."

    In other words, every social gathering is somehow exclusive and rule-bound.
    "that food stains are obscured." See, there is a practical reason for the existence of neck-ties.

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    Senior Member Ralfy's Avatar
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    It is in given poor economic conditions because tickets may be costly.
    We few, we happy few, we band of chipmunks....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garlic View Post
    Maybe I'm just insecure and paranoid, but I can't help feeling judgement coming down on me from other audience members - what is he doing here? He's not even dressed properly, doesn't even talk properly, doesn't even know the rules, who let that oik into our special club?
    I'm the opposite - walking the opera, I can't help feeling judgement coming down from me on other audience members - what are they doing here? How many famous performances of the opera they heard before coming to see it here? Do they even know all middle names of Bellini and Puccini? Surely they're just some Netrebko fans who don't know anything about history of opera and true greatness! Who let these oiks into my special club?!

    Then I take my seat and whip the oiks sitting behind me with enormous plumage attached to my glamorous hat.
    Last edited by Aramis; Dec-04-2013 at 13:07.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralfy View Post
    It is in given poor economic conditions because tickets may be costly.
    In the kind of economy you are alluding to, so is spending $300 per capita on lunch along with a bottle of wine, or other obvious and "unnecessary" expenses. At that juncture in the economy, a prospective groom going in hock for several months' worth of his salary for a diamond engagement / wedding ring is being screamingly decadent bourgeois, as is also his engaged who is expecting that diamond ring.

    Hell, the person in that economy still spending hundreds of dollars to acquire a tattoo is also then a member of the flamingly decadent bourgeois.

    Now that I think of the cost of a seat to a not-special sports event in the states, all sports events attendees are decadent bourgeois.

    But nooo, instead of singling out the people who pay THOUSANDS for a box seat at a football game, you single out those who spend hundreds on a box seat at the opera.

    Tsk, Tsk.
    Last edited by PetrB; Dec-04-2013 at 14:21.

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    More via reputation than in actuality. The price to see an opera is no more, and often rather less, than the cost of a rock concert. Top tier seats are in the hundreds of dollars for the Met, but top tier seats are similarly priced for a big name concert (say Bruce Springsteen or Nine Inch Nails); if you can handle standing room, main floor seats are like $20 and family circle are around $15 which is as cheap as nosebleed seats for a smaller name band.
    So it's not price that is the factor, it's the perception of it being old, fuddy duddy stuff that only rich people like. Art has that too, a bit, but not nearly to the same degree -- there's plenty of young, less affluent people at your local art museum on any given day.
    Met Live in HD has helped but more needs to be done to show that opera is for everyone, and it's not strictly the province of the 1%ers
    -Ian

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    Senior Member Couac Addict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oreb View Post
    Keep in mind, however, the wise words of Frank Zappa at the end of (I think) Burnt Weeny Sandwich: "Everyone here is wearing a uniform: don't kid yourself."
    Wise words indeed. Thanks to Frank, I still don't eat yellow snow.

    To answer the query, it's so decadent and bourgeois - I shelled out about €800 for the season to see 16 operas/42 concerts. Compare that with sport or rock concerts etc.
    As for attire, the exceptions to the rule would be Glyndbourne, which is "formal evening" and opening night for the season at some opera houses. At least in my experience.
    Everywhere else? It's about dressing practically for the weather etc. Many attend straight from work.

    Snobbery is common but not amongst each other. We just moan about Katherine Jenkins and how come everyone on X-Factor is hopeless as singing The same way that classical music lovers moan about Andre Rieu (Where are the dudes in his string section?)

    Your good taste in music is on display just by turning up.
    This space for rent.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Maybe it's your breath, Garlic?

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    Senior Member deggial's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Couac Addict View Post
    As for attire, the exceptions to the rule would be Glyndbourne, which is "formal evening"
    but you won't get rejected by ushers if you're not abiding. However they might zero-in on you if you're trying to upgrade to the best seats in the house and you're not in white tie attire

    just this week I was put off by pop concert ticket prices and figured I get more value from a £30 opera ticket, which is usually my budget. I've never paid more than £80 for a ticket but I sat in £200 seats. Just smile and act like you belong and most people won't look twice. Or if they do you might get a posh date

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Decadence in a society is associated with complication and elaboration past the point of diminishing returns. I know way too little about opera to know if it fits.

    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member HumphreyAppleby's Avatar
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    Yes, people seem to have the impression that everybody at the opera is Frasier and Niles Crane: wealthy elitists who go just because all their wealthy elitist friends do to. Even my beloved Yes, Minister saw Humphrey chastised for going to the opera, and Covent Garden's funding nearly cut ("The barbarians at the gate, the thin end of wedge" Although it did lead to a rather funny bit about the government paying for Puccini and Wagner- subsidizing the Axis Powers). But when you can get people to abandon their preconceptions and live into the world of opera (it is one world, really, with many continents and countries), then they almost invariably find that not only do they like the music, not only do they love the voices, but they understand why we all have such a seemingly bizarre, fanatical devotion to opera. And quite often they say, "I see why pop music sometimes seems rather trivial" (I say sometimes, because there's a huge amount of it that is anything but).

    If anybody gives you a hard time at the opera, tell them to sod off. Ask them why they're at the opera, and they'll probably tell you it's for some incredible artistic experience about true love. And then ask them whether true love means snobbery and persiflage. If you feel conspicuous among all these wealthy people (Lord knows, I sometimes do) go and see a Puccini opera, and if anybody gives you a hard time, ask them why a seamstress with tuberculosis is good enough for them but you aren't (I say this in ignorance of your financial condition, but people tend to judge that sort of thing by the clothes, so if you're not dressed the way everybody else is...). Go because you want to see the beautiful opera, and ignore anybody who acts like you don't have every right to do so.
    Last edited by HumphreyAppleby; Dec-04-2013 at 18:09.

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