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Thread: We are not musical theatre. We don't need to "expand our audience".

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default We are not musical theatre. We don't need to "expand our audience".

    I'm tired of people assuming that opera needs to reach out and pander to find a new audience. I'm tired of people assuming that we have to move further and further in the direction of Broadway to stay relevant. Most of all, I'm tired of people assuming that we just have to accept the fact that we're never going to have singers as great as the days of Callas, Sutherland, Caruso or Warren.

    This...is...all...nonsense. More people listen to greats now than ever before. Opera still has a place among those who value culture, history, elegance and refined tastes, but we need to remember who we are. If opera is too "high brow" for most people, then forget them. Opera is there for those who appreciate it for what it is, not the masses who are too distracted by smartphones to listen through a 2 hour drama or the sycophants who bend over to appease them.

    I'm not saying there aren't talented new singers out there, but I am saying...we can do better, and we need to get rid of this notion that we need to give up our standards, sell out and play to the crowd.

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    Senior Member Zhdanov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    I'm tired of people assuming that opera needs to reach out and pander to find a new audience.
    does need to reach out but not pander of course.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    So, to the true believers, opera is best experienced as a historical phenomenon, a view that "history" still exists as a truth, and is more iconic than any "reality" we are forced to put up with. An air-tight case with which it is impossible to argue.

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    It depends what you mean by 'expand the audience'. The best way of increasing audience numbers and getting a more diverse rang of spectators is through live broadcasts (whether cinema or streaming). There is no need to sacrifice artistic principles or change the substance of the art form for that.

    N.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    So, to the true believers, opera is best experienced as a historical phenomenon, a view that "history" still exists as a truth, and is more iconic than any "reality" we are forced to put up with. An air-tight case with which it is impossible to argue.
    not as an historical, but by utilizing historical techniques to maintain the same quality.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    not as an historical, but by utilizing historical techniques to maintain the same quality.
    Same net result?

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    Opera has to be lucrative enough to attract the talent to perform it. Zhdanov is right that outreach is needed to attract new fans of the art form. It's not being done in the schools. The ads for the Fathom event opera broadcasts in the theaters do not always show opera at its best, either.

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    I must respectfully disagree . We could definitely use a larger audience , and this could be achieved without "pandering " to anyone or dumbing the art form down . It's more easily said than doe, though ,

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    It seems to me that the best way to build the next generation of opera lovers is to introduce opera in the schools. The NYC public schools have the right idea with their look-ins at the Met (or at the movie theatre for the HDs) or whatever they call them now.

    I'm with Balalakaiboy in thinking that productions updated in a ridiculous way are not going to build a solid generation of operagoers (they might attract an audience once, but it's not the kind of audience that's going to keep buying tickets); on the other hand, I'm one who feels opera productions can and should use certain staging or acting techniques that are more typical of Broadway musicals. So, a Walkeure today should not look exactly like a Walkeure from Kirsten Flagstad's time, with mostly stationary singers before painted backdrops. If the director wants to "fly in" the Valkyries a la Peter Pan (as was done in one production I saw), let him.

    Audiences who are pandered to with dumbed down productions might fall in love with the production, but they don't fall in love with the art form itself. Imo, it's only those who love opera as opera --who understand and respect the conventions inherent in the art form--who will pay money again and again for tickets.

    As for as the singers are concerned--yeah, it's perfectly easy to see in retrospect that Warren, Sutherland, Caruso, etc. were great; it's much harder to recognize distinction in the singers of one's own generation, while those singers are actually performing. That's how nostalgia tends to work.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Jul-03-2019 at 21:52.

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    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    It seems to me that the best way to build the next generation of opera lovers is to introduce opera in the schools. The NYC public schools have the right idea with their look-ins at the Met (or at the movie theatre for the HDs) or whatever they call them now.

    I'm with Balalakaiboy in thinking that productions updated in a ridiculous way are not going to build a solid generation of operagoers (they might attract an audience once, but it's not the kind of audience that's going to keep buying tickets); on the other hand, I'm one who feels opera productions can and should use certain staging or acting techniques that are more typical of Broadway musicals. So, a Walkeure today should not look exactly like a Walkeure from Kirsten Flagstad's time, with mostly stationary singers before painted backdrops. If the director wants to "fly in" the Valkyries a la Peter Pan (as was done in one production I saw), let him.

    Audiences who are pandered to with dumbed down productions might fall in love with the production, but they don't fall in love with the art form itself. Imo, it's only those who love opera as opera --who understand and respect the conventions inherent in the art form--who will pay money again and again for tickets.

    As for as the singers are concerned--yeah, it's perfectly easy to see in retrospect that Warren, Sutherland, Caruso, etc. were great; it's much harder to recognize distinction in the singers of one's own generation, while those singers are actually performing. That's how nostalgia tends to work.
    What makes a production "updated in a ridiculous way"? Or dumbed down? What are some examples?

    Did anybody see the Met's "Cosi Fan Tutte" with the carnival setting? To me that was unnecessary because that bloated cast of actors, dancers, and designers must have been very expensive.

    When I was a kid opera singers used to stand stock still in televised productions and I was still fascinated. Today we expect more kinetic energy and athleticism from singers.

    I like what you say about singers. It's much easier to idolize older singers heard through the haze of poorer recordings than it is to go out on a limb about the comparative merits of today's singers.
    Last edited by Open Book; Jul-04-2019 at 00:45.
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    Senior Member Sloe's Avatar
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    One thing I hope for is for all ugly regie productions will end. The only ones that want to see those are the directors themselves. That will make opera way more attractive.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    I'm tired of people assuming that opera needs to reach out and pander to find a new audience. I'm tired of people assuming that we have to move further and further in the direction of Broadway to stay relevant. Most of all, I'm tired of people assuming that we just have to accept the fact that we're never going to have singers as great as the days of Callas, Sutherland, Caruso or Warren.

    This...is...all...nonsense. More people listen to greats now than ever before. Opera still has a place among those who value culture, history, elegance and refined tastes, but we need to remember who we are. If opera is too "high brow" for most people, then forget them. Opera is there for those who appreciate it for what it is, not the masses who are too distracted by smartphones to listen through a 2 hour drama or the sycophants who bend over to appease them.

    I'm not saying there aren't talented new singers out there, but I am saying...we can do better, and we need to get rid of this notion that we need to give up our standards, sell out and play to the crowd.
    As far as I'm concerned some opera directors are trying to pander to a small group of PC people who think the same as themselves - not the general public - with their ridiculous productions. What the general public wants from opera - and theatre in general - is colour and imagination not some of the dour stuff we have
    Last edited by DavidA; Jul-04-2019 at 09:02.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I liked the idea of the MET doing live broadcasts on Saturdays at movie theaters. The technology is there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    Did anybody see the Met's "Cosi Fan Tutte" with the carnival setting? To me that was unnecessary because that bloated cast of actors, dancers, and designers must have been very expensive.
    Well, to each his own, but that Coney Island Cosi Fan Tutte was for me an all-time peak opera experience. Just loved it!!! Which is not to say that the setting didn't sometimes get in the way. I wish they didn't use "Come Scoglio" as the backdrop to a lot of comedy business with doors opening and closing. But what made it so successful for me was that the modern-day (50 years ago, but close enough) Brooklyn setting allowed the 6 performers to reach for a naturalistic, personal acting style that might be harder to do in a foppish 18th century setting. The performances of Amanda Majeski and Serena Malfi as the two sisters felt especially down-to-earth and personal. They seemed like very real New Yorkers to me. So, a modern-day setting can have a positive effect on the acting style, if it allows performers to take liberties and connect with their roles in a way they could not in less familiar settings.

    This Cosi Fan Tutte is running again next season at the Met, but with a somewhat different cast. I hope it's as great as the one I saw.

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    Its not so much about relevance but money. In my neck of the woods, musicals such as My Fair Lady and West Side Story are bringing in much needed revenue for Opera Australia. Even despite this, and other things like special events - New Year's Eve gala and opera on the harbour - its still in the red.

    Opera really isn't meant to make money, but lose it. Its the way its always been, except that in the past you had kings and gentry pouring cash into it, and they weren't accountable to their subjects. Well, I think that Charles I and Louis XVI learnt a lesson or two about that, but they weren't accountable in the sense that elected governments are today.

    Speaking to that, this clip from Yes Minister lampoons the elitist assumptions behind arguments that highbrow cultural pursuits - and opera is the most highbrow of them all - should be funded by the man in the street who has little or no interest in attending opera:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvNw0P5ZMbA

    That's from the 1980's and the minister mentions sport and movies as not needing subsidies like opera and ballet, but even those have been commercialised beyond what they used to be. Call it what you will - economic rationalism? - has effected everything, including sports and movies. From sponsorship deals, advertising, recruiting stars and so on, putting profits above everything else is now a way of life.

    If you must target someone, weigh in to the bean counters, public relations men and other hangers on who increasingly have influence over artistic institutions. Its no use blaming people who you judge to have lowbrow taste - as the minister says, everyone but people like YOU!

    Another thing is that opera has continuously evolved to include things other than highbrow opera. A century ago, Mahler and Strauss considered Lehar's operettas to be rubbish, yet they are performed by opera companies for a long time now. Same with other operettas, and also Porgy and Bess which was initially performed on Broadway and only reached the Met in the 1980's. Also Strauss' operas that some of the elites - such as the German Kaiser and Wagner family - considered to be modernist aberrations of the most vulgar kind. Unlike operas in general, Strauss' big three made the composer very rich (pity about him losing almost everything except his villa in Garmisch to two devastating world wars).

    Things change and if opera is to remain anywhere near viable - or at least semi-conscious - it needs to adapt to reality. I say this as a person who is one of those despised lowbrows, although not as low on the totem pole as those who dislike classical music as a whole.
    Last edited by Sid James; Jul-05-2019 at 05:42.

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