Is opera a dying art form?
Although opera is considered a major art form of cultural expression and the greatest art form to ever be created because it consists of theatre combined with music and singing, opera struggles so much to stay alive and very few people know their arias from their elbows. Opera afectionados wonder whether opera competing against modern entertainment like the theatre, cinema, pop music, television and other distractions of modern life still has a place in our world. Many people feel that opera in order to survive needs a healthy dose of change and experimentation if and there many others that say opera is for the elitist and the rich :
“Nothing is worst than people seeing opera as some kind of religion, where you have to be a special breed to enjoy it , what a pile of nonsense “says Elle Kent an opera critic
“It is quite a task to keep opera alive nowdays. If you do not keep it exciting it could become a dying form. People like myself are responsible for keeping it alive.”
While it is true that art of all kinds has always benefited in the long term from hardship and become fat and flabby when cosseted and while it is also true that one does not need a master degree to appreciate opera one does need to acquire a taste for the art form and be nurtured and learn to appreciate the genre
In basic terms opera is theatre. It is a play that is sung and accompanied by instruments. Opera dates back to the ancient Greek when music was used while the play was being performed. A small orchestra of a harp, a flute and maybe a small drum was used to accompany the dialogue and the drama . Sadly opera died out as an art form until the Renaissance. Claudio Monteverdi is considered the father of modern opera.
In Opera for the text one needs to understand the dialogue and theatre and because many operas are being performed in many foreign languages they have to be followed along by reading subtitles making it more difficult to concentrate and even when they are sung in English one may still have problems understanding what they are saying.
For the music one also needs to understand how to denote music how the human voice works how the orchestral instrument works and how one needs to have a sense of drama.
Stories of Greek myths made good operatic subjects, composers working with novels and writers also created operas, for instance Verdi used Shakespeare and Victor Hugo plays and novels to compose his music while Mozart used more contemporary materials. This genre of art has survived for hundred of years and is still the best art form to speak directly to the people, nonetheless, there are critics who feel that opera has become dull that the stories are estranged to our generation ,that they are not relevant to our contemporary living and though there is enough on stage to hold peoples’ attention opera works could also be extremely long sometimes boring old classical work. Most opera are about twice as long as the average person’s attention span. . The requirements that everything be sang make it difficult to tell a very interesting story and the whole thing is so artificial that it often difficult to feel the passion that the singers are trying to express.
Opera according to some isn’t changing enough, it needs a healthy dose of change and experimentation if it hopes to survive the century and composers should consider producing newer work. What is needed in opera is that it be less expensive and they’d be more but cheaper performer and while it receives a small amount of public subsidy some people wonder whether it is right to use taxpayers money “ to subsides nights out for ‘high brow culture vultures?’” says one critic.
Touring for opera is often more expansive and more difficult then Broadway shows for instance since you have to have large orchestra singers, sets etc. An added problem is time off for the cast. For singers to remain in top vocal health, singers require time for vocal rest between performances making opera less effective
Finally opera is the Art of Dying. “ In opera singing one’s own death is a fate common to many characters.” says Linda and Micheal Hutchens authors of Opera the Art of Dying (Harvard University Press) “ Death also help satisfy opera’s need for a powerful themes to streamline and tell a story concisely, it takes longer to sing a word they note then to say them. Technology can only go far in teaching us about death that we must all finally face. “
Opera is steeped in death. Death is the theme of many of the best loved operas, including Carmen , La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Tosca, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly and although it can be musically exhilarating, yet it is also emotionally draining . Though death might help take us or at least help us conceive the experience of mortality, that it can be “beautiful, balletic and graceful”, and occasionally can function as preparation and consolation for our own experience of death is can also be regarded “macabre” and show poor attention for life. Opera audience are made to explore death, ranging from terror death in (Poulenc’s Dialogue, des Carmelites) to the longing for death in (Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde) to preparation of good death in Wagner’s Der Ring des Niberlungen to the meaning of suicide in different cultures (in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly or Berg’s Wozzeck. In the art of opera though works by Ullman, Britten and many others this study examines how death is made to feel logical and even right , morally, psychologically and aesthetically, we are shown to rehearse death in order to give life a meaning (however) death is macabre and does not celebrate life.
Oct 19, 2007