What is Wrong With Opera...

...and by extension Classical Music in general.

This is from the Blog of a cousin of mine. She is 30 years old.

Then, I got all gussied up and went to the opera with another friend. It was a medley of opera arias. Given that it was my very first opera experience, I did enjoy it and I thought it was entertaining. It was in direct contrast to the mountain biking movie from the night before :-} It was really cool to see all the elderly people out and about enjoying life. I want to be one of those old people {someday, not right now, but someday}.
Yep - the young people look at opera as something to do when they are OLD!

Why you may ask?

Because we constantly re-hash old music and old productions. Because the new music bears little or no relation to the rest of the 'modern' music world. Because story has changed - the average scene in a film in 1940 was 4 minutes long - it is now 40 seconds. Because the audience is old, young people may feel out of place - manners, social customs and behaviors can all feel stiff and too reserved for the young.


It is tough, because those older patrons are the lifeblood of any opera or symphony so you cannot push them away by mucking too much with tradition. We have a 75 year old acquaintance who attends every production but recently threatened to never return because the company had the nerve not to use the Zeffirelli production!

Opera companies and symphonies should make a sincere effort to perform more new music. Just to clarify my stance I need to mention that the moniker 'New Music' has been apprehended by the atonal and experimental crowd and the majority of musicians that are dedicated to 'New Music' are focused on chamber works that may not find broad audience acceptance.

When I say new music I mean music that is being written now, no matter the style or genre. The soundtrack for the film Up is just as much new music as the latest composition being played by The Playground.

Maybe somebody needs to create a new young opera company that performs only new works targeted towards younger viewers composed of music they can identify with and story-lines that speak to the problems of their times.

Chip and I are writing just such an opera. It will require a tenor with a fully developed bottom end who can sing with a rock and roll edge. It will require a mezzo with fashionista appeal. It will require the orchestra to cope with driving rhythms and to welcome electric guitars and drum kits into the pit. It will be told in story segments familiar to film lovers and the characters will speak in the vernacular. (To hear some of this work in progress click here and listen to It Must Be Fate)Does this mean that our opera will be relegated only to adventurous amateur companies that do not rely on older patrons. I hope not.

I hope that out there are some adventurous program directors who want to attract a younger audience. I hope there are others who can envision a future for big chorus opera to rival the greats of the past. I hope that we can convince the young ones they do not have to wait til they are old to truly enjoy opera.

First we have to get them to the opera house.


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