My opera-singer friend has an amusing rant on why opera is dead:

You want them to sit in a darkened theater, silent, watching antics in a language they don't understand? For three hours? Get over yourself. Puccini didn't even want that. Puccini's audience sat in the orchestra section of a lively theater, eating, drinking and smoking. They cheered for their favorite singers. They booed mediocre performances. They spoke the language. They understood what was happening, because it was modern. They got every subtle political reference. Librettists were broke artists who made fun of the bourgeoisie, and the common man ate it up. They turned Verdi's name into the battle cry for the people. They didn't sit and listen to operas in English, studying them in advance, trying to keep up with a translation. They didn't want to do the work to enjoy a performance, and neither do kids today. And you don't get to fault them for that. [...]

What opera has become, at a time before I began singing, before I was born, possibly before or around the time my parents were born, is an affront to everything I believe about opera.

And that's all well and good, but then she describes how it ought to be, using as an example a party that she did not even invite me to:

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to perform at an event in an underground creek. The producers heard about me, and invited me to sing in this insane series of acoustically amazing tunnels. Hundreds of people came through, I help a marching band to lower its instruments through a manhole. High tea was served. An art gallery lined the walls. There were aerialists. A water slide.

Did not invite me.

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17 Responses:

  1. Cameo Wood says:

    I wish I had been invited to that!

  2. Dear Mr. Zawinski,
    Management regrets this egregious oversight but hopes you will forgive them and promises it won't occur again. Management should have known better. Management is hanging its head in shame.

  3. My friends also told me about that sewer-tunnel-awesome-water party. Three days later.

  4. Cameo Wood says:

    We have the worst friends.

  5. Chris Davies says:

    It's true. You look at the plots of some operatic and orchestral works, and do some compound interest calculations on just how raunchy they were back in the day and you realise they were about equivalent of the burlesque shows of today. Stealing kisses without a promise of marriage! And there are people like Susan Jacoby writing earnestly and at tedious length about how horrible it is that the kids these days don't care for such things.

    You can watch the same thing happening to jazz in real time. Doubtless by 2050 people in evening wear will be sitting in hushed auditoriums listening to big band, and bemoaning how the kids these days with their damned electro-dub-punk-disco aren't interested in the arts.


  7. Russ Nelson says:

    She didn't invite you. Name, blame, and shame.

  8. bobo the hobo says:

    Fun to watch this begin to happen with rock too as bands tour playing a single album.

    • natophonic says:

      Always seemed like hair metal was the opera of our age (or my age, anyway; I'm old). Loud, virtuoso musicianship, with ridiculous costumes and absurd melodrama.

  9. k3ninho says:

    I did not read the link. Not for some protest that you weren't invited to this tunnel-art-tea-and-waterslide party, Jamie, I just ... derp all the herp. ;-)

  10. Sol Aardvarktikus says:

    Dear Mr. JWZ;

    I would be mad too if my friend failed to invite me to something that wonderfully ridiculous. In fact, I'm sad I wasn't invited and I don't even know this singer.

    I feel for you (R)(TM).

    It Just Ain't Right (R)(TM)


    Nobody Even Remotely Important.

  11. Julius Yang says:

    I saw a production of Abduction from the Seraglio once which essentially turned a light comedy into a seriously heavy, intense drama with nudity and sex and gore on stage and some really quite shocking bits (for modern opera, anyway) like mammary amputation. The singing and acting were really quite good.

    There were catcalls and booing and a crapload of audience members stood up and walked out, but I peed my pants with glee because it was the first time I'd ever seen an opera actually penetrate to the reptilian brain of ANY operagoer. One man even walked up to the front row and literally booed an aria for a minute straight, provoking the cast member to come to the front of the stage and point at him furiously (in character). Usually there is polite applause and the requisite perfunctory standing ovation and then everyone shuffles out comatosely.

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