A recent article in the Washington Post says, “But to really save opera — and classical music in general — we have to let it die.” In a semi-coherent way it’s on to something. Without new works that the public wants to hear, the opera house will become a museum. Many people like museums. I find them graveyards for art. But opera won’t die even if no new masterpieces appear. It’s a special taste, to be sure, but a persistent one.
The key point is new works that the public wants to hear, just as they do those of Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini. There’s nothing teeth gnashers can to do conjure up the musical geniuses that have failed to appear in the opera world for almost a century. But even if a composer of genius does not arrive, opera will survive. It’s not necessary to evoke images of the Vietnam War to inaccurately conjure its death and subsequent resurrection. A sure way for the Met Opera and its congeners to go out of business would be to entirely fill its bill with operas written in the 21st century.
Consider sports. The rules of baseball, football, and basketball change a bit – but they remain essentially the same games they were 50 or 100 years ago. New players appear and people go to the game to see them perform. The same is true of opera. A great singer appears and opera goers buy tickets to hear the artist in a major role regardless if they’ve heard the opera 10 times previously.
Does Ms Giovetti, the author of the WaPo piece who is billed as a classical music writer, want to banish Beethoven and chuck Chekov because they’re long dead? Imagine the fate of Shakespeare according to this line of reasoning. He’s been gone more than four centuries. While we’re at it we can toss Titian and pitch Picasso. We’ll have to let the theater in all its guises die in order to save it. The above article is just a minor example of the deep thinking that permeates our major organs of communication.
We live in very strange times – at least half the Western World seems to have gone irretrievably mad. Consider Giovetti’s first paragraph: “The summer of 2019 has been a fraught one for opera. In June, diva soprano Anna Netrebko came under scrutiny not only for her use of skin-darkening makeup to sing the role of Verdi’s Ethiopian princess Aida but also for her blunt defense of a practice that has been widely discredited. This month, the legal battle between the Metropolitan Opera and its one-time music director James Levine — which began when the former fired the latter last year after accusations of sexual misconduct — quietly ended with a settlement. And last week, nine women accused superstar singer and conductor Plácido Domingo of sexual harassment over the past 30 years.”
I don’t know the particulars of the accusations against either Levine or Domingo, but these days an accusation seems to equal a conviction. I’ll leave them alone, but I’m sure once they’re safely dead they will be rehabilitated much the way Oscar Wilde has been. But look at what Ms Netrebko’s crime is – makeup!!! And in the theater. And she defends its use. She’s also accused of being insensitive to the feeling of people of color. Well, no one’s forcing them to buy a ticket to see and hear her.
If you live in a free country and enjoy its freedoms, you are free to be insensitive as long as you do not impinge on the liberty and lawful activity of anyone else. Those who are offended by her cosmetic usage can express their dissatisfaction in a variety of ways as long as they don’t abridge her liberty. You may recall that the Supreme Court let the American Nazi Party (National Socialist Party of America) march through Skokie a city in which many Holocaust survivors lived. I’ll bet there were a lot of sensitivities set on edge.
The world’s loss of sanity alluded to above seems to be a combination of The Emperor’s New Clothes, Through the Looking Glass, and 1984. The list of forbidden actions now mandated by the well informed, well meaning, cultural Gauleiters has extended even to word order. No matter if the meaning is unchanged, if you get it wrong you’re a racist – a word that that has been so indiscriminately used that it now means a person who can run the 100 meter race faster than somebody else. “Person of color” good and sensitive. “Colored person” racist unless it’s the NAACP, then its OK.
“Phobic” is the designation applied to all wrong thinking moderns. These days there are a lot of things that one might be phobic about. Most of them are forbidden. Why can’t a person have all the phobias he wants, again as long as he doesn’t impinge on the liberty of others. But that’s not the way the 21st century works. Have the wrong phobias, or even be suspected of having one, and you may be out of a job or have a brick thrown through your window.
I won’t waste a lot of space on pronouns. But if you have to give or take a seminar on how to pick the right one, you’ve lost your mind and are likely never to find it.
Traditional marriage – the world’s two biggest religions are for it and against any other kind. Catholics are in trouble for their views on marriage, don’t even mention abortion. Islam is not gigged for its marriage rules. Islam gets a pass. Why? Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
Unless you live in some very out of the way location, the safest position to assume in today’s enlightened world is total immobility and complete silence. Anything else and you’re unemployed, friendless, and subject to assault. Finally, don’t wear a red hat, even if nothing is written on it.
I think Treemonisha, Emperor Jones, Ballad of Baby Doe, and Porgy and Bess would fill an opera house today. Incidentally, Tibbett insisted in an all black cast (except him) when he did Emperor Jones.
” A sure way for the Met Opera and its congeners to go out of business would be to entirely fill its bill with operas written in the 21st century.” All those operas are 20th century works.