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Thread: To worry about the number of operagoers or about the quality of singing?

          
   
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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davor View Post
    Yes, chess is a good example. Quality of games today is astounding but the significance in popular culture all but disappeared. But, as I said before, heroes are needed. Capablanca, Tal, Fischer and Kasparov were talked about even outside of chess. Today, nobody cares. (Not even FIDE, cynics would say.)

    Long live Judith Polgar!
    <OFFTOPIC> As long as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has a death grip on FIDE, there is no future for International chess. On quality of games, games have definitely improved since computers have allowed for deep explorations of opening lines and endgames, however its hard to come across brilliancies in regulation (time) games as that same computer exploration has caused IGMs to play rather conservatively. It is hard to find players that play like Capablanca, Tal, or Fischer. Carlsen really doesn't as he depends on his endgame skills to win.</OFFTOPIC>

    We need there to be enough opera to keep artists fed and the geniuses out there interested instead of applying their genius in other areas.
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davor View Post
    I'm not worried if opera will survive. I know it will. I was just thinking about achieving new heights, moving up instead of worrying about increasing the number of operagoers. I'm not an elitist, I hate elitism based on snobbery ("I achieved a certain socio-economic status and I have to go to opera to show that I'm also cultured"), but I believe (and you also wrote about it in another thread) that opera and other higher art forms can never be as popular as simpler ones. More people will always read Stephen King than James Joyce (at least short-term; it remains to be seen on 5-century basis).
    Sure. For a while I tried to combat the notion that opera is elitist. Lately I've been forced to admit to the fact that yes, opera is elitist. But I don't mean it in the pejorative sense. I don't think we need snobs, or clueless people who like you said make some money then think it is proper to pretend to love opera. What I mean - and I believe that's what you mean as well, so I'm nor arguing, but just clarifying - is exactly what you said, that opera is not for everybody; it takes some work from the part of the listener, and for this and various other reasons it will never be wildly popular, and it will always thrive among - yes - an elite, of people who are better informed about the art form and sensitive enough to appreciate it.

    I agree, but is it really up to them? If a great star, say La Bellissima, insisted on much longer rehearsals, it's very questionable that she would get them (and even if she did, nobody else would).
    I think it *is* up to them. Read the very informative interview with young, emerging soprano Jessica Pratt [click here], and see what she says about it. She was one who stood up and defended her career and preserved her voice. I've talked to several artists who said they make sure to schedule some breaks in-between commitments. Do many of them succumb to the economic pressures, agent pressures, opera house intendant's pressure? You bet. But not all. The smartest ones do stand up for themselves and resist these forces, and are clever about their careers. So, Jessica Pratt is an example of a young singer who does that. Renée Fleming is an example of a veteran singer who has always done that. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.

    But furthermore, what I don't understand about your point, is your idea that if regional opera houses didn't exist, La Bellissima would have more time to rehearse. That's what I don't agree with. She'll have more time to learn and practice a role if *she* slows down her scheduling. Regional opera houses are of no consequence for her. She never sings for them anyway (they can't afford her). So if they all disappeared tomorrow, Anna would continue to sing for the Met, La Scala, the Mariinski, etc. It wouldn't change anything for her. And this is also true for the greatest singers. So I don't follow you when you say that the demise of the smaller houses would result in a slower career pace for the top singers. Now, if opera dramatically declined in popularity and many of the main houses closed down as well, then yes, it would affect the top singers, but who would want such a thing?

    Maybe I'm skeptical because I'm in Europe. Opera is heavily or totally state-subsidized here and theater intendants and stage directors don't have to indulge audiences too much. Their houses and careers don't depend on ticket sales, but on state generosity. Hence, they have far more power than singers. (BTW, in my opinion, that's why Regietheater could indulge in such excesses in Germany and Europe; "visionary" stage directors do what they want to do and don't have to care for audience (or shareholders) much. This is a complex subject, radical new things are important too; obviously, true visionaries are always ahead of masses, i.e. only pleasing the majority doesn't bring progress.)
    True. I agree with you there. But then, like I said, smart singers do assert their own power. And like MAuer said, maybe fortunately, the economic crisis in Europe (I mean, don't read me wrong, I'm saying "fortunately" just around this specific issue, but of course I realize that the crisis has a terrible human cost and affects things way more important than opera) may very well change this situation, as the funding model may change and houses may become more accountable to the public as they become more dependent on patronage from audience members, subscribers, and private donors, rather than on the state. They probably, for one thing, will have to modernize their managerial structure. The Met is now profitable again, unlike La Scala, for instance. The Met's modern managerial structure is allowing it to survive and thrive while La Scala is in decline, so, if La Scala changes its funding model, it may actually benefit from it. And I'd love to see some extreme Regie directors being forced to be more accountable to the public.

    I do think that some singers of our time are brilliant, but I am worried that their talent will never achieve its true potential because of commercial pressures. Critics and some former opera singers criticize today's singers for not studying the roles deep or long enough.
    Again, according to our interviewees (read for example Bryan Hymel on this - click here) this may be a phenomenon more common in Europe than in America. Apparently, American singers are in general better prepared than European singers - I'm not being patriotic; I've heard this from different singers who hail from different countries, it's not something I've just heard from Americans). Apparently our music schools here do prepare people very well - a large number of our young singers go through not only a bachelor of arts in singing, but also a master's degree. Bryan told me that opera houses in Europe sometimes prefer to hire American singers rather than the local ones, because the Americans arrive to the first rehearsal already knowing their role.

    However, maybe you're right. Maybe all this criticism is only due to subjectivity of critics and to impossibility of true evaluation of a contemporary's achievement. For every critic today that says "he/she was excellent but not great", maybe in 50 years a dozen will say "he/she is the giant of the 21st century."
    Yep!

    PS - The interview I mentioned earlier - Greer Grimsley's - where he says he thinks we need more regional opera houses for the young artists to get more opportunities - has been published. Click [here].
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    Now that the global economic problems have been forcing governments at all levels to look for ways of saving money -- which often results in the aforementioned subsidies being significantly reduced (accompanied by howls of outrage from the theater management) -- I wonder if this pattern may change. Some of these theaters are finding themselves relying more on ticket sales, or looking for public-private sponsorships.
    Well, I'm in Croatia and the situation is not really comparable to the western European countries, but I'll tell you that the situation is not great. There are only 4 national theaters (in four largest cities) which house drama and opera and they are publicly financed. No other opera houses.
    Singers work for salary, they aren't paid per performance. When the government/local authorities cut subsidy, the only thing that happens is that productions suffer. There isn't any real effort for finding big private sponsors. The theater management shrugs, tells their ensembles that the government "hates" culture and adjusts house budgets for the following year accordingly.
    (Or I'm wrong and the theater people try, but the sponsors for opera simply aren't there?)
    On the other hand, our theaters have no fear of closing down. They will always be subsidized. It's inconceivable that the government woud ever close down any of them, no matter how serious the economic crisis is. How could you close down something called The Croatian National Theater?
    It's a catch 22: we'll always have opera, but the quality and number of productions (especially outside of Zagreb) are... well, let me be a local-patriot and stop myself there.
    So, the crisis might change the behavior of opera house management elsewhere in Europe, but in my country I'll believe it when I see it.

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davor View Post
    Well, I'm in Croatia and the situation is not really comparable to the western European countries, but I'll tell you that the situation is not great. There are only 4 national theaters (in four largest cities) which house drama and opera and they are publicly financed. No other opera houses.
    Singers work for salary, they aren't paid per performance. When the government/local authorities cut subsidy, the only thing that happens is that productions suffer. There isn't any real effort for finding big private sponsors. The theater management shrugs, tells their ensembles that the government "hates" culture and adjusts house budgets for the following year accordingly.
    (Or I'm wrong and the theater people try, but the sponsors for opera simply aren't there?)
    On the other hand, our theaters have no fear of closing down. They will always be subsidized. It's inconceivable that the government woud ever close down any of them, no matter how serious the economic crisis is. How could you close down something called The Croatian National Theater?
    It's a catch 22: we'll always have opera, but the quality and number of productions (especially outside of Zagreb) are... well, let me be a local-patriot and stop myself there.
    So, the crisis might change the behavior of opera house management elsewhere in Europe, but in my country I'll believe it when I see it.
    I've spent a considerable amount of time in Russia and my wife and I have a place in Moscow, so I'm more familiar with that, but there are also a lot of state subsidies there as well. Some of the nouveau riche ("New Russians" as they've been called there for a while) have been convinced that it makes them look cool if they sponsor the arts, music, and other cultural endeavors. Sometimes all it takes is a word or two from some high-level Government official that a "donation" for some cultural event would be nice. There are a lot of "voluntary" contributors to the 2014 Olympics, for example. So it may be that things will improve in Croatia too as the rich there find that contributing to the arts is a new way to show off, as they have found in Russia.
    Last edited by tyroneslothrop; July 12th, 2013 at 06:21 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    But furthermore, what I don't understand about your point, is your idea that if regional opera houses didn't exist, La Bellissima would have more time to rehearse.
    Well, I didn't mean there's a direct correlation. I tried to analyze what happens if number of operagoers decreases from the point of the *quality of opera*. First, some (or many) regional houses would go under. And it would - in time - decrease the number of singers.

    I see that you have no doubt that it would be bad for opera, but I'm simply not as convinced.
    The competition is the key word. In economics, it's rather clear that effects of competition are positive. But art is not economics. If there are too many good and excellent singers (note that I always make a distinction between excellent and great) the competition (on the supply side) does give more power to managers and less to singers. There are two consequences to this: in the US, it might mean that managers want to maximize their profits (maximization of profit is NOT maximization of quality) and would choose good singers over great ones (if the latter are unruly and incure costs because of their artistic inclination); in countries where opera is heavily subsidized, it means that managers/directors can "follow their particular dream" with no regard to audience, choosing singers who would conform and not those who sing the best.
    So, I can imagine a world where there're less houses and less singers, where the power of singers (and conductors as well) gives them opportunity to command higher fees and get more resources of the houses while preparing a role (rehearsals, diction training, etc.) In this world, La Bellissima can rehearse longer and have other demands, because the management doesn't have dozens or hundreds of sopranos (good singers, but not great) ready to replace her. She would also not be replaced by her few colleagues of the same level because they have the same power and would stick to the same standard.
    To clarify my opinion even further: in automobile industry, competitive companies discover innovative technologies and cars get better and better. However, I don't think you can have a good artist and - through study or competition - improve him or her until he becomes great. You can train a good artist to become excellent, but you can't train him into greatness. There have been many excellent composers, but just a few great ones.
    The competition in opera world obviously raises the overall quality (and the profits of culture entrepreneurs as a whole). And I agree that everybody who loves live opera benefits from hearing better and better singing locally. But does it have an impact on moving opera as an art form to new heights? I'm doubtful, that's all. I've always had the impression that any field inches ahead until, occasionally, some genius comes along and moves it a mile. Maybe I'm terribly wrong and naive. I'm simply wary of influence of profit-oriented economy on high art. Soaring eagles will always appear, but industry could cut their wings before they reach the sky.

    In the real world, there's always a balance between those who want to maximize profits and those who want to maximize artistic achievement. So, it seemed to me that one effect of less operagoers - by way of less competition, i.e. giving more power to the musicians in the opera field - could be the tipping of balance more towards artistic side (asuming that musicians are the ones who have the artistry of opera closest to their hearts).

    And what brings more newcomers to opera today? Regional houses or TV broadcasts or YouTube?
    Maybe people come to this art form when they're ready and something just triggers it? And then, AFTER they're infected, they start attending live performances and understand the difference and beauty of it? Because, if someone only listened to pop music all his life, the difference between broadcasted opera (and even Three tenors' concert) and pop singing is already huge and dizzying.
    People might also try opera because of media hype around some opera star. I really believe that singers such as Anna and Rolando (and Caruso and Callas and Pavarotti) brought some people to opera. Because they're glamourous or sexy or funny or vulnerable (etc.) and they're singing arias as they should be sung. Unlike crossover singers such as Bocelli or Jenkins who tout their own brands and, singing arias blandly, ultimately show their disrespect for the art form.

    Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to say I'd like to see opera houses disappear or singers forced into substitute jobs. For us, the audience, the more *is* the better. I was just proposing that even significant decrease in number of operagoers might not do anything bad for the art of opera, that managers are raising those concerns, worried about their balance sheets.

    We should do everything to attract more people not for the sake of opera, but for the sake of them, for the enrichment of their lives. However, the only way I see to bring in huge number of people is to grab them while they're young kids, while they're "sponges" and haven't yet developed prejudice or acquired bad taste. Until we find a way to do that, we'll always have older and smaller audiences, people who had to discover opera for themselves rather late.

  6. #21
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    This article is relevant to this discussion:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...d211_blog.html
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #23
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    This article is relevant to this discussion:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...d211_blog.html
    BTW, I find it always interesting to read the comments on Anne Midgette's blogs and her Facebook page since she holds a dialogue there with readers.
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    "We need to regenerate opera through new forms."

    Fair enough, though it makes me think of this:

    "I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's not a question of old and new forms, but that one writes, without even thinking about forms, writes because it pours freely from the soul." --Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

  10. #25
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    "We need to regenerate opera through new forms."

    Fair enough, though it makes me think of this:

    "I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's not a question of old and new forms, but that one writes, without even thinking about forms, writes because it pours freely from the soul." --Anton Chekhov, The Seagull
    Hmmm... consider that what poured freely from Will Shakespeare's soul in rigid iambic pentameter poured freely from Chekhov's, impressionistically. Literary and musical forms have changed over the ages, but this change is at a perceptible but slow rate for us mortals that it seems as if forms are static and don't matter, when it actually does.
    Last edited by tyroneslothrop; July 13th, 2013 at 10:47 PM.
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
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  11. #26
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    @ Davor, thanks for your thoughtful reply; very interesting indeed, and you make your position much clearer and much easier to agree with. I'm thrilled to have acquired another Opera Lively member who can hold this kind of discussion.

    However I must say that while I see your point more clearly now and agree with it more, I still don't go all the way to buying completely your standpoint.

    The one factor you don't seem to be taking into account (as noticed by another member as well, earlier in this thread) it the issue of the pool of talent.

    Let's take the example of Croatia, Brazil, and the sport of football.

    Croatia is a tiny nation, and for the size of your population, you have achieved wonders in terms of international success in football. Some of your World Cup national teams (as well as some of your participation in the Euro tournaments) have been truly notable for a nation of your size.

    Still, while those great Croatian teams were incredibly good (and I stress the incredibility part, given the accomplishment of putting them together out of a talent pool necessarily much smaller given the modest size of your population), you haven't won the World Cup, much less, five times like the Brazilians did.

    So what makes the Brazilians so successful in football? Well, obviously, the fact that this football-crazy nation has 200 million inhabitants, thousands of professional teams, and dozens of thousands of professional football athletes, and literally millions of casual practitioners since a young age, among the population - and people who see football as a ladder for higher earnings and social climbing.

    So, given the huge Brazilian talent pool, it is not surprising that generation after generation, they churn out a number of world class athletes that makes of them the winiest nation in football history, while Croatia is capable of, at times, putting together a compelling squad, but is unable to hold this level of quality in the long run, over and over again.

    So, it goes against logic to hypothesize that the shrinking of the number of opera houses and opera singers would result in an increase in overall singing quality. More likely, I believe, the opposite would happen. Sure, competition would ease up a bit, but so would the rewards, therefore, the motivation to compete for those rewards would be less, and younger people would be less likely to embrace the operatic singing career. Also, exposure of the population to opera would also decline, resulting in a slippery slope of compounding damage - even less fans, even less money, even less rewards, even less singers, just going down and down from there.

    I do believe that you are right about much of what you say regarding market forces, but you are ignoring the talent pool part of the equation. If fewer people go into the operatic singing profession, the number of emerging phenomenally talented singers will also suffer. These prospective artists will then go into something else. Maybe they'll become music theater singers, or pop singers, or lawyers, doctors, and engineers, who knows.

    Also, I can only agree with what you are saying about training, to a certain degree.

    There are naturally gifted singers who developed spontaneously and did not (or did at a later time or not as intensively) go through a lot of formal training. One recent example is the excellent young bel canto soprano Leah Crocetto (read her two interviews with us; she details part of her convoluted path into opera). There are examples of great singers in the past who were previously... a truck driver, or a drug addict drifter, or an auto-parts sales clerk (all true stories).

    Still, the vast majority of great singers did work hard on their technique from an early age. The above exceptions do exist, but they are definitely not the rule.

    See, for example, how a world class singer like Diana Damrau used to sing before training, and after training. Pay attention to the first video of Diana performing a musical theater song in a high school setting (the clip is long, but my point is just the first song, then you can close it and go to the next one), and being truly, truly awful about it, going terribly off pitch in a cringe-worthy performance that is very hard on one's ear, and showing a complete inability to control the musical lines, not to speak about all sorts of rough edges. See at 1:46 how she goes *completely* off pitch. Then, pay attention to the purity and clarity of tone, polished edges, perfect pitch control, and exquisite musicality of the line, in the second clip. Yep, training *can* do wonders. Of course, Diana wouldn't be the singer that she is today if she didn't have the talent and the potential - but certainly, she wouldn't be the singer she is today either, if she hadn't been trained and hadn't worked hard on her technique.


    [Video no longer available - link deleted by Admin]

    Also, after thinking like you for a while, lately I've been a lot less sure that we need to reach out to the young people to get them interested in opera. Like I said in other posts, some times when we try, we do permanent damage instead, turning them off and making them opera-phobic because of being prematurely exposed to an art form that they aren't yet mature enough to appreciate. Some of these young brains literally don't have the wiring yet that is required to sustain a longer attention span.

    As we all know, almost all children loathe coffee, and almost all adults love it. Trying to expose children to the taste of coffee at a young age does nothing to increase the odds that they'll be coffee lovers as adults. It's only when they are ready to appreciate coffee, that they actually start drinking it and loving it.

    It's just a silly analogy, of course, but I think it does hold true for opera. I'm not sure if I've said it here in this thread or elsewhere, and I may be just repeating myself, but these days I'm convinced that premature operatic outreach does more damage than good. And again, there are exceptions, and there are plenty of children, even very young, who love opera - but it's definitely not the rule. It seems like there is a natural progression... teenagers will like rock-and-roll and pop music... young adults may get into a bit more cerebral musical genres (jazz, some more elaborate world music sub-genre)... older adults may start listening to classical music... among those, some will drift into opera... middle-aged people and up will then become passionate opera fans - and that same person, at age 60, may abhor the kind of pop music he or she used to love at age 15, while the 15-year-old wouldn't understand what in the hell Mom and Dad like about all those people screaming those high notes with those weird voices.

    So, I think early exposure is over-rated, and maybe strategies need to change. A lot of money that is put into early outreach might be better used if put into seducing different, older demographics.

    Yes, opera audiences are generally older - but are we reaching all the older people we could be reaching? While obsessed with bringing the youngsters to the opera house, maybe we are neglecting an older demographic that would be much more likely to actually like it and keep coming.

    There is a group in my town (I'm not one of the organizers although I've been to some of their screenings and even gave a talk to them at one point) that started to meet in someone's home to watch opera DVDs. They were a small group of middle-aged folks. They kept growing modestly and at one point it became inconvenient to host some twenty people in a living room to watch opera on a home theater. So they looked around, and discovered that at the local Senior Center, there was a largish auditorium that was under-utilized, and had a sophisticated projection system that could project on a cinema-size screen, the image from DVD players and blu-ray players, with decent large speakers. So they asked for permission from the Senior Citizens organization to rent that space once a month, to meet there for the DVD opera screening rather than at a group member's home. The leadership said yes and said they actually wouldn't even charge a rental fee, as long as they opened up the screenings to any of the senior citizens who were members of the organization and wanted to just sit in and watch the screening. Given that the auditorium had many more seats than the 20 they needed, they said yes.

    Guess what? Hundreds of those senior citizens who weren't previously exposed to opera, started to sit in and soon enough became committed opera lovers. That Center now buses them to the regional opera house in the large city some 30 miles away, for live performances, and that group grew from 20 middle-aged members to *hundreds* of senior members. That demographic was entirely ripe for engaging with the art form, but wasn't been catered to. The regional opera house in the neighboring large city does go into middle schools and high schools to do outreach, but hadn't tried to entice the population that frequented that particular Senior Citizen in the neighboring smaller town. I doubt they got as many patrons from these middle and high school efforts, as they got from the Senior Citizens center. Now, the director of the regional opera house comes to the Senior Citizens center for lectures, and now he outreaches to them.

    I think we're having the wrong strategy, sometimes. Do we need renovation of the audience with young patrons, or do we need *more* middle-aged and senior patrons who aren't being catered to?

    Sure, I'm aware that one will say, "the young patron of today will be the older patron of tomorrow, who will then have earned more money and will become a donor, so we do need to renovate the generations," etc.

    Maybe not. Maybe they will only come in due time, when they are prepared to come, and the effort spent on them while they are too young is wasted.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 06:59 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #27
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Hmmm... consider that what pour freely from Will Shakespeare's soul in rigid iambic pentameter poured freely from Chekhov impressionistically. Literary and musical forms have changed over the ages, but this change is at a perceptible but slow rate for us mortals that it seems as if forms are static and don't matter, when it actually does.
    Good point. And I don't necessarily subscribe to Chekhov's view; in fact, he may not either, since he puts it in the mouth of a highly impressionable and unstable character. The exploration of new artistic forms can certainly yield fruitful, stimulating results.

    Still, I do think the quote can stand as a helpful caution against getting too caught up in form for form's sake.

  13. #28
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I think we're having the wrong strategy, sometimes. Do we need renovation of the audience with young patrons, or do we need *more* middle-aged and senior patrons who aren't being catered to?

    Sure, I'm aware that one will say, "the young patron of today will be the older patron of tomorrow, who will then have earned more money and will become a donor, so we do need to renovate the generations," etc.

    Maybe not. Maybe they will only come in due time, when they are prepared to come, and the effort spent on them while they are too young is wasted.
    I think it is all a matter of education, and just because people have tried doesn't mean it has been done the right way. Popular tastes for the masses have always been aligned differently than for the highest forms of art in whatever age. In Mozart's day, people preferred opera buffa and not the serious operas. Within our own cultural memory, the masses preferred Big Bands instead of symphonies in the 50's, Rock in the 60's, Heavy Metal, Pop, Rap, Hip Hop, my wife's electronic dance/trance music, etc., etc. These are all different, so it's difficult to argue that young people have a developmental predisposition to a particular form of music. Instead, as Amfortas mentioned in another thread, this is all based on learned interpretative strategies and other such things. So there is no reason that young people can't learn to like opera and classical music if done the right way. I had a girlfriend in college (or at least she was in my mind ) who was training to be an opera singer. She listened to the same Metal and Pop as the rest of us, but also classical music and opera, since she, through her training, had developed an understanding and appreciation for these musical genres. The rest of us college students thought she was stuck-up at the time, because we didn't understand it. But now I completely understand her. She learned enough about classical music, music theory, opera, vocal performance, etc. to appreciate real art, as opposed to the cr*p the rest of us were cramming in our brains.

    This learning is not easy. I am not suggesting that every child go through musical training in order to develop that appreciation, but I am also doubting that this sort of "preparation" is simply impossible to do with young people.
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

  14. #29
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    I had a girlfriend in college (or at least she was in my mind ) who was training to be an opera singer. She listened to the same Metal and Pop as the rest of us, but also classical music and opera, since she, through her training, had developed an understanding and appreciation for these musical genres. The rest of us college students thought she was stuck-up at the time, because we didn't understand it.
    Do you realize that your anecdotal example actually proves my point rather than yours? Like I said, there are exceptions. Your real or wishful-thinking girlfriend was the exception. You and your peers were representatives of the rule. Now, here we are; you're a middle-aged man (well, still youngish as compared to me) and you are passionate about opera. That same guy who thought the girl who was training to be an opera singer was stuck-up and you couldn't understand why in the hell she liked that music - even you, who presumably had a crush on her. Exactly! That's what I've been saying! Tyroneslothrop, prolific poster and now staff member at Opera Lively, Met Ambassador, owner of a large collection of opera recordings, sitting on considerable expertise on Russian opera, and so on and so forth as a middle-aged man, couldn't care less for opera as a college student and even thought a girl he had a crush on (with all the idealization that this implies) was stuck-up because she cared for opera! Could premature exposure have changed your mind? I sincerely doubt it. I think you've acquired your profound love for opera later in life, for a reason (just like I bet you didn't like coffee, fancy wine, and single malt whiskey as a young teenager).

    Yes, I know that what I've been saying goes against the established beliefs. There aren't too many people out there who write about opera and defend this opinion I now have (after having shared for years the accepted standard belief that we need to do something to bring the youngsters to the opera house). But I also happen to think that against all odds, maybe *I* am right, and all this outreach effort is misguided. I know it's not sexy to think this way. But it could be true.

    You say it's not developmental (you then quote different genres - I quoted one for each age group just as an example; I do realize that this varies with time and then current fads - but the fact remains that opera is demanding and requires a lot of attention span), and you think that the fact that bad exposure doesn't usually achieve a change of mind just invites it to be done properly. But see, doing it properly is long, difficult, and expensive. Is it worth it?

    I'm not saying that doing it properly won't sway *a few kids* (as opposed to none if done improperly - which could actually turn them off and do more harm than good). It will. Some will come, like your college girlfriend. But I'm thinking about smart allocation of resources. Should we spend millions trying to entice a demographic that will yield some ridiculously low number of interested young patrons (while everybody else will continue to think just like you and your college peers at that age, and will continue for several more years just listening to what you call the cr*p cramming their brains while *they* think it's great stuff), or should we shrug our shoulders, say "oh well, this demographic doesn't have a favorable investment/return ratio anyway," forget about it, and then employ that same money going more vigorously after a demographic that is much more likely to actually bite the bait and buy tickets to the opera?

    You know, maybe if all American opera companies collectively dropped their middle school and high school outreach efforts (which are numerous, and pulled together must cost a big chunk of money), and started instead a massive, multi-million-dollar paid campaign using the magazine, web site, and email lists of the AARP, they'd sell a lot more tickets.

    Then, you'd say, but the generation of operagoers wouldn't be renovated. Wouldn't it? You know, the phenomenon of middle school and high school outreach is actually recent - and in previous generations, the operagoers self-renovated just fine, in due time.

    I feel that there are a lot of people out there who are ripe for opera and never get exposed to it - at the right age - because the efforts are focused on someone else. So, the Royal Opera House does the dress-down thing, buys expensive outdoor panels and ads with spicy campaigns to entice the youngsters, creates special cocktails in their lounges for the youngsters, and so for. I wonder how many of those actually came and stayed, beyond maybe a one-time attendance out of curiosity given the intense campaign, then found it boring and never came back (for the next several years). I wonder if the same money spent targeting groups like church volunteers, retired persons, non-operatic classical music audiences, community associations for the seniors, etc., etc., wouldn't have resulted in a boom of season subscriptions. But then, it's not sexy to go after the gray-haired crowd. It looks a lot shinier (and makes the news) to do the well publicized dress down campaign and put up the spicy controversial outdoor panels. I'd like to see stats in say, two years, looking at how many of the young patrons they were able to entice with their campaign, will still be buying seats to the ROH. Maybe they'll come back in twenty years (but not because of the exposure they got now - but rather because of natural evolution).

    Just wondering.

    So, clarifying once more - it's not that I think this preparation of young people is *impossible.* I just think it is impractical, and not cost-effective because it only sways a tiny minority even if well done.

    Sure, thinking like this, in this un-sexy way, is kind of painful. We would all love to see our youngsters having great exposure to classical music in general and opera in particular; it sounds like a great idea to get them to play instruments (some people say it keeps them away from gangs and drugs), and so on and so forth.

    I just think the results of these expensive efforts in terms of renovation of opera-goer audiences are unproven, and likely to be sketchy and meager.

    It's a beautiful ideal... one that I share... I'd love to see our kids interested in opera. But it may be a fantasy rather than a real good plan that yields sizable results.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 14th, 2013 at 04:03 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  15. #30
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Do you realize that your anecdotal example actually proves my point rather than yours? Like I said, there are exceptions. Your real or wishful-thinking girlfriend was the exception. You and your peers were representatives of the rule. Now, here we are; you're a middle-aged man (well, still youngish as compared to me) and you are passionate about opera. That same guy who thought the girl who was training to be an opera singer was stuck-up and you couldn't understand why in the hell she liked that music - even you, who presumably had a crush on her. Exactly! That's what I've been saying! Tyroneslothrop, prolific poster and now staff member at Opera Lively, Met Ambassador, owner of a large collection of opera recordings, sitting on considerable expertise on Russian opera, and so on and so forth as a middle-aged man, couldn't care less for opera as a college student and even thought a girl he had a crush on (with all the idealization that this implies) was stuck-up because she cared for opera! Could premature exposure have changed your mind? I sincerely doubt it. I think you've acquired your profound love for opera later in life, for a reason (just like I bet you didn't like coffee, fancy wine, and single malt whiskey as a young teenager).

    Yes, I know that what I've been saying goes against the established beliefs. There aren't too many people out there who write about opera and defend this opinion I now have (after having shared for years the accepted standard belief that we need to do something to bring the youngsters to the opera house). But I also happen to think that against all odds, maybe *I* am right, and all this outreach effort is misguided. I know it's not sexy to think this way. But it could be true.

    You say it's not developmental (you then quote different genres - I quoted one for each age group just as an example; I do realize that this varies with time and then current fads - but the fact remains that opera is demanding and requires a lot of attention span), and you think that the fact that bad exposure doesn't usually achieve a change of mind just invites it to be done properly. But see, doing it properly is long, difficult, and expensive. Is it worth it?

    I'm not saying that doing it properly won't sway *a few kids* (as opposed to none if done improperly - which could actually turn them off and do more harm than good). It will. Some will come, like your college girlfriend. But I'm thinking about smart allocation of resources. Should we spend millions trying to entice a demographic that will yield some ridiculously low number of interested young patrons (while everybody else will continue to think just like you and your college peers at that age, and will continue for several more years just listening to what you call the cr*p cramming their brains while *they* think it's great stuff), or should we shrug our shoulders, say "oh well, this demographic doesn't have a favorable investment/return ratio anyway," forget about it, and then employ that same money going more vigorously after a demographic that is much more likely to actually bite the bait and buy tickets to the opera?

    You know, maybe if all American opera companies collectively dropped their middle school and high school outreach efforts (which are numerous, and pulled together must cost a big chunk of money), and started instead a massive, multi-million-dollar paid campaign using the magazine, web site, and email lists of the AARP, they'd sell a lot more tickets.

    Then, you'd say, but the generation of operagoers wouldn't be renovated. Wouldn't it? You know, the phenomenon of middle school and high school outreach is actually recent - and in previous generations, the operagoers self-renovated just fine, in due time.

    I feel that there are a lot of people out there who are ripe for opera and never get exposed to it - at the right age - because the efforts are focused on someone else. So, the Royal Opera House does the dress-down thing, buys expensive outdoor panels and ads with spicy campaigns to entice the youngsters, creates special cocktails in their lounges for the youngsters, and so for. I wonder how many of those actually came and stayed, beyond maybe a one-time attendance out of curiosity given the intense campaign, then found it boring and never came back (for the next several years). I wonder if the same money spent targeting groups like church volunteers, retired persons, non-operatic classical music audiences, community associations for the seniors, etc., etc., wouldn't have resulted in a boom of season subscriptions. But then, it's not sexy to go after the gray-haired crowd. It looks a lot shinier (and makes the news) to do the well publicized dress down campaign and put up the spicy controversial outdoor panels. I'd like to see stats in say, two years, looking at how many of the young patrons they were able to entice with their campaign, will still be buying seats to the ROH. Maybe they'll come back in twenty years (but not because of the exposure they got now - but rather because of natural evolution).

    Just wondering.

    So, clarifying once more - it's not that I think this preparation of young people is *impossible.* I just think it is impractical, and not cost-effective because it only sways a tiny minority even if well done.

    Sure, thinking like this, in this un-sexy way, is kind of painful. We would all love to see our youngsters having great exposure to classical music in general and opera in particular; it sounds like a great idea to get them to play instruments (some people say it keeps them away from gangs and drugs), and so on and so forth.

    I just think the results of these expensive efforts in terms of renovation of opera-goer audiences are unproven, and likely to be sketchy and meager.

    It's a beautiful ideal... one that I share... I'd love to see our kids interested in opera. But it may be a fantasy rather than a real good plan that yields sizable results.
    I believe my anecdote shows that if there is one developmental characteristic of young people, that is that "belonging to the herd" and peer pressure are incredibly powerful forces in the young. Even if you look at other subcultures of the young, you see that they are also about belonging, even if that belonging is not part of the mainstream--here I think of Goths, Hip-hoppers, etc. My story doesn't single out any particular age-related aspects of opera, or classical music for that matter, that make them impossible for the young to appreciate.

    I view your comments as accepting that young people want to be different from "older people" (in their herdlike way) and just letting them be and grow out of it by themselves, rather than singling out opera in particular as impossible for young people to appreciate.

    Anyways, more on this later as I have to run right now.

    (BTW, I believe the Countess is a child psychiatrist, is she not? Perhaps we should get her developmental psych views also related to this topic also.)
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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