In the course of discussing the Death of Klinghoffer controversy in this month’s Standpoint magazine, I found myself drawn to a fundamental question on the function and purpose of opera:
Not since Auber’s La Muette de Portici fomented Belgian revolution in 1830 and Verdi’s Nabucco defined Italian nationalism in 1842 has an opera provoked political violence. Opera is not that kind of art. If its impact was exhortative, our ancestors would have rushed out and raped their sisters after seeing Wagner’s Ring.
What, then, is the purpose of opera in 2014? To make us think, to make us feel (not necessarily in that order). Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Met hoo-hah was its want of new thinking or true feeling.
photo (c) Robert Kusel/Lyric Opera Chicago