A must-read critique by Andrew Grossman in, inexplicably, a site called Pop Matters. The headline is: Why is Opera so Derided in America?
The very existence of opera in 21st century America seems a defiant anachronism, a magnificent corpse that, inexplicably, still breathes. Whatever cultural capital opera retains in Europe or Russia is nowhere to be found in America. What fills opera houses is an overgrown swamp of verismo, a “cinematic” mode that sweetly colonized the operatic imagination long ago. There are bold new opera productions, of course, but the wild machinations of avant-garde directors only expose an old repertoire needing far more than sexy revisionism.
A desiccated bel canto score will thwart attempted (post-)modernizations as a moribund body rejects a transplanted heart with too fast a beat. An all-nude production of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots relocated to a ‘80s-era Caribbean cruise ship will still sound like Meyerbeer, even if appendages swing with abandon and the director splays the bodies of Huguenots slain in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre throughout the ship’s late-night comedy club. Likewise, a sanguine director can relocate Bellini’s Norma to an outer-space brothel and invest the action with robot sex and multi-breasted aliens, but you’ll still have to listen to Bellini for three hours.
Read on here.