Why do rock bands need opera houses?

Why do rock bands need opera houses?


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2016

There’s a musical on Meat Loaf coming up at English National Opera.

And Metallica have just booked the Toronto Opera House for a show next week.

Why do they need us?

And, more desperately why do we need them?

There’s a loser in this transaction.



  • Holyfield Worthington says:

    It appears that the rock bands are not holding concerts during opera performances, but are in fact only using facilities that also house opera productions, but on different nights.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Appearances can be deceiving and Norman (along with some others) seems to have gotten some things confused.
      As commenter Boris points out below, “The Opera House” in Toronto is not the house where operas are staged, but a 950-capacity ‘popular music’ venue.
      Opera and ballet in Toronto take place at the 2.071 seat “R. Fraser Elliott Hall” in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

  • Tim says:

    It’s called a commercial hire and with public subsidy in decline, most venues are increasingly reliant on them. Personally, I think the respective grandeur of rock/metal and the opera house are rather complementary. What exactly are you worried about?

  • Simon J Evnine says:

    I thought this “news” had died after the last time SD reported it.

    It’s not a big deal – renting out the hall on empty nights. Tennis and wrestling get done sometimes at Royal Albert Hall.

    • pooroperaman says:

      No, it’s the other way round: the variety and sports house that is the Albert Hall occasionally puts on classical concerts, when it can’t think of anything better to do.

  • Halldor says:

    This again? Is it that a “classical” venue is hiring itself out during a dark patch to an external promoter? Newsflash: Wigmore Hall does it, RFH does it; Barbican, Royal Opera House, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Snape Maltings, you name it. They all do it. Everywhere and everyone does it. Something has to pay for all that Ades and Georg Friedrich Haas.

    Or is this more about that old chestnut: our “holiest of arts” profaned by that ghastly new “rock and roll” that the youngsters of today are apparently now listening to in their malt shops and beat clubs? In which case, get with it, Daddy-o. And maybe double-check a set of artistic values that presupposes that the music of Metallica is automatically of less merit than, say, Mascagni or Philip Glass.

  • Maria says:

    The only thing that slightly intrigues me about this (largely) non-story is that they are playing in a venue that holds just over 2,000 instead of 20,000.

  • Boris says:

    The “Opera House” in question is only an Opera House in name. It’s actually a rock venue built in the 1980’s. Sorry Norman, a little due diligence may help you on this one. Is this site turning into the Fox News of the Classical music world?….it seems so. Schade.

    • V.Lind says:

      It was actually built as a vaudeville hall in 1909. For many years it was a cinema, but the rise of the multiplex put paid to that and since the 1980s, it has been a live performance venture for, yes indeed, rock acts. So the ENTIRE premise upon which this post is based is UTTERLY wrong.

      Toronto has a dedicated ballet and opera house, the Four Seasons Centre, as noted above.

      But the argument of the post is also wrong. As noted above, many distinguished venues rent their space when it is dark. This is a revenue source to cash-strapped companies. I can think of nothing other than snobbery to prohibit the right to rent space as the owner sees fit. There are art and music forms other than classical that appeal to many people. Why shouldn’t they use purpose-built venues?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Quite acceptable as far as they Clean and air the hall after the party.

  • Dr Presume says:

    The musical is not *about* Meat Loaf – it’s a musical using the songs written by Jim Steinman within the context of a new fantasy narrative. But one might optimistically imagine that it’s going to be a less contrived “jukebox” musical than various other such shows, because the Steinman songs (well, certainly the ones from the original Bat Out of Hell album) were originally written as part of an early 1970s Steinman-scripted theatrical work called Neverland, and were later co-opted as standalone songs.

    Not that I’m interested in seeing this new show – I’ve seen Meat Loaf perform most of those songs when he was a powerhouse singer, and I don’t think seeing anyone else do them will remotely compare.

  • BillG says:

    “SlippedDisc” the “National Inquirer” of the fine arts. There was a time, the dream time, when news organizations usually required that they have two sources for every story. Well, it was suppose to be that way. The rush to get the hot story out before a deadline has been the real driver.

    (Oh, by the way. I once played horn in the pit for one of the shows Meatloaf was performing in.)

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Rock and Heavy Metal have pretty much adopted all the excesses and bad tastes of opera. They might as well adopt the venues too.

    • V.Lind says:

      BUT THEY HAVEN’T: don’t you read the comments? The Opera House in Toronto is not AN opera house, it is a pop music venue. A popular one: in a trendy area, and a nice size and a beautiful old building with good acoustics. Top POP acts (including rock, metal, etc.) all choose it.

      This post is rubbish, BASED ON THE WRONG INTERPRETATION OF THE NAME OF A VENUE, and of course unchecked, unverified, just wrong information as the base of an argument that has been held here before and IS probably worth rehearsing occasionally till it ceases to be an issue.

  • Sixtus says:

    Every time a pop act rents a real opera house is at least a partial admission of that theater’s cultural cachet. It can also be that the acoustics and stage/auditorium facilities are something of value for the act. And the more people who can be cured of opera-house phobia by attending a non-operatic performance in a real opera house the better.

  • Simon J Evnine says:

    ==he more people who can be cured of opera-house phobia by attending a non-operatic performance in a real opera house the better.

    Yes – an excellent point !

  • Anon says:

    Jesus, Lebrecht. How many people does it take to tell you you’re WRONG. Fix this sorry post. The Toronto Opera House is not an opera house. Just the name. Even if it was, why the faux outrage? What does it even matter? DO YOUR RESEARCH. It’s no wonder you’re the laughing stock of the classical music world. Time to retire! Pack it up!