A couple of weeks ago, Opera Teen posted A Letter to the Confused on his website. It was a very good article, but what struck me most was a comment on his post. The comment, from Odd Pavarotti, talked about the “classical crossover” genre, and how it started with Luciano Pavoratti singing with pop stars in an effort to attract an audience to opera. The commenter noted that, instead, the genre of classical crossover emerged, and people still do not go to opera houses.
This is a perfectly valid point. People do not go to opera houses. I do not go to opera houses.
Why don’t I go to opera houses?
Well, for starters, I live in Cleveland. There is no Opera House in Cleveland. At one point, we had an opera company in Cleveland, but unfortunately the recession claimed it as a victim. (It seems as is the trustees are trying to figure out a way for an opera company to exist in Cleveland. I wish them all the luck in the world if this is true. I cannot be certain because it seems as if the website, Opera Cleveland, has been hacked.)
I attended one opera at the Cleveland Opera in 2008. It was a birthday present, and we could also get cheap tickets. The Opera was having a promotion for their production of The Marriage of Figaro, and put fliers in some of the local bars in the Warehouse District. The fliers said, “Lots of people trying to have sex with each other. It’s kind of like this bar.” It then gave a promotion code that could be used for $10 tickets to see the Marriage of Figaro, down at the State Theater in Playhouse Square. It was delightful, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I’ll have that opportunity again, in Cleveland.
I checked also to see if there were any opera companies in nearby cities. Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati all have opera companies that perform about two shows a year, a couple of times each. The prices for performances started at $35 a seat. This is not including parking, of course. Plus, if I did want to go to one of those shows, they are at least 2 hours away by car. For Cincinnati, I would probably have to spend the night, so that would cost me the hotel.
It goes without saying that there are few opportunities to see live opera, especially for those on a budget. When my mother was young, the Metropolitan Opera came to Cleveland for a week every spring, and she still remembers the production of Aida that she saw there one year. She even remembers the names of the lead singers, Leontyne Price and Franco Correlli. She told me that Franco, in one scene, had to hold a long note starting offstage and walking onstage, and when she tells that story, her voice is still full of awe.
Now, the Metropolitan Opera has live broadcasts, and replays, of their Operas at movie theaters. (One of these days, I’ll find time to go.) A number of operas are also available for purchase at Amazon, and some of them are even available at the library. I saw La Boheme, The Barber of Seville, La Cenerentola, and Otello in this manner. However, is this the same thing as actually attending an opera? I would say no. A theater professor of mine once said, “I suggest to you that you have not really experienced Hamlet until you’ve been in the same room as the prince.” I’m sure opera is much the same way.
I’ll have more about this later, because in addition to the obvious reason for not attending opera houses, there are other forces at work.
Here’s part 2