Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opera Wednesday: the odd story of American opera (and the next story to be an opera?)

This Memorial Day marks ten years since I attended a Spoleto performance of Manon Lescault at Gailliard Municipal Auditorium with Susan Patterson in the titular role, the first time I had attended an opera for pleasure (not for class), beginning what has been an annual occurrence of attending opera, whether it is at Spoleto, or the college companies, or even the Upstate's operetta company (which is where I'm attending Die Fledermaus this upcoming weekend with the Mississippi Squirrel). This story leads to Laurence Toppman's discussion of American Opera in The Charlotte Observer noting the snobbery of the past forty years of our wonderful genre we admire here. Whereas we have mentioned here about The Voice of Firestone, the appearance of opera singers on various television programmes in the glory days of television, and as Renée Fleming noted in The Inner Voice, operas were sung in the language of the country where it was performed, today's snobbery (and I'm not referencing to Slightly North of Broad, a Charleston restaurant on East Bay!) caused by MTV, the influence of commercial popular music further than before, and the relegation of masterful music caused by the development of public television and radio to the least common multiple has hurt the exposure of serious material .

Oh to remember Dr. Ann Benson's appearance at the Rebel (Craven got him! Have you ever?) and to wonder why don't we see opera singers in public much anymore. Yes, we may see opera singers when promoting productions, but why not in mainstream America? Has the influence of pop music everywhere destroyed serious music? Even our churches are full of secular and secularised “sacred” music that's nothing short of junk heretic drivel where clergy have denounced sacred song and those who listen to it. When a vocal resumé includes Beethoven's Mass in C Major, Händel's Messiah, and plans are to add a Requiem (to be determined at the end of the month), all after 30, how can you tolerate bad rock music in churches that require earplugs?

Just for reference, the Greenville Light Opera Works performs their pieces in English, so Die Fledermaus will be performed in English! A $20 ticket for opera, and a $16 ticket for the orchestra are far better than the $35 (for upper level seats) for major pop/rock stars.

Oh, By The Way . . .

Speaking of the Rebel, was there anger after an old-fashioned Florentine squabble between Happy and Wild Thing? Twenty-five thousand dollars per side for the Battle of Florence near Mr. Ramsey's Minnow Pond. Now that squabble could be dramatised as a battle on the pond between the two combatants along with Mrs. Happy and Mrs. Wild Thing fishing on that pond. How would that to as an opera?
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