18 February 2005

Ask Sieglinde III

Opera v. "Classical" music II

Dear Sieglinde, why does this guy say opera is another story? --Jennie from the Pelhams

Honey, it's always another story. Have you ever been to Avery Fisher? (They have $10 rush tix, you know.) NPR music punctuated by the prickly sound of turning pages is all I'm saying. However, every night at the opera house, you could potentially be witness to a full All My Children episode of take-no-prisoner bitch-battles: between singer and pit (Fleming v. Gergiev), singer and set (Price v. Zeffirelli), singer and physics (Fantini v. Met auditorium), singer and composer (Fleming v. Handel), singer and queen (Voigt v. Brewer fan), singer and singer (Aida v. Amneris), pit and pit (Gergiev v. Met orchestra), queen and queen (family circle standing room), even between musica and parola (Il Trovatore), music and theater (Wagner), theater and narrative (Ring cycle). The layers of risk are numerous, and simultaneously deep and accessible, and you, dear Jennie, can pick the operatic fight you'd like to attend, and boo or applaud as your loins dictate. (No Ph.D. in Music necessary, as he might imply in his post "update", where he confuses engagement with connoiseurship. All you need are a comfy pair of pumps and lots of bladder control.)

In contrast, the concert hall is dying because risk is largely absent from the static symphonic genre (the premiere of a new work an obvious exception). There's simply no visceral drama to view at the symphony akin to what transpires at the opera house next door. Why do you think there are no concerto queens, that Lois Kirschenbaum doesn't hang out at Avery Fisher, that Maazel-flappers (with tickets to his every NYC appearance) are unimaginable (but Muti vigilantes do exist, even in NYC)? Why do Bocelli haters outnumber and outscream Vanessa Mae's? Opera will always be the exception, jewel. Prepare to be marginalized further.