This a a belated post, since Nixon in China closed this weekend, but that’s okay because the two operas I’m most looking forward to are coming up next. I haven’t been to a Mozart opera yet, but I tend to like Mozart, and have been listening to Don Giovanni so I think I’ll enjoy Marriage of Figaro (cue Bugs Bunny). After that is Madama Butterfly, which I saw last year in one of the HD broadcasts from The Met, so I know that I’ll have a good time.
Yes, Nixon was a different kind of opera. Written and premiered in the last 25 years it portrayed something that is not so far behind us in the past. Watching the opera, there were so many refrains that John Adams couldn’t have known how prophetic they would be now. China investing in Wall Street? Now China holds the majority of the U.S. government dept. Glass elephants that can be made by the 100s a day? Now I’d say that the majority of things we buy and use every day is made in China. I think we often forget that opera isn’t just entertainment, but often social commentary as well. We miss a lot of the social commentary because the society and societal issues being commented on aren’t relevant today or are veiled in layers of artistic license that we miss it.
For the next two operas, I’m going to try to understand how these two operas fit into the society of their eras. Music, performance and art in general are so often how we comment about the the issues of the day. Vancouver Opera does something that is so essential in our world—they bring masterworks of opera into the fore and relevance for today’s audience. They know very well that their “core audience” is aging and that in order to continue they can’t use the old ways of marketing themselves. Opera as something for the elite, the cultured, the upper crust doesn’t work today. Opera as something beautiful, lush, gorgeous and full of inspiring music, now that’s something that I think plays for today’s new opera audience.
Well at least it does for me.