How can opera thrive? Just expose people, say two stars

NEW YORK - How can opera thrive in the modern era of instant and free entertainment? The solution, say two leading U.S.

See Full Article

artists, is to expose people when they least expect it.

"Yes, we are in a critical time for opera. But I think for about 400 years opera has been at a critical point," mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato said.

DiDonato, among the most prominent Americans in opera, has starred in productions around the world but has also sought out non-traditional venues.

DiDonato recently performed at New York's top-security Sing Sing prison in a program to reach inmates, and said she was astounded at how much they identified with opera.

"In my experience, one of the most thrilling things to do is to put it in their face," she said of new audiences.

"Go to the most unexpected places and not sing crossover, not sing a pop version of something, but give them opera."

DiDonato was speaking Wednesday at New York's SubCulture club in a conversation with Rufus Wainwright, a successful pop singer who has turned to writing opera.

Wainwright recalled his five-night sold-out residency in 2011 at Covent Garden in London, saying that 75 percent of the people who attended had never been previously to the opera house.

"I believe there is a whole bunch of young people who really don't know what classical is, and they secretly hunger for it," he said.

He said that opera would benefit from more artists like him "because on the one hand we have new ideas, but we also just adore the history of it."

But Wainwright also warned against trying too hard to rebrand opera as "cool."

"I think an audience, especially a younger audience, the minute they have a sense that they are being tricked into coming to something or not given the full story of what's going on, it's a turn-off."

Struggles for opera companies

The opera and classical music industry has tried for years to rejuvenate its audiences, who are disproportionately older.

New York's Metropolitan Opera has been ambitious in its programming despite wrestling with labor disputes stemming from tight finances.

Other opera institutions in New York have faced more severe difficulties.

The New York City Opera, created as a more accessible alternative to the Met, went broke in 2013 although a group is seeking to revive "the people's opera," starting with a production next month of Puccini's "Tosca."

The Gotham Chamber Opera, another New York company that specialized in modern and intimate performances, suddenly shut down recently due to a budget deficit.

But DiDonato voiced optimism about opera's future, pointing to the rise of pop-up performances and events such as New York's Prototype festival, which presents new, experimental works.

'Take back opera'

Wainwright's first opera "Prima Donna," about a day in the life of a faded opera singer, opened in 2009 in Manchester, England.

He initially talked to the Met about premiering "Prima Donna" but hit an impasse, in part over Wainwright's insistence on writing it in French.

Wainwright's second opera "Hadrian" will premiere at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto in its 2018-19 season.

Based on the life of the Roman emperor known for his cultural refinement, the opera will be in English with bits of Latin and Greek, Wainwright said.

"I feel confident enough now in that (opera) world to really focus on some very intense and complicated psychological and political things, which the Roman Empire always gives us in spades," he said.

Wainwright, speaking to AFP after the talk, said the reaction to "Prima Donna" was instructive to him -- some opera critics panned it, but he enjoyed wide praise from pop music writers.

"They don't have this weird, 'I shouldn't be liking this' attitude that a lot of the classical press has," he said.

DiDonato added that opera had come to be seen as an elite hobby, a preconception that she said did not exist decades ago.

"I think we have to take back the word 'opera' and not have it used as an apologetic... but to reclaim that word as something extraordinary," she said.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Todd Fisher says mom Debbie Reynolds set him up for death

    Entertainment CTV News
    In this April 1, 1997, file photo, Debbie Reynolds, left, celebrates her 65th birthday on stage as her son, Todd Fisher, presents her with a cake following her evening variety show, at the Debbie Reynolds Hotel in Las Vegas. Source
  • Q&A: Russell Peters planning 'something different' with Bryan Adams for Junos

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canadian comedian Russell Peters says he and homegrown rocker Bryan Adams are planning something "different and interesting" for the Juno Awards show, which airs on CTV on April 2. Earlier this month, Junos organizers announced the duo will host the show from Ottawa, replacing Michael Buble as he continues to care for his three-year-old son, who is fighting cancer. Source
  • Funeral held for pugnacious NY journalist Jimmy Breslin

    Entertainment CTV News
    New York political leaders from the last 50 years have joined Jimmy Breslin's family in celebrating the life of the pugnacious journalist. During the funeral Wednesday, Kevin Breslin alluded to his father's gruffness. He thanked the assembled by joking: "I'm not sure that he would come here for any of us. Source
  • Don't call it a comeback: Despite a new movie, Power Rangers has been here for years

    Entertainment CBC News
    On the heels of the new Beauty and the Beast film and a spate of '90s TV reboots including Full House and The X-Files, the Power Rangers are set to return to North American theatres for the first time since 1997. Source
  • National Arts Centre Orchesta to tour as part of Canada 150 celebrations

    Entertainment CTV News
    The National Arts Centre Orchestra is hoping to entertain and educate during its cross-country tour commemorating Canada's 150th birthday. The first leg of the tour starts in Atlantic Canada, running from April 26 to May 7, before heading back onto the road this fall with stops in Central and Western Canada from Oct. Source
  • National Arts Centre Orchestra to tour as part of Canada 150 celebrations

    Entertainment CTV News
    The National Arts Centre Orchestra is hoping to entertain and educate during its cross-country tour commemorating Canada's 150th birthday. The first leg of the tour starts in Atlantic Canada, running from April 26 to May 7, before heading back onto the road this fall with stops in Central and Western Canada from Oct. Source
  • New couple Diane Kruger, Norman Reedus go public

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Diane Kruger has left no doubt about her relationship with The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus after they were photographed kissing in New York City. The Inglourious Basterds star has been friends with Norman since they portrayed lovers in 2015 movie Sky, and now it appears their chemistry onscreen has been reignited in real life. Source
  • Brie Larson to star as first female U.S. presidential candidate

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actress Brie Larson has signed on to star as the first female U.S. presidential candidate in a new movie. The Oscar-winning Room star will also serve as a producer on Victoria Woodhull. Ben Kopit is writing the script for the film, but is unclear when it will start shooting or premiere. Source
  • The Magnetic North Theatre Festival cancels 2017 season

    Entertainment CBC News
    One of Canada's premier theatre festivals has cancelled its 2017 season due to financial constraints. The Magnetic North Theatre Festival — which showcases and promotes Canadian theatre nationally and abroad — was scheduled to take place this summer at various venues in the capital, including the National Arts Centre from June 16-24. Source
  • 'Tapping into the comedy of couples': How Chuck Barris made TV that was ahead of its time

    Entertainment CBC News
    First, he had The Dating Game. Then came The Newlywed Game. And he followed it all up with the madcap mayhem that was The Gong Show. Sure, many have written off the game shows as mindless and low-brow. Source