Change or Perish

I recently watched the flick Bad Teacher which included a short rant by one character about how opera is dying. And he was right. This art from will die out, but not because people aren’t learning to love it. It’s because it refuses to adapt.

Let me step back and explain my own experiences with this art form. My dad, bless his soul, loved opera. And he loved it loud. Every Sunday morning on speakers almost as tall as me. I guess most kids had their parents blast Rolling Stones or AC DC. Me? I got Mozart and Beethoven.

That’s not to say I hated it outright. I did play a supernumerary (think “extra”) in a production of Tosca. There’s this one aria that still haunts me this day. I loved being under the stage and hearing it each night. Yet this opera was written over a hundred years ago. And those by Mozart and Beethoven are even older. My point, maybe opera needs some significant new blood to revitalize it.

Think about it. How many operas can you name? The only ones that come to mind are Barber of Seville and the Ring series by Wagner. It probably doesn’t help that both of these were performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.


I think the main problem is that opera is seen as pure and elite. I know that’s how my dad viewed it. Those who love it see the art form as superior to others. With that attitude, how are you ever going to adapt? With fewer young folk into it, opera will die out. Plain and simple.

But that’s a good thing.

Once it’s dead, it’s free. People can dive back and lift those wonderful melodies up again. What would opera sound like if mixed with hip hop or electronica, or even good old rock. I know this is sacrilege, but this might be what it takes to bring it back to life. What does it say when the most interesting opera performance I’ve seen in a while came from Fifth Element?

Taking this idea to heart, don’t hold any of your own art forms as sacred. Have a key idea or character in a story? One that seems so vital the writing couldn’t survive with out. Kill the character or idea. Then see what happens. Maybe you’ll bring it back in a new and exciting form.

Tim Kane

4 comments on “Change or Perish

  1. Lissa Bryan says:

    I agree with you that the Fifth Element opera was marvelous. Supposedly, the singer did the vocals unassisted by technology, which, if true, makes it one of the most amazing vocal performances ever recorded.

  2. D. D. Syrdal says:

    There have been rock operas (Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, etc.) which are classics in their own right, but that style is never going to match the genius of Mozart or Puccini. I don’t think infusing Puccini with heavy metal will revitalize opera. I’m not really a huge opera fan (my dad was, though, as well as my two eldest sisters), more of certain arias (O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi is probably my all-time fav, but pretty much anything from Cosi fan Tutte is sublime).

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