Olivia Giovetti’s Washington Post op-ed urging the de-emphasis of the present common repertory which consists largely of 19th century Italian opera in favor something more relevant to modern audiences is one of the dumbest I have read recently. There is a reason that 19th century Italian operas are performed again and again and again. People like them. Meanwhile, 21st century operas largely play to empty houses. Do you know who in particular doesn’t attend modern operas? Young people.
I don’t know what Met productions are like and I don’t much care. Chicago’s Lyric Opera has produced some great re-imaginings of old operas. It has also produced some awful ones. The reason that it has produced Harold Prince’s production of Madama Butterfly year after year after year is that it’s an interesting and effective way of telling the story blending traditional production with modern technology.
Here’s the reality. It’s not just opera that’s dying. Live performance is dying. Jazz is dying. Broadway musicals are dying. Live theater is dying. Pop music concerts are dying. They’re all dying. Attendance at pop music concerts is increasing far more slowly than the population. There are many reasons for that but they include a lot of people who would rather sit in their living rooms watching something pre-recorded streaming than get up, go out, and attend a live performance.