Entertainment has changed a lot over the course of the last five hundred years, but it has changed dramatically in the last seventy, let´s talk about screens versus flesh and bone.
Cinema came to the modern world to solve a lot of the issues the biggest forms of entertainment used to have the same way recorded music solved many of the issues that live performances had. For example, if you wished to dance in the XIX Century you had to hire someone to play for you and your friends, otherwise there was no music to dance to. Imagine running in the park with classical music on your headphones and compare it to being chased by a trio of violins and a very unlucky cello player. The world has definitely changed a lot and being there to be able to listen to music or watch a play is no longer necessary.
Nevertheless, people still go to see bands and live acts of many forms playing live in huge arenas across the world paying an entrance and experiencing the “I was there” concept. Because it actually is a different feeling and the emotion is not the same. You can watch Les Miserables in the official DVD a million times but it will never compare to the feeling of being sit in the front row hearing the tenor and soprano voices for the whole 4 hours with a live orchestra. Being there an hearing, seeing, experiencing live performances is very different to the reaction one has with the recorded material.
Comfort Around The World
While it’s true that nothing beats the real experience of a live performance, the comfort of watching or listening to your favorite opera from your living room is another thing to bear in mind. I think the whole world is turning towards the more comfortable versus the more interesting. Needless to say the cheaper versus the amazing is a lost fight.
Netflix and PPV are ways of adding comfort to an already comfortable situation, in my opinion, opera houses and opera in general is struggling against the 3-d and 4-d experience of high-end movies plus Netflix and everybody’s couch. Imagine you can watch a 3-d movie while eating or drinking your own meal at home covered in your favorite blanket hugging your beloved one. Well, it sounds like a plan to say the least. Now, when that couple wants to do something different, they dress up and go out to have the real experience, because the real thing is still amazing in most cases.
Amazing Is The Key (Thank You Millennials)
The entertainment business and opera in particular has to mutate, transform into something else to stay alive. The opera of the XXI Century has to be closer to an amazing live experience than to a XIX Century slow representation. The limitations of cinema are very real and known to us all; you sit and experience a stimulus coming from a screen and a huge sound system, but there´s nothing special about it, because you can apply the same principle with your phone and a good set of headphones. This is exactly why I say thank you Millennials,
because they are the generation of the Experience, the ones who are willing to go for the extra mile and move from where they are,
the ones who reject the couch and the steady life to roam the world and have fascinating anecdotes rather than three luxurious cars. They are the ones opera should aim for, I am convinced of this, because if they understand just how amazing opera really is, they can spread the word and make the world understand that cinema and opera houses can co-exist but belong to different moments in one´s life.