I will say something we all know by making clear that the whole entertainment market is moving continuously as trends and technology take it from one incarnation to the next, but what about opera?
Market Niche Or Art Form?
We live in a world in which the market dictates much of what goes on. The efforts that society members do are more often towards trendy and cool things that are mostly set up from the mass media by selective exposure and many other techniques than to things that are new, innovative or unknown. In this landscape is difficult to think about an art form surviving as a way of expression rather than a money-making formula. Selling tickets is very hard when most people are not fans yet. In this equation, the cost of production is a very heavy indicator because the fewer tickets you sell the less budget available to make a great stage performance with first-class artists, equipment, costumes and composers. So, the landscape for the future of opera (and art in general) looks a lot as a market niche, rather than an art form.
Music For The Masses
Opera used to be the music of the masses back in the XIX and XX Century. Not that tickets were less expensive than they are now, it´s just that, especially since the verisimo and Puccini , characters and descriptions have been based on the real life of the poor, the outcast and the anonymous heroes found everywhere. To make it more clear: operas tell stories with the company of some awesome music that intensifies the messages and make them even more interesting and storytelling will never grow old. It might have changed its form and its content, but it will never be over.
This is exactly why I think that what´s dying is the classical approach to opera and not the opera itself. Throughout the years it has been more and more surrounded by purists who think that there’s a real and a new opera that are not the same. This is a huge mistake! Opera is just an expression of the real things happening in everyone´s real lives, not a distant story that has to be seen in a golden theatre paying $1000 dollars a ticket. Opera is music for the masses.
To face the challenge in any art form in the XXI century is to bear in mind that the times are changing as fast as never before. There are more communication channels, but at the same time, people are bombarded by an always increasing amount of information. In this scenario, opera has to change to grow according to the present or it will be forever lost. There´s an awesome article from The Huffington Post by Ja-Naé Duane I read little time ago that presents some ideas about how can opera turn into a modern attraction rather than be a purist, elitist art form:
- Open up to the digital era and go for streaming. Nowadays almost anything can be found on YouTube (the second largest search platform right after Google), so why not establish streaming services for opera plays? It’s a great way to reach the masses.
- Follow the theatre ways and turn the plays into full experiences to viewers. If you want to sell more tickets, you have to engage more people, or rather, engage the people more by turning your spectacle into a full body experience, one that involves all kinds of stimulation.
I think opera in particular, but art in general are experiencing a transition trying to catch up with technology and remain relevant to fans. If us, the opera fans, stay open to new forms and foster the old masters enough, then we have a very bright future ahead of us.