Opera Performances: Expectations vs. Reality
There are some pretty unflattering stereotypes associated with opera. And while some of them have valid origins, opera companies across the country are breaking down these preconceived notions and changing the face of opera.
Expectation: Opera is expensive.
Reality: Opera can be free or cheaper than a movie.
Opera companies are often sneered at for having ridiculously over-priced tickets to their performances. And while it's true that at some venues ticket costs can rival artists like Ariana Grande or Transiberian Orchestra front row seats, most opera companies are now offering tickets as low as $10, or performances that are completely free! Check your local opera company's website for discounted tickets and events.
Expectation: Opera is boring.
Reality: Opera is thrilling, timeless, and relevant to today's society.
Who can blame people for thinking that people singing non-stop about ancient topics that aren't relevant to today's society would be boring? But opera is anything BUT boring! Take La bohème for example: such a thrilling plot that its story has been translated to the popular Broadway musical Rent. How about La Traviata? You might recognize the plot points and characters in Baz Luhrman's sensational Moulin Rouge. Or Aïda? That story started on opera stages before Elton John and Tim Rice got their hands on it.
And if you prefer your arts to be more of a social commentary, definitely check out these new modern operas that are circulating the country: As One (a look at the beautiful journey of transgender protaganist, Hannah), The Falling and the Rising (an intimate, inspiring, and honest look at the lives of those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces), and Scalia/Ginsburg (inspired by the opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia). These operas (all soon to be part of the Opera Memphis repetoire) are as delightful as they are poignant, and guarantee to leave you feeling much more emotionally fulfilled than that binge session of The Goop Lab on Netflix.
Expectation: I won't understand anything that is going on.
Reality: Opera companies translate the pieces so audiences always know what's going on.
The singers may still be performing in [insert language], but opera companies take all kinds of steps to help the audience understand everything happening on stage. Almost all opera companies give out programs before each performance, and inside audience members will find a detailed synopsis explaining what will take place in the story. Then, during the show, companies will project sub/surtitles around the stage so the audience can read word-for-word what the singers are singing. On top of that, between the musical genius of the composers and the exquisite talents of the performers, the mood and emotions will all be easily conveyed so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
Expectation: All operas are unbearably long.
Reality: Operas can range in length from 15 minutes to 3.5 hours.
Gone are the days of two-intermission operas! ...Well...not completely. Opera companies will still do those 3 and 4 act classic operas, but more and more companies are moving away from this format and offering performances that are about the length of a feature film. Some operas are even shorter than that and clock in anywhere from 45 minutes in length to as little as 15 minutes!
Expectation: I can only see opera if I live in a big city.
Reality: Thanks to technology, and some awesome local initiatives, opera is accessible nearly everywhere.
While it's true that live opera performances are primarily in metropolitan areas, viewing an opera performance is now accessible in nearly every corner of the globe! Companies like the Metropolitan Opera offer live streaming online, and in select movie houses. PBS will screen opera performances as part of their Great Performances series. Companies like Opera Memphis (with their 30 Days of Opera program) are branching outside of the opera house to reach audiences who otherwise might not be able to make it to the theatre to see a live performance - traveling hours outside of the city to reach rural areas of the country.
Opera isn't always what we expect it to be. It can surprise us in new and fascinating ways, and companies across the nation are taking steps to break down negative stereotypes associate with the art form. But don't take our word for it! Google your local opera company, see what they have to offer, and challenge your own expectations.