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Pavarotti hurt opera more than he helped it

And Regietheater has done the worst damage

“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”
“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”

Opera, opera, opera. What are we to do with opera? Even those who love opera can’t agree on what it is, what it should be, or what it could be.

I recently shared a meme on my Facebook page. The meme showed a picture of a cartoon character surrounded by swords. The caption was, “Musical opinions that will get you in this situation.”

Video:

Luciano Pavarotti as Tonio sings 9 high Cs

<em>The Daughter of the Regiment,</em> 1973 at the Met

The Daughter of the Regiment, 1973 at the Met

I shared my opinion, “Pavarotti hurt opera more than he helped it.” Swords were drawn immediately. On and on the string of comments went with some acting as peacekeepers and others as polemical paladins.

“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”

“To each his own.”

“The fach system was established by agents in order to corner the market.”

“A degree in vocal performance doesn’t make you an opera singer.”

“We’re failing our students.”

“Most students don’t have the talent to begin with.”

The fach system was my corner of the discussion. For those who don’t know, the fach system established certain roles for certain voice types.

In the case of Pavarotti, he was a lyric-tenor and that means his voice was most suited for roles such as Tonio in The Daughter of the Regiment, and Rodolfo in La Boheme amongst dozens of others.

It also means his voice was not suited for roles such as Otello in Otello and Calaf in Turandot. Those roles are for dramatic tenor and that means Pavarotti ought not to have sang them. My opponents do not think that was the case.

I was able to invoke the past 100 years of opera tradition concerning the development of appropriate roles for appropriate voice types. My opponents either weren’t familiar with the past 100 years of opera traditions or simply rejected them as being no longer valid.

Herein lies the problem. We are all opera fans but we don’t agree on much of anything.

I, for one, am kind of done with opera in its current state. Some want to blame declining attendance on the internet, but attendance in all other types of events has increased. Covid-19 notwithstanding.

I believe we can find a correlation between the rise of Regietheater and declining audiences. Regietheater means “director’s theater.” This means the director is the number one artistic priority, not the singers.

Regietheater is often post-modern in its approach and conceptual instead of realistic in its execution. The result is that first-time opera audiences often feel stupid because the goings-on on stage make no sense to them. People who feel stupid and out of place aren’t going to come back and they certainly aren’t going to make a donation.

For instance, a production of Wagner's Lohengrin has the entire chorus costumed as mice. This was the director's "vision" of how to portray the people. The same production has the arrival of the character Lohengrin, not on a barge drawn by a swan but he is birthed by the lead female character Elsa. She gives birth to a full-grown knight of the Holy Grail not because it makes sense but because it is the director's vision.

Regietheater in this sense has gone beyond post-modernism and become fully engaged in Critical Theory. Critical Theory is deconstructionist without any sense of context. In other words, complete idiocy.

Now we can throw Covid into the mix, and opera just might be done for in its current form. We might see smaller-scale productions in the future with simple direction and that might be the best thing for opera.

Will opera lovers agree on the merits of the future? No. Of course not. It’s opera.

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“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”
“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”

Opera, opera, opera. What are we to do with opera? Even those who love opera can’t agree on what it is, what it should be, or what it could be.

I recently shared a meme on my Facebook page. The meme showed a picture of a cartoon character surrounded by swords. The caption was, “Musical opinions that will get you in this situation.”

Video:

Luciano Pavarotti as Tonio sings 9 high Cs

<em>The Daughter of the Regiment,</em> 1973 at the Met

The Daughter of the Regiment, 1973 at the Met

I shared my opinion, “Pavarotti hurt opera more than he helped it.” Swords were drawn immediately. On and on the string of comments went with some acting as peacekeepers and others as polemical paladins.

“That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”

“To each his own.”

“The fach system was established by agents in order to corner the market.”

“A degree in vocal performance doesn’t make you an opera singer.”

“We’re failing our students.”

“Most students don’t have the talent to begin with.”

The fach system was my corner of the discussion. For those who don’t know, the fach system established certain roles for certain voice types.

In the case of Pavarotti, he was a lyric-tenor and that means his voice was most suited for roles such as Tonio in The Daughter of the Regiment, and Rodolfo in La Boheme amongst dozens of others.

It also means his voice was not suited for roles such as Otello in Otello and Calaf in Turandot. Those roles are for dramatic tenor and that means Pavarotti ought not to have sang them. My opponents do not think that was the case.

I was able to invoke the past 100 years of opera tradition concerning the development of appropriate roles for appropriate voice types. My opponents either weren’t familiar with the past 100 years of opera traditions or simply rejected them as being no longer valid.

Herein lies the problem. We are all opera fans but we don’t agree on much of anything.

I, for one, am kind of done with opera in its current state. Some want to blame declining attendance on the internet, but attendance in all other types of events has increased. Covid-19 notwithstanding.

I believe we can find a correlation between the rise of Regietheater and declining audiences. Regietheater means “director’s theater.” This means the director is the number one artistic priority, not the singers.

Regietheater is often post-modern in its approach and conceptual instead of realistic in its execution. The result is that first-time opera audiences often feel stupid because the goings-on on stage make no sense to them. People who feel stupid and out of place aren’t going to come back and they certainly aren’t going to make a donation.

For instance, a production of Wagner's Lohengrin has the entire chorus costumed as mice. This was the director's "vision" of how to portray the people. The same production has the arrival of the character Lohengrin, not on a barge drawn by a swan but he is birthed by the lead female character Elsa. She gives birth to a full-grown knight of the Holy Grail not because it makes sense but because it is the director's vision.

Regietheater in this sense has gone beyond post-modernism and become fully engaged in Critical Theory. Critical Theory is deconstructionist without any sense of context. In other words, complete idiocy.

Now we can throw Covid into the mix, and opera just might be done for in its current form. We might see smaller-scale productions in the future with simple direction and that might be the best thing for opera.

Will opera lovers agree on the merits of the future? No. Of course not. It’s opera.

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