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LA Opera updates Lammermoor

Rival families become urban gangs

LA Opera Lucia production at The Metropolitan Opera.
LA Opera Lucia production at The Metropolitan Opera.

As I stare down the barrel of yet another season of opera, for which I will need to travel, I can’t help but feel as though I’ve become less tolerant. I was once willing to trust the artistic acumen of opera companies but no longer.

Opera, on the whole, has given up timelessness for a false sense of relevance. Opera has bought into the myth of representation. Opera has gone woke and, as we should all know at this point, once you go woke, you go broke.

Regarding the imminent Amazon adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices from The Lord of the Rings, executive producer Lindsey Weber said, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien's work would reflect what the world actually looks like.” This is what opera companies have done.

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For the record, an adaptation of Tolkien’s world should reflect what Tolkien’s world, as described by Tolkien, actually looks like. Tolkien isn’t alive to protest the adaptation of his work and Amazon has the rights so Amazon’s show is free to do whatever it wants.

What this boils down to is race-swapping characters, which is a practice I have no problem with. The problems arise when the character stops reflecting the timeless qualities set down by the author and start representing something else inserted by the showrunners.

Video:

Dame Joan Sutherland: The Mad Scene

With opera, the goal is still to reflect what the world actually looks like but that is done by changing the settings of the operas. A good example is the upcoming production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at LA Opera.

Lucia was originally set in and around a 17th Century Scottish castle. It is something of a Romeo and Juliet story with dueling families and mistaken intentions. In Lucia’s case, she is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love and betray the one she does. She goes mad and murder’s her new husband and then dies later in the opera. Her true love, Edgardo, kills himself when he learns of Lucia’s demise.

This all makes sense in the 17th Century. Feudalism was still alive and well, despite the Renaissance, and family resentments ending in violent deaths were something that happened. The qualities the characters display make sense.

This new Lucia takes place in a contemporary urban setting. It would appear that the rival families are now rival gangs. This makes sense except for the words that are coming out of the mouths of the characters. A forged letter is a key component in influencing Lucia’s decision. She is led to believe that Edgardo, who is now in France, has forgotten her and taken a new lover.

In a modern setting, Lucia would Facetime Edgardo and ask him WTF? She might actually get on a plane and go confront him in person. These aren’t options in the 17th Century. The qualities Lucia displays are inconsistent with a modern setting. It turns her into a complete idiot and the opera becomes irrelevant.

When operas are ripped out of the settings in which the composers set them, a timeless piece of art becomes an irrelevant bit of content. Opera fans are into opera, not relevance. What is relevant today is passe tomorrow.

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LA Opera Lucia production at The Metropolitan Opera.
LA Opera Lucia production at The Metropolitan Opera.

As I stare down the barrel of yet another season of opera, for which I will need to travel, I can’t help but feel as though I’ve become less tolerant. I was once willing to trust the artistic acumen of opera companies but no longer.

Opera, on the whole, has given up timelessness for a false sense of relevance. Opera has bought into the myth of representation. Opera has gone woke and, as we should all know at this point, once you go woke, you go broke.

Regarding the imminent Amazon adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices from The Lord of the Rings, executive producer Lindsey Weber said, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien's work would reflect what the world actually looks like.” This is what opera companies have done.

Sponsored
Sponsored

For the record, an adaptation of Tolkien’s world should reflect what Tolkien’s world, as described by Tolkien, actually looks like. Tolkien isn’t alive to protest the adaptation of his work and Amazon has the rights so Amazon’s show is free to do whatever it wants.

What this boils down to is race-swapping characters, which is a practice I have no problem with. The problems arise when the character stops reflecting the timeless qualities set down by the author and start representing something else inserted by the showrunners.

Video:

Dame Joan Sutherland: The Mad Scene

With opera, the goal is still to reflect what the world actually looks like but that is done by changing the settings of the operas. A good example is the upcoming production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at LA Opera.

Lucia was originally set in and around a 17th Century Scottish castle. It is something of a Romeo and Juliet story with dueling families and mistaken intentions. In Lucia’s case, she is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love and betray the one she does. She goes mad and murder’s her new husband and then dies later in the opera. Her true love, Edgardo, kills himself when he learns of Lucia’s demise.

This all makes sense in the 17th Century. Feudalism was still alive and well, despite the Renaissance, and family resentments ending in violent deaths were something that happened. The qualities the characters display make sense.

This new Lucia takes place in a contemporary urban setting. It would appear that the rival families are now rival gangs. This makes sense except for the words that are coming out of the mouths of the characters. A forged letter is a key component in influencing Lucia’s decision. She is led to believe that Edgardo, who is now in France, has forgotten her and taken a new lover.

In a modern setting, Lucia would Facetime Edgardo and ask him WTF? She might actually get on a plane and go confront him in person. These aren’t options in the 17th Century. The qualities Lucia displays are inconsistent with a modern setting. It turns her into a complete idiot and the opera becomes irrelevant.

When operas are ripped out of the settings in which the composers set them, a timeless piece of art becomes an irrelevant bit of content. Opera fans are into opera, not relevance. What is relevant today is passe tomorrow.

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