I (Mary) belong to quite a few different groups on LinkedIn for professionals in the performing arts. One of my favorites in the Art of Opera group. Recently I started a discussion by asking the question, “What are the best operas addressing climate change?”
The thoughtful members of this group introduced me to so many fascinating and worthy projects I’ve decided to post on them separately.
One respondent however, didn’t like the question at all, replying that “the question was irrelevant because it had nothing to do with opera.”
As others in the group jumped to my “defense”, I realized I was thankful for the comment, as it represents the point of view of many opera aficionados, and it gives me an opportunity to respond.
Here’s what I’d like to say to all those who feel this way: nobody owns opera.
Nobody has the final say on what opera is and should be. It is an evolving art form. Any art form that is required to stop growing by the experts becomes a museum artifact, a rare and expensive objet d’art, an instrument of elitism that only serves to set those who can afford to patronize it it apart from the “lower classes.”
In our operas, Ben and I try to do the exact opposite. We are giving voice to under-served populations and questions.
We are creating opera that reinterprets history in stories and music that comment on where humanity has been and where we’re going. We delight in knowing that the irreverence and iconoclasm of our “hand-stitched operas” not only keeps the art form alive, but brings it into relevance, builds new audiences, and hopefully gives strength to those whose struggles we portray. We’re part of the history and legacy of opera. If our works can inspire new generations to attend, then we’re serving not only its future, but traditional, historic and historical opera in the best way we possibly can.