I'll go first to get us started….
New forms of entertainment have replaced opera (too many "easy" things to compete with)
Lack of music education at a young age
The gulf between opera and the music a younger generation listens to has become too wide
Opera houses are evolving (in the wrong way)
The bar for great singing is too low
What would I do differently?
Get back to the basics - the simple things that make opera great - instead of trying to upgrade the experience with technology, etc
Great works and great singers still sell tickets. Euro-trash pop aka Las Vegas, Coney Island versions of Verdi or Mozart do not. They distort, undermine and camouflage the actual works. They do not reveal them as greater than ourselves only as trash in the opera house.
Two things are partially responsible for this. There is a general lack of music education in schools, along with changing musical tastes among younger audiences, which fosters an ever smaller market to draw from. Opera also suffers somewhat from an “elite image problem.” That was perhaps my own perception of it growing up. It was something “rich folks” attended. The cost of tickets, which can be very expensive for good seats in the house contributes to this.
Is "Hamilton" an opera? If not, why not?
An experience that I once had - opened my eyes to Opera. One cold winter morning as I arrived for work in London at Cannon Street Station, not many people around, but as the train pulled in and stopped - people got out of the carriages and were walking along the platform to exit the station, there was suddenly music and an opera singer started to sing O Mio Bambino - they were collecting for Charity. It was magical, the acoustics in the station echoed throughout, the singing made everyone stop and listen and smile and nod and appreciate and donate of course. It wasn't complicated, it wasn't heavy, it was beautiful and moving and I have never ever forgotten it and how it made me feel.
I was a backstage worker at the Houston Opera (a friend had an uncle who was the head costumer so we were both wardrobe assistants) when I was just beginning my career. Sadly at the time I had no appreciation for it. The Opera backed up to the arena, so I would look forward to the rock concerts which started 2 hours later than the Opera so that is what drew all my attention. Oddly only 3 or 4 of us did that, and we were able to stay backstage for the whole evening! Anyway now I wish I’d paid more attention. I can’t name a single Opera we worked on.
2years of Covid had not helped. We love opera particularly Puccini. We haven’t watched much opera on tv because the staging is so very boring. Opera we saw at the Royal Albert Hall was simply amazing. The staging was so innovative. Madame Butterfly for example. In the round with the floor flooded and planted like a Japanese garden. Beautiful ! Contrast that with Royal Opera House. Dull and flat. Always wanted to go there but could not afford it! Lockdown allowed s rare viewing on tv. The staging was so static so dull. Innovation is most desperately needed to attract audiences. The best performance of La Boheme was a tv recorded version from Sydney Opera House. Imaginative staging and passionate. Beautiful voices. Very emotional. Rudolpho was still shedding tears when he took his curtain call. So up to date staging is so definitely needed.
I cannot speak for others, but the total cost--not just the ticket (which I don't mind) has made going to the opera completely unaffordable. I used to get season tickets when I lived in Dallas, TX. Now, that I live North of Boston, MA the transportation and parking costs are triple the cost of good seats. I miss not going terribly.
I grew up with my Mom listening to Texaco Opera on Saturdays, every Saturday the Met broadcasted she never missed her special time. Through the sound around me I acquired a taste for opera in my early teens. I believe it’s through music education one learns and appreciates opera. In addition, the surprise performances today by singers in shoppers malls or large outdoor venues attracts the general public and can only add to wanting to learn more.
I am still new to opera but I had a friend who educated me to the delights of opera, I think that it is a lack of education at an early age. The elitist and the cost is also a problem although having said that the general cost of going to the theatre now is sadly catching up, thank goodness for excellent provincial theatres that can keep their prices low to encourage people back to the theatre, and continue bringing arts to the theatre so that we can all enjoy them and not just musicals. What really annoys me is opera singers who think they can cross over some can but a lot can't the same for our West end musical stars who think they can sing opera they can't. Please stick to your own kind. It doesn't make opera popular. Sorry rant over.
Opera is such a broad medium. I have enjoyed opera for over 50 years but I grew into it. My first experience was a demo LP with a new stereo my parents bought. It contained a few tracks from Carmen and I was hooked. As I began to look for more recording and opportunities to listen I was overwhelmed by the huge differences between composers and eras. There was one similarity though, opera is basically Eurocentric. Italian, French, German, even Russian but very little English or Spanish. Generations of immigrants from Europe drove early opera culture in the US. Our nation has always prided itself as a nation of immigrants but we now have more prominent immigration populations that are Hispanic or Asiatic in background and culture. Remarkably many of our best and future stars are coming from these populations. Is opera dead or dying? I don't think so, but it is fighting for it's niche in an ever broadening culture. I believe that opera will will find a way and new generations will see that opera has always been a reflection of society. New works are being produced each year that are mirrors to the culture we live. Opera will adjust.
My father was an opera lover, even though he played sax and clarinet in college. Sunday mornings he would play an aria. "Geez, Dad!" was our response. But the seeds were planted.
Living in South Dakota you had to go to Minneapolis to hear a traveling opera company. Luckily, Mitchell, SD had great school music programs (50's and 60's). We need to interest kids in their formative years. I loved musicals (undergraduate degree in theatre) but never got close to an opera ... until I visited Vienna. I was able to secure a job and go "stehplatz" at the Staatsoper. Opera over there is/was a national sport. It took about 6 or 7 operas until I got hooked. It was "Maria Stuarda". The scene: Agnes Baltsa and Edita Gruberova circling one another on stage. What amazing voices. At any rate, opera is alive and well in southeastern SD. USD has an opera program which some people think are bringing in great students. It's a great staff. We even have a counter tenor who will be performing in"Alcina" April 30 and May 1st. You can wear jeans to these productions!
As a society we have abandoned tje standards of artistic criticism. Where is Aristotle when we need him? In short popular singers have no concept of vocal mechanics/standards nor any desire to learn same. All of the allusions by Michele Serro have contributed to this erosion of appreciation and unfortunately I see no way out of the wasteland. Just listen to the star spangled banner at any live sporting event and cringe
Well being Gen X myself, thank goodness for Bugs Bunny.