Opera in America seeks to avoid a swan-song moment

The Metropolitan Opera House’s “Sputnik” chandeliers. Photo: Paula Soler-Moya, Flickr creative commons.

The Metropolitan Opera House’s “Sputnik” chandeliers. Photo: Paula Soler-Moya, Flickr creative commons.

Who knew that opera’s story is, in some ways, a mirror of America?
Its most hallowed hall, the Met in New York, remains an icon of an elite art form.
But to thrive elsewhere, opera might need to find a more common touch. — Mark.

NEW YORK, NY — The Christian Science Monitor published the following in The 30 Sec. Read. Written by Weston William.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera finished its 2016-17 season on a high note: Its May broadcast of “Der Rosenkavalier” was seen by a vast global audience. And that same month the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary in its Lincoln Center home.

But offstage things were less celebratory. Although opera lovers argue that performance standards have never been higher, ticket sales are lagging, as is the enthusiasm of American audiences.

Opera is struggling, says Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, as it transitions “from an aging audience to a new one.” That’s why, across the United States, some opera companies are turning to smaller-scale, more unusual works that address the problems of the modern world, productions like Philip Glass’s “The Perfect American,” based on the life of Walt Disney.

At its best, opera draws on something universal that does not alter with time or trends, says Douglas Clayton, general director of Chicago Opera Theater. “[A]s long as we’re human beings … we will still have this desire to connect with other people, and to be creative about how we do that.”

I am intrigued by the idea of Philip Glass’s “The Perfect American.” Hmmm.

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