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The Opera Stereotypes Alphabet by Dr Barbara Eichner

At the end of our recent conference Beyond Black Tie and Bubbly: Rescuing Opera from Stereotypes, I tried to kick off the general, final discussion with the following ‘alphabet’ that unites beloved buzzwords, common clichés and time-honoured tropes.

A         is for accessibility: opera is more accessible today thanever before in its history – something that’s easily forgotten

B         is for bums on seats: the bottom line of the impresario

C         is for crossover: way forward or cul-de-sac?

D         is for dumbing down: the pet hateof the conservative establishment

E         is for education: can we be taught to love opera?

F          is for fan base: who are they, and what keeps them happy?

G         is for government funding: predictably enrages ‘the taxpayer’, though considerably lower than in many other European countries

H         is for HD Cinema Broadcast: currently the Holy Grail in reaching audiences beyond the opera house

I          is for impact: the persistent need to prove that opera and opera studies are relevant to society

J          is for journalists: is it them who won’t let the clichés die?

K         is for Katherine Jenkins: you know, the opera singer (or is it ‘opera singer’?)

L         is for luxury: see also class

M        is for marketing: hype, hype, hype

N         is for new audiences: what’s wrong with the old ones?

O         is for outreach to ‘ordinary people‘: the group that allegedly would never go to the opera

P          is for privilege: see also class

Q         is for quality versus quantity

R         is for Royal Opera House versus Royal Variety Show

S          is for sexing it up: see also dumbing down

T          is for taste: is opera an expensive acquired taste?

U         is for Unterhaltungsmusik: indeed, opera was and is still part of that

V         is for Victorian popular opera: when did opera stop to be enjoyed by the many in seaside resorts, music halls and brass band concerts?

W        is for working class: does it make some people feel apologetic about liking opera?

X         is for X-Factor: plenty of opera there, but is it the ‘real thing’?

Y         is for Why do we worry about operatic stereotypes?

Z          is for …

… at this point the discussion took over, and a long, spirited and fruitful discussion it was!

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