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!