JUNE 13, 15, 17, 19 (M), 21, 23
COMPOSER Unsuk Chin
LIBRETTIST David Henry Hwang
DIRECTOR James Robinson
CONDUCTOR Michael Christie
ALICE Ashley Emerson
CHESHIRE CAT Tracy Dahl
“A wonderous new work... As colorful as a look through a kaleidoscope.” – The Los Angeles Times
MAKE ST. LOUIS YOUR DESTINATION THIS JUNE TO BELIEVE SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS— IN UNDER TWO HOURS.
WELLS FARGO ADVISORS 2012 FESTIVAL SEASON CARMEN | SWEENEY TODD | COSÌ FAN TUTTE ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2012 Season presenting sponsor BACK TO THE FUTURE
By the Editor
Small wonder in such uncertain times, but at the moment everyone seems to be talking about the future of opera. In late March, The Australian newspaper hosted a roundtable discussion at its Sydney headquarters posing the question: ‘where to for opera in the 21st century?’. Ranging widely, the panel—including such straight-talkers as Opera Australia’s Lyndon Terracini and Opera Queensland’s Lindy Hume—looked at everything from the global issues of advances in technology and the engagement with new audiences to specific questions regarding Australian repertoire. A transcript of that discussion on the newspaper’s website (www.theaustralian.com.au) makes interesting reading.
Closer to home, Opera Europa held its spring conference in Lyon under the banner of ‘Sustainability at what price?’, and though Gerard Mortier sent a sicknote, forcing his contribution off the agenda, most of the discussions flowed naturally from Nicholas Payne’s admonition, ‘do not waste the chance of a good crisis’. Once again, new media and ways of relating to a wider public were recurring themes. One of the keynote speakers was Diane Ragsdale, an American cultural economist based in the Netherlands, whose ‘Opera as a sustainable art form’ paper raised parallels with the natural world and warned of the dangers—if not the impossibility—of resisting evolution. Reminding us that if we prevent forest fires we disrupt the eco-system forever, she asked whether we spend too much time or money protecting systems—in this case failing companies or even outmoded attitudes— that might otherwise die, and questioned whether we are sustaining institutions rather than the art itself. Paradoxically enough, one can’t have sustainability (and therefore life) without renewal (death); but how does that help the current debate in, say, the Netherlands, where the government seems to have decided to support the larger institutions at the expense of smaller ones? And will short-term strategies for survival not make companies less worthy of survival in the long term? Perhaps rightly and inevitably, the Lyon conference raised more questions than it answered, yet it’s hard to see too many of the opera bosses present there rushing back home to turn everything upside down. After all, the subsidies they get— and mostly deserve—do encourage the maintenance of the status quo.
In the US, where in place of subsidies the companies rely on private funding to keep afloat, the financial crisis has had a particularly grim effect on opera houses. So expect much soul-searching at next month’s Opera America conference in Philadelphia, optimistically entitled ‘Creative Resurgence’. If it is true that—as Opera America claims—‘a wave of creativity is sweeping the operatic field as economic challenges and social change compel a rethinking of conventions’, then perhaps this crisis won’t have been wasted after all.
News from ENO makes one wonder about future directions there: Sir Peter Bazalgette is succeeding Sir Vernon Ellis as chairman. After two terms under the generous and civilized Ellis, who steadied a company left reeling by his predecessor Martin Smith, ENO may have to get used to a different style. Bazalgette, the ‘reality TV’ mogul who imported Big Brother to the UK, is generally credited with having downgraded British culture—promoting, as the Guardian has put it, ‘a televisual tranquilizer, administered from the top table of British society, down to the TV diners at the bottom’. He is also said to be a leading contender for chairmanship of Arts Council England, which itself nodded his ENO appointment through. If he gets it, won’t ‘Baz’ face eviction from his own house?
Opera, May 2012