Much food for thought (comments/questions from the article author in bold):
- “For starters, one should know that opera performances weren’t always the stuffy, solemn engagements they are today. They were social events in which ticket holders were free to eat, talk, and move about, and paying attention to the stage was optional.” EE: This doesn’t mean that I want to go to the MET and have people milling about and talking during the performance. But it does mean we can keep asking ourselves how we want people to be able to relate to each other at events.
- “In what ways is opera thriving and in what ways is it in crisis?” EE: This question absolutely hits the nail on the head when it comes to all of the larger “classical music” field. Aspects of the larger classically-rooted music profession are in crisis; others are indeed thriving. Some symphony orchestras (see LA Phil, Cincinnati, etc.) are doing fantastically well, while others (Indianapolis, Minnesota, St. Paul, etc.) are facing crises worthy of a Richard Nixon memoir.
- “Earlier you mentioned that there are more young people at opera performances as compared to the symphony or string quartets. Why? (Abbate:) It’s partly that opera isn’t just music. It’s also a visual and theatrical experience. I have teenaged sons, and I ask, “What’s the difference between a [popular music] concert and the opera?” They say the difference is at the opera you have to be quiet and you can’t move.” EE: We see more and more individuals and ensembles embracing the visual and theatrical aspects of performances. There is always a visual and theatrical element, whether we are aware of it or not. Concert performances can be more engaging in these dimensions in ways that enhance the art, not cheapen it.
Whole interview is well worth reading, and I am going to get the book, too!