Why listen to opera?

I recently followed a number of online conversations regarding the need to bring young 1people to the fold. Most simply investigated ways to get them yougins to accept shoddy libretti or get used to warbling but some voices suggested new generations needed to completely scrape old school opera (pre 1950s, I guess). Whilst I get contemporary composers’ frustrations with having to compete with the greats from the past, I don’t know that kicking the inevitable La traviata and Le nozze out of the programme is what should be done. Just because one is young it doesn’t mean they only want to listen to contemporary sounds. Ideally war horses should coexist with new works.

But back to young people as the target. Should they be the only target? It took me a while to get into opera2, which makes me think there might be more than one reason why opera audiences are older. Maybe there are quite a few people who get into it later in life, after having spent time exploring and enjoying other genres. The reason why I turned to opera was because I got bored with contemporary sounds, so honestly, the last thing I wanted to hear in the opera house was something that resembled high brow pop music. But that’s me. Others have their reasons.


  1. operaramblings recommended Ruth Elleson to me as a very knowledgeable local opera fan so I looked her up but what with not being on Twitter, I ended up checking out her inactive blog. It’s a good read and the linked post is on this very subject. 
  2. In truth I had a pretty good intro (via famous arias and choruses) but I didn’t listen to a full opera until about 2 decades later. 
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About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on September 2, 2014, in innit? and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Hah! I got into classical music because I was bored with “high brow pop” Thing is that took place when I was about 15.

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  2. I definitely wouldn’t remove old works as a way of bringing in young listeners – I got sucked into opera around age 22 via baroque and classical instrumental/orchestral music; I am probably not the only one.

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    • Instrumental seemed a bit easier. I remember reading Ivanhoe and Robin Hood whilst listening to Beethoven 😉 now I know I should’ve listened to Donizetti! I think I was scarred for a while by Tosca, which was the only full length opera we owned. I haven’t listened to it since!

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  3. I think it genuinely takes time for people to come to opera, no matter the route. Especially if you never had it pop up during your youth in the first place. Even though I’ve had a lot of classical musical education and I grew up in the time of the 3 tenors etc, it’s only in my late 20s that I’ve approached opera more seriously, and its not like I’m liking everything, e.g. I’m still getting used to the soprano voice on recordings.

    So when people worry about the age of the opera audience, I don’t see it as necessary such a bad thing. Yes opera audiences are old (I don’t think they’re necessarily getting older) but people tend to come to it later in life. I think its appropriate that such a brilliant art form takes more experience, insight, patience and knowledge to enjoy!

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    • I think you’re right about it taking time because it’s complex. It’s such a wide genre, too, that it’s not very easy to tell what will catch your interest.

      When I was about 19-20 I decided to get a bit of culture and bought a Callas boxset. I listened to a couple of things and still nothing. I thought “if Callas doesn’t do it maybe it’s not for me”. To this day I’m not particularly enamoured of Callas. For some reason the Three Tenors also never made much an impression. Sounds hopeless, right?

      What finally did it was regie. I thought “wow, so you can do opera like that?! Let’s have more of this.” And the singing was actually neat too 😉

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      • This resonates with me and starts off a new line of thought. For decades, although I loved Mozart and Wagner and Britten and a lot of other 20th century opera I just could not get into Verdi, Puccini and bel canto. So I didn’t go to the opera much because most of what was on was the stuff I was convinced I didn’t like much. IT took a conscious effort to explore that repertoire and it still only works for me asv a theatrical experience. I can’t imagine listening to a Rossini opera on CD and a park and park Verdi production still bores me to tears.

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        • Along the same lines, I’ve enjoyed quite a number of productions of La Boheme but I’ve never had the urge to only listen to it. In regards to bel canto, two of my favourite operas in general are I Capuleti and Tancredi but I’ve not come around to a visually decent production of either yet.

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