Athena, springing from the head of Zeus
O, would that we could all spring from the head of Zeus, fully formed in battle armor, like the goddess Athena. (No wonder Zeus had the mother of all headaches.)
Alas, real-life intervenes for the fully mortal. We have to learn to sit up before we can crawl, crawl before we can walk, walk before we can run.
No matter what the art (or craft) pursued, most of us need training to realize our potential. The harder it is to realize mastery, the more time and training it takes.
I can think of few art forms in which students need more layers of study and development than in opera performance. Even for those who can naturally warble a few resonant notes, singing for three hours or more, several times a week often in foreign languages, considering also all the stamina, technique and vocal gymnastics that opera scores require of their singers, demands a level of vocal fitness that can take years to attain.
That’s why my blood boils when I hear comments like, “I’m an opera snob,” as one person told my friend unapologetically. “That company is third-rate,” he continued, referring to a regional house, adding that he refused to patronize them any longer.
My god. Even the sports world (and every other discipline) understands the value of the apprenticeship and how important local offerings are to the quality of life in smaller cities and towns–be they sporting events, cultural events, visual arts, lectures, whatever. Major league ball clubs use farm teams to develop talent. One of the greatest Philadelphia Phillies to play the game, Mike Schmidt, played for their farm team, the Reading Phillies before he hit the big leagues.
In the same way, regional opera companies help develop tomorrow’s students. What? Accomplished opera singers don’t spring from the heads of opera gods, fully formed? No, they don’t. And only a dolt would fail to see the connection between offering live opera performance outside of US major cultural centers and the profileration and growth of the art form.
” . . . I believe that regional opera houses play a central role in the development of opera in America. They provide performing venues for the stars of tomorrow, and they provide a rich cultural experience for communities that they serve.”
–Dr. Todd Queen, from the blog Operagasm, on “The Importance of Regional Opera”
Some of the most memorable productions I’ve ever seen weren’t necessarily shows on Broadway. There are few community theatre productions that loom large in my memory for their freshness, artistic vision, and execution. They featured selected performances by *gasp* non-professionals so well hewn, they’ll stay with me forever.
There’s no guarantee that one will have a spectacular experience with regional theater or regional opera. At the same, neither should you assume you’re going to see perfection at the Met, La Scala, or any other world-class venue you can name.
“It is sad how many people are in positions of importance in opera who don’t know whether or not the singing is beautiful until they see the singer’s name.”
I have no tolerance for opera snobs and others who expect perfection from live performance. If you want perfection, go listen to an overproduced CD where they had to do twenty to thirty takes to get the high quality you think you deserve.