01. February 2008 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble

I just read this article on Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Will it be a hit on Broadway? The writer says …

My guess: It won’t happen. Though an accomplished, entertaining, musically sophisticated and dramatically uncompromising look at American culture at its freakiest, the opera (and it is an opera, more than Les Miserables) is the victim of its own ambition and passing fads.

Its real-life subject peaked years ago. Though opera is rarely concerned with being current, this one needs marketing momentum to override the risk that comes with a large, 33-member cast and the static that’s bound to greet this gleefully irreverent tour of America’s dark heart. It’s a white elephant, though an elephant, indeed, as opposed to a cheap-shot parody.

Okay … so why is it an opera? I haven’t seen nor heard it, aside from the little YouTube clips that I tried to watch. (Not my cuppa … not even close.) But when a writer says something is an opera but doesn’t give any clue as to why I want to scream. Well. Sort of. (I’m not a screamer, actually.)

I’ve often wondered what makes an opera an opera and a musical a musical. Some say it has to do with microphones (I heard that said on an NPR show once; that was the only difference the scholar who was speaking gave, and he was adamant about it. He was from the opera world. He came across as a snob. I was bugged.). But the microphone explanation is just silly, if you ask me. (He was saying this because of Baz Luhrmann’s La Boheme which was coming out at the time. He was clearly mightily opposed to it.) Some say it has to do with spoken dialogue (a musical has it, an opera doesn’t), but then you have to put The Magic Flute and Carmen into musical territory, among others, and Les Mis, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar into opera. I prefer not to do that. Is it more about the singers? Style? Tons of vibrato and size of singers? (Well, that’s changing, isn’t it?) Is it about where it’s performed (meaning Sweeney Todd is a musical when done on Broadway and an opera when done in an opera hall?). Is it whatever the composer deems it?

I really do puzzle over this. Although, in all honesty, it probably doesn’t matter at all. But better to puzzle over things that don’t matter, I guess. Then if I get it wrong, who cares? ;-)

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