Opera tradition

by Barry Drogin

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As something of a conservative (perhaps even a reactionary), I want to stick up for the musical tradition that constitutes opera. Opera houses may be huge institutions preserving a dead tradition, but it is in some way MY tradition, and I am always learning from Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Sullivan, Puccini, Britten and Salzman what works and why in setting words to music within a dramatic context. I don't think I'd get anywhere near the information I need from a score, a recording or a video. So I'm glad opera houses still exist. Eric and I (and many members of this list) are very interested in using a different voice in a different size house than what has evolved as "opera" --- in many ways it is a reactionary view, trying to return to 16th and 17th century roots. There was a lot of talk a few years back about major houses opening up additional smaller spaces for just this kind of work, as an economic way to keep their roster employed, experiment with older works and give newer works a hearing. I first found out about Lukas at an Opera America panel discussion on "Small Scale Opera", and from my seat told the audience, a diverse group of music directors hungry for knowledge, that a small work wasn't a big work produced in a small-scale way, but an entity in its own right. I used the analogy of the New York Philharmonic forming "ensembles" to play pieces like Stravinsky's "Soldier's Tale".

I am in no way against creators from the world of pop, rock, Euro-pop, jazz, new age, American musical theatre or whereever writing operas and participating in this list --- more power to everyone, and I hope I can learn something from you! But let's not totally disparage the work of those who have come before and dealt with the same issues we have dealt with.

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A Musical Contrarian 1999-2007 rights@notnicemusic.com

Last Updated: August 4, 2007