Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

A Dying Art

August 25, 2006


This week I opened up my mail to the latest Opera News or as I like to think of it - The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Monthly Advertising Supplement. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I'm glad to get it. However, seeing this month's cover brought on that opera-is-definitely-dying-now feeling. I mean, with a new American opera season about to begin across the country and this being the issue with “The Smartest Ticket Choices for 2006-2007” - the editors felt the best lead was a feature on the Met’s opening Butterfly?

Apparently the state of opera is such that a “smart” ticket permits one access to an essentially borrowed production of an over-preformed piece marshaled by a down-on-his-luck-in-Hollywood director who brings that missing Amsterdam brothel ambience to early 20th Century Japan. Just what the doctor ordered for a gala season opener.

Sure, the Guild has every right to push this season’s product in their own advertising supplement. And god bless ‘em if Minghella’s uncanny Billy-Corrigan-circa-’95 look fills those seats. But am I the only one who finds the accompanying article’s spin that this somewhat retooled affair is supposedly now a “co-production” or that (even more patronizingly) its ENO predecessor was an “out-of town” opening a bit strange?

Now I’ll admit my bias. Butterfly is easily my least favorite of the major works in the repertoire. I could probably sit through every half-baked Figaro from here ‘till – well, whenever - before sitting through Butterfly again. Nonetheless, I don’t think the heavy advertising and suggested importance of this production is a good omen for a healthy art. I could go on but I think I’ve ranted enough for now.

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