François Matarasso’s – A Restless Art – The problem with Opera

Opera is a problematic art. It’s not just the extravagant cost of producing it, or the elitist profile of its audiences; the problems are embedded in the form’s own hierarchies, and the stories that have become its canonical repertoire. The human relations they present are becoming less acceptable to society’s understanding of gender, race or class. Shakespeare’s lasting relevance lies in the ambiguity of his texts, which serve as a mirror for the changing preoccupations of different times and cultures. But opera’s stories, often subordinated to musical interests, tend to be cruder and resistant to new reading. Myths and folk tales can derive resonance from simplicity, and their archetypes are often reinterpreted, but it has proved harder to rework the 19th century prejudices of Aida, Carmen or Madama Butterfly.

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