Is Less More in Opera?

Opera Naked, Photo by: Robert Workman

“Opera Naked.” Photo Credit: Robert Workman

I found this article intriguing (and, Lynn Binstock, I would love to give you a forum to talk about this more here on Selling Out), but I’m not sold on the basic premise.

Of course, a show (like a company) can have so many resources that it wastes them, or even allow a surplus of resources to blind them, but it doesn’t follow that removing resources makes something more appealing. In the article, Lynn says that her stripped-down and open-hearted show Opera Naked is “my love letter to singers and to the form itself.” Undoubtedly so, but the question I would pose is whether something like this is truly a way to develop a new audience, or more like a retention tool for those who, like Ms. Binstock (and me, incidentally) are already in love with the form.

Opera’s a great genre of live entertainment, but I think there’s ample evidence to suggest that opera done big and well is quite good at delivering new audiences. Perhaps it can be done small and well and do the same; in fact, I’m sure it can.

Where this line of thinking loses me (and again, I’d love to dig into this deeper) is the notion that if opera is somehow purer of heart, it will find success. This kind of thinking can lead to a purist’s delusion about sincerity, when what matters is whether what gets put on the stage works for audiences or not, and that’s the measuring stick that determines whether they show up the first time or come back again.

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