A superb new history of opera argues that revivals of classic works are keeping the genre from flourishing today. Not soby Wendy Lesser / December 27, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
A caricature by Gustave Doré from the 1860s: “People who sing opera generate huge acoustic forces”
A History of Opera: The Last 400 Years
by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (Allen Lane, £30)
Opera must be one of the weirdest forms of entertainment on the planet. Its exaggerated characters bear little relation to living people, and its plots are often ludicrous. Yet it demands from its audiences real involvement, real sympathy, even real tears. Mothers constantly fail to recognise their sons, sisters their brothers, husbands their wives, but we, sitting at a distance of hundreds of metres, are expected to penetrate all the thin disguises. Women dress as men posing as women—mainly in order to make love to other women—and nobody turns a hair. And on top of all this, people sing all their lines: not in the way you or I might sing, in a lullaby-ish, folk song-ish mode, but inhumanly, extremely, with a visible awareness of their own remarkable achievement.