Each year the UK's major opera companies receive around £65m of taxpayer's money, from a total government arts budget of around £1.1bnby Michael Bywater, Anna Picard / July 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s an appealing proposition whether or not you go to the opera. If you do, there comes that moment when you look around the audience and think “Dear God let me not be one of them.” And if you don’t, you’d reasonably think “Rich snobs; they have so much money, so why should they get mine too?” It seems simple. But it’s not. Let me deconstruct it a bit.
“Should” surely implies a moral imperative. But what sort of morality? Social? Aesthetic? Political? Or just an animal gut instinct, bile and spite and tooth and claw? All of them, I suspect. Socially, the opera audience is there to display its culture. It disdains the demotic mood of the times. Aesthetically, opera is on thin ice, too, shimmering between the crass and the sublime. No other art-form can, as in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in the scene of the rose presentation, turn two people into the quintessence of erotic desire. But it comes at the price of a hefty dollop of vulgarity and slop.
Political? Our egalitarian polity loathes the sleek men who buy the tickets, soften…