Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seeking Young Audiences

Earlier this week, a friend of mine sent me a link to the trailer promoting LA Opera's upcoming production of The Magic Flute. The images are intriguing and I am interested in seeing the production. Take a minute and view the short trailer here

The more I thought about the production that was being advertised, the more I began to realize that LA Opera was pursuing a young audience. That's an interesting concept, so I decided to check out the rest of their upcoming season. What I found was both interesting and disturbing.

Seven operas are included in this season. Most are standards of the repertoire: Carmen, The Magic Flute, Lucia,  and Falstaff. Two lesser known works, Thais by Massenet and Billy Budd by Britten, are not totally surprising -- especially given the fact that 2013 is the centennial celebration of Britten's birth. The work that caught me totally by surprise was the revival of Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach. Forgive me, but this "changing image of opera" was bad enough the first time around! Why bring it back?

I get that visual effects and the abstract attract young audiences. I further understand that explicit sexuality draws modern audiences. (Carmen, Billy Budd, and Thais all carry a "parental discretion advised" statement.) What I'm wondering is if all of the re-imagining, explicitness, and exploration of the "unusual" is really a service or a disservice to the art form. At what point do we stop attempting to entice audience's to attend and begin to expose them to the power of music without all the bells and whistles?

I'm certain I'll be accused of being a purist and elitist. Nothing is further from the truth. I'm all for using new means of expression when they enhance the musical experience. I'm just wondering where the line is between enhancement and intrusion.

I'm an enormous fan of the work at Los Angeles Opera. I owe much of my understanding of the form to the incredible work the company has done over the years. I fully intend to see the production of The Magic Flute they are presenting this year. I am simply raising an issue that's been on my mind for some time now and was brought to the forefront as I viewed their season line up.