Does opera, or any other ‘difficult’ art form, by definition need to be held to different standards of accessibility than popular culture?
This week’s Institute of Ideas podcast, Opera: are we all invited?, was recorded at a Battle of Ideas international satellite at the Hellenic American Union in Athens, Greece, on September 23. The session asked whether opera will always be the preserve of a cultural elite, or, should it instead be open for all to engage with? Does opera have to be less accessible than lighter forms of entertainment by virtue of being ‘high culture’? And if so, is this inaccessibility a problem? In recent years there have been many attempts to make opera more accessible and relevant to the broader public, but in this session the Institute of Ideas’ Dolan Cummings argues that while opera should be for everyone, the fact that engaging with opera can at times be difficult is what elevates it above other forms of musical theatre. To dumb it down in the hope of attracting greater audiences would be to do a disservice both to opera and the public. But how does contemporary opera fit in with this? Are productions like the Royal Opera House’s current production of Anna Nicole, which deals with modern celebrity culture, part of the tendency to dumb down, or, are they fit to join the ranks of Verdi and Wagner’s masterpieces. Could such works one day come to be considered classics too?
Listen to the podcast in full below and don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly podcasts on iTunes to receive a mix of the latest Battle of Ideas sessions and some of the most thought provoking discussions from over the last ten years of the festival.
This discussion is just one of the many Battle of Ideas international satellite events happening across Europe and the United States between now and November 7. Read the full roster of international satellites.
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