Don’t Myth a Thing: 10 Opera Myths Debunked

Friday 30 March 2018

What is it that puts people off of opera? Is it the price, the accessibility…? Let’s set this record straight, and debunk the 10 most common myths about opera…

1. ‘Opera is Expensive’
I have done my research on this, and a ticket to the opera is usually no more than a ticket to go and see a musical theatre production, or even a classical music concert. Ticket prices can range vastly, and there are some fantastic promotional prices for students, concessions, and season ticket holders. Below are some examples:

English Touring Opera: offer tickets from as little as £10 on our national tour.

English National Opera: ‘Access All Arias’ Young People’s Scheme offer tickets from £10
Opera Holland Park: Free tickets for young peopleOpera North: Under 30s Membership Scheme offer tickets from £10

2. ‘I won’t understand it, I don’t know any foreign languages’
Nearly all opera productions now use surtitles to help their audiences in engaging with the languages used in opera. Surtitles are projected above the opera, so that the sung text can be understood in languages other than what it is composed in. Even if the opera is in English, most opera productions utilise surtitles so that not a moment is missed by the audience.

La Calisto (2016) © Jane Hobson
La Calisto (2016) © Jane Hobson

3. ‘I have to dress up to go to the opera’
Just do you! Wear whatever you like to the opera, as long as you’re comfortable, that’s the main thing. You will see so many different types of people attending opera. Dress up to the opera, by all means; but this is not obligatory.

4. ‘Opera is all serious’
Absolute myth. Opera can come in so many different forms, including:

Comedy (Opera Buffa): Mozart’s The Marriage of FigaroSerious (Opera Seria): Mozart’s IdomeneoPolitical: Verdi’s Don CarlosHistorical: John Adams’ The Death of KlinghofferThese are only the start of how many different themes opera can cover. Find your interests and what you think will suit you, and book yourself in to seeing an opera!

5. ‘Opera is very old, so isn’t relevant to me’
Wrong. Opera takes many forms, and because of this there is at least one thing you can most likely relate to in an opera. Many operas deal with the issue of love, which comes with so many sub-themes, including jealousy, lust, and heartbreak. Although some plots may seem far-fetched, their core themes are no different to those from your favourite blockbuster films!

Don Giovanni (2016) © Richard Hubert Smith
Don Giovanni (2016) © Richard Hubert Smith

6. ‘Opera is boring’Now this is a very subjective statement. Yes, some may find opera boring, and that’s absolutely fine! But, at the same time, opera can offer so much musically, dramatically, and production-wise. So much can happen in one production, that it is sure to please a majority of people.

7. ‘Opera is only for older people’
Opera is for everybody – period. There is no cap on art, especially music. Look around you at an opera production, you will see a range of people there, from teenagers, to people who are much older!

8. ‘Opera is elitist’
When the first opera houses opened in Venice, in the 1630s, opera was attended by everyone, and tickets were kept quite cheap, so it is only more recently that it’s acquired this elitist label. English Touring Opera tour extensively each year, so that everybody has the chance to go and see an opera live, for an affordable price. Everybody is welcome at the opera!

9. ‘Operas are always so long’
Sometimes true. Some operas can be long, but so can films, musicals and other art events. Similar to musicals, opera offers intervals, so that the production is easier to digest. English Touring Opera’s production of Puccini’s Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi are only one act each, and last around 50 minutes.

10. ‘All opera sounds the same’
Absolute myth. Programme notes are given to audiences to aid with the story, the language barriers, and the production choices. Opera has evolved over 400 years, so many things have changed, such as instruments and compositional style. It is impossible to say that a Mozart opera sounds the same as an opera by John Adams. Opera music comes in all shapes and sizes, with overtures, entracts, arias, and recitatives all adding to the musical mastery of operas.

©Alex Burns 2018
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