Review Friday: Catch Up on Opera Today

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Every Friday, Polina Lyapustina delivers a short essay on some of the industry’s most essential topics with the aim of establishing a dialogue about the world of opera and its future.

After going from constantly looking for updates on pandemic updates to having the seamless freedom to attend events, we could easily miss that October is already here. October means summer is over and most opera companies will be opening their seasons soon.

Before the pandemic, we would never miss the reopening as we knew the season’s schedules in advance, having all the exciting events marked in our calendars and pre-order subscriptions.

Normally I would have booked all my flights and hotels all over Europe by Christmas by now, with the usual first fantasy in Paris in October, Jonas Kaufmann in Munich in November, the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo right after and something new just before Christmas.

But now… what I used to call my usual opera routine, which I enjoyed so much every fall, has turned to dust. And all I could do, coming back from my recent vacation, was look around (the World Wide Web) with my eyes wide open.

And suddenly what I saw was far from anything I had written about all year.

The Metropolitan Opera opened a new season this week with a historic premiere of the first opera in its 138-year history created by a black composer. He certainly caused a sensation not only for the mastery of the work itself and its staging, but also for the way he expressed the possibilities that new operas and new subjects can open for the world of music. ‘opera. On the following night, the company further asserted its strength by opening Stephen Wadsworth’s acclaimed production of “Boris Godunov”. What an enviable diversity of repertoire, I wanted to see.

At the same time, smaller and larger businesses across the United States have started their seasons. Some opened with old productions, while others created whole new pieces. Still others began with concerts. Few have decided to stick with the online strategy that paid off last season, even though Chicago’s Haymarket Opera opened with a new filmed production of “Orlando” featuring a grand combo of vocals from Bejun Mehta. and reading the score by Craig Trompeter, which is certainly one thing. Do not miss.

Meanwhile, large European companies are also making noise. The Paris Opera is staging its two theaters. Teatro Real Madrid and Teatro Maggio Fiorentino feel like they never left and have now started a full season program. La Scala organizes lyrical events almost daily. The ROH invites its friends and guests to many extracurricular events, while the Bayerische Staatsoper takes gold with featured performers and conductors in its diverse program.

Everyone went back to their familiar style, as you can see. But many valuable events in Europe take place in the smaller areas where local theaters are slowly resuming their activity with unforeseen events – educational activities, mini-festivals and dedications to those who have left. No one can guarantee or maintain their long term plans, yet they are doing what they can do now.

The only place where the influence of the pandemic is very noticeable is Australia, where due to new restrictions the season has again been postponed. But has opera disappeared across the continent? I do not think so.

This sad fact only suggests that the industry is greatly affected by outside influences. For Australia, that means the industry will need support to survive another wave of the pandemic. But art, as we now see it returning to stages around the world, will remain and I would say, not only will remain but will progress.

New subjects and perspectives can be expected to follow the brilliant path of Terence Blanchard & Kasi Lemmons’ “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” on smaller and larger stages. The empty space and free time, glorified by baritone and educator Holger Falk, have been very fruitful for the authors.

And when we expected to see how the ranks of the artists noticeably cleared, we couldn’t predict how many of them would come back after the hiatus to sate their passion and thirst for art. And how many of those who find new roles will appreciate them as if it was the first time. Recently, I’ve seen few complaints about long rehearsals, and opera Instagram accounts are filled with joy and adoration for the work of stagehands, designers, and makeup artists. Is it a short-term euphoria, you ask? May be. But I would say it’s the missing ingredient in every artist’s life.

The pandemic is still here, but this fall we have an exclusive chance to open the opera seasons to a pandemic world. To see the art that we have missed so much… And to understand that it is alive (perhaps more alive than before) is incredible.

Most of the remaining issues are the issues of particular players in the industry game. But do they matter now? Now when you go back to your favorite room do you think of them? Music and art are not yet absorbed by these economic, political and social issues. And that’s why we don’t see them. The industry has given so much control over art to third-party players, but now, by reopening our beloved art, we had to work together for it. And every result I see or read so far is a pure masterpiece.

They will come. These problems and their guardians. We will talk about them again. But now open your eyes, ears, heart and enjoy the whole opera industry working in the name of art, not the other way around.

What a beautiful sight.


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