Downtown Eugene

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Opera in context

I'm listening to Mozart's Don Giovanni on the radio ... I've posted this before: we see these performances today in a form completely unlike their original one. they were written for halls where people were meeting for lunch & cards & drinking, and so the writer was really struggling to get the audience's attention. If opera seems repetitive and drawn-out today, it's not because people's tastes have changed ... but because the performance context is so different.

Look at the popular revival of some of Shakespeare's original context, from London to Ashland, and you can see that in the right setting, these shows can be massively popular again.

So, imagine, today, an opera house in the 18th-century style. It doesn't need to particularly look 18th-century, but it needs to have balconies and siderooms and interesting twisting passages for all kinds of social activities, from cards to weight-lifting to sex. I think you wouldn't be able to keep people out of the place.

I'm guilty of starting a Tango Center that's somewhat out of its original context -- no drinking. "Either kids or drinks" is the choice we have in the US today. It seemed like an all-ages dancehall was needed more than a drinking-hole for dancing. But we've still created a place where you go to do something, not just sit and watch performers. That's what's missing from most performance space today.