Q.: What is it?
A.: Just Like Classical Ballett, A European Art Form
"Opera is the European art form par excellence, because it overcomes national and linguistic barriers through the universal language of music. Its core values and themes are central to European culture, which is part of our common identity. For this reason, the European Opera Days are celebrated on the weekend closest to 9 May, Europe Day.
Over time Opera has become an emblem of European culture. Its creation and performance are a prime focus of a nation’s cultural identity, but one which communicates internationally. An opera house belongs to its own town and region, but it is visible to the world."
Q.: What's at it's core?
A.: The Aria
"Tom Sutcliffe has a long pedigree when it comes to opera. He was hooked at the age of four. It's given him plenty of time to fathom what it is that makes this theatrical form impinge so powerfully. He argues that while it might seem grand, flamboyant, passionate and overtly emotional, when you look more closely it's the intimacy of it that counts.
The aria, and Tom believes these are at its core, is a confessional form. It might be launched into a huge auditorium with gut-busting zeal and massive vocal projection, but what it does is to open the character's emotions up to the audience by way of the music. The music, the singing, is everything, and it's why the aria, which Tom believes is opera's version of the cinematic close-up, is so important.
There are plenty of other elements that contribute. Relevance in setting and substance can be too slavishly observed but they matter as well. Laced with his recollections of the good and the bad in his many years as a critic, Tom makes the case for opera by going beyond the usual cliche's and enthusiasms for grandeur and beauty."
Q.: Is it "for the masses" and 'all that important'?
A.: Well... Just read this:
How I fell out of love with opera
"I've been writing about opera for about a decade now, and over the years, as I've watched one companion after another's eyes glaze over, or close gently, during a show, I have begun to wonder: what if I'm wrong about this? What if it actually is all rubbish, self-indulgent, glittery, adolescent, incontinent, with a vastly inflated view of its own importance? Can opera ever be more than a diversion for people with too much money and too little taste? And was it ever intended to be, anyway?
You hardly need me to tell you that opera is pretty stupid. Ask the audience: plenty of them will tell you the same – if you can get them to wake up. Is there any other form of entertainment so frequented by people who do not like it? This notion – that opera is not actually all that much fun – is hardly new; that's why it comes all dollied up in red velvet, snobbery, fancy dress and vats of alcohol – sops to the considerable sections of the audience who are there for reasons not associated with aesthetic pleasure: the socially ambitious, the conspicuous spenders, those trying to beguile clients or spouses or potential mistresses.
The opera festival is the ne plus ultra of this: an affair where the supposed main event is actually a sideshow to a rigmarole of Issey Miyake shawls, mud-caked mules, champagne and salmon on the lawn. Opera's apologists and the publicity departments of state-funded houses will tell you that it isn't really like that at all, that opera is an art form for the people, that there is no class or age barrier, that indeed the audience are almost entirely first-timers, all under 30, as diverse as the day is long. Five minutes' research will tell you the facts: 6% of the adult population has been to an operatic event of some sort. As a reward for this, 11% of the arts council's entire funding is awarded to opera – and more than 90% of that goes to the national companies, who between them put on fewer than half of the opera performances in the country.
You will sometimes hear people say opera was intended as an entertainment for the masses, and it is true that at certain periods in 19th-century Italy it seems to have been immensely popular with all classes (or at least all classes that were worth mentioning, which may not be exactly the same thing). Your Italian bourgeois was presumably no more keen than any other nation's on hanging out with the unwashed. In any event, opera was about the closest thing the country had then to a mass media, a phenomenon put to good use by Giuseppe Verdi, who used his operas as a means of promoting the cause of Italian unity.
Nonetheless, this was an aberration. Opera was created in the late 16th century as entertainment for the rich, and for most of its history has remained just that. Whenever it has threatened to become too popular, its plutocratic patrons have done everything in their power to stop it: in 1733, the Prince of Wales set up his own company, tellingly named Opera of the Nobility, to rival Handel's company when that was thought to be getting a bit common; and you don't have to think nearly that far back to remember outbreaks of horror at Covent Garden over relaxations in codes of dress and deportment, and regular contumely is still thrown at directors who threaten to do anything interesting with their shows, or open them up in any way to people not already profoundly versed in the arcana of opera.
Operatic beginnings owed everything to ancient Greece and young men prancing about with enormous flapping leather phalluses. These Dionysiac roots soon gave way to something altogether more puritanical, so that by the 19th century, far from being a celebration of the anarchic power of sex, opera was mostly concerned with killing off women in big dresses who transgressed against the terrifically hypocritical, misogynistic mores of the time."
Aria by Grover Washington Jr.
Burrice e/ou Ignorancia, Ou Seria o Contrario?