While in the theater, you hear snippets of conversations. While watching Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of Light in the Piazza, I overheard the following: “Where is the Bathroom? How long is intermission? Did you know Jill left Andy for another man?!” But over the hum of the Eastman Opera Theatre Orchestra tuning, I heard the five little words every aspiring classical vocalist shudders to hear: “Opera is a dying art.”
If you do a quick internet search on opera audiences, it all seems like doom and gloom for the opera stage…. Or does it? A study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts reported that the average adult that attends at least one classical music performance in the past year has dropped from 11.6 % to 8.8% from 2002-2012, and 3.2% to 2.1% for opera.
However, most news sources that give that statistic fail to report that opera audiences have actually remained stable from 2008-2012. (Here's the link to the actual data report, taboot)
One example of how opera is staying relevant in the Rochester community was the recent success of Bravo Nights at the Little Theatre Café. Three local singers, Maria Vasilevskaya (Mezzo-Soprano), Shaya Greathouse (Mezzo-Soprano), and Kurt Griffen (Tenor), organized by the Opera Guild of Rochester put on a casual, free to the public performance that did not disappoint.
To women pretending to be men dressing as women (yes, you read that correctly):
The performers put on a show that combined fantastic vocal acrobatics depicting vivid stories for a full house. This has now been the second sold out performance of Bravo Nights, with another event scheduled for late September.
Opera isn’t dying, but rather it's expanding. It is experiencing the awkward, uncomfortable growing pains of fitting a fast-paced, image-driven world, but that doesn't mean it can’t keep up. With the continued success and outreach through programs like Met HD showing operas on the big screen across the world, groups like the Eastman School of Music/Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra collaboration OrKIDStra, a yearly no-more-than-an-hour-long opera for children now on its second year, to modernized productions of operas teaching an old dog new tricks like the Metropolitan Opera's recent production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte set in Cony Island with a full team of circus performers and live animals, opera is hitting the ground sprinting towards its future.
Tl;dr: To the people I overheard in Kodak Hall…. Opera isn’t dead, it’s going through puberty.