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Opera: The Strangest Art

Opera certainly is odd, if taken at face value:

The formal rules disguise the strangeness. The unnatural is successfully passed off as routine.

It is to Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker’s credit that in their new book,A History of Opera: The Last 400 Years, they notice all this. Despite their evident love of their subject, they are willing to acknowledge up front that, “the whole business is in so many ways fundamentally unrealistic, and can’t be presented as a sensible model for leading one’s life or understanding human behaviour.”

The writers of West Side Story thought the same thing as the creators of opera did: that by integrating music, poetry, and stage acting, they could create the apex of Western performance art.  Also like grand opera, it competed with and eventually replaced shows coming out of the German songspiel tradition, with spoken dialog punctuated by songs.

Posted in Culture, Music.