As little children, we are taught that certain naughty words are not to be said, and they become coined with terms such as “The F Word” and “The S Word”. These are the words you were never allowed to say, and so would whisper them under your breath with a sense of rebellion. Well, we have a new naughty word for you: “The O Word”. I bet a number of different words come to your mind, right? Ours is probably what you were least expecting.
Opera. You know, opera? Featuring fat ladies breaking glass with their voice, whilst dying dramatically on stage of some disease that doesn’t exist?
Yeah, that’s the genre. Except… it’s not. It’s not at all. Opera has become victim to the biggest game of Chinese Whispers ever played and so instead of being left in it’s original form, we have a bunch of stereotypes that not only confuse people, but disgust people. As a young opera student, I feel obligated to bring it back to its original form and speak the truth and nothing but the truth. So here it goes…
Opera is an old art form, spanning nearly 400 years old. It was originally written for people with money, back in the day when people were uneducated and only the rich could afford to hire musicians, and attend a festival. Then, people become more educated and opera became more accessible to a larger audience. It was the big entertainment of the day.
Opera singers were the “Meryl Streep” and “Johnny Depp” superstars of their day. Opera was watched by many, and loved by many: the stories were relatable and the music was so glorious that it would take an audience out of the misery of the day and into this mythical world where nothing could do harm. People cried to see the incredible singers and enjoy the great shows. People loved it until then one day… When they just didn’t anymore.
And why? Was it the rise in new technology such as movie theatres? Did the diva go too far to overshadow the incredible works? Did the creation of musical theatre and jazz destroy opera? Was it that the stories were no longer relatable? And how do we bring it back to the glorious art form it once was? Do we bring it back, or do we step it into the future? Is it, like an old artist, outdated and no longer interesting?
Do you know, an opera concert with the word ‘opera’ in it, will sell less tickets than a concert without “the O word”? Opera has become a bad word. A word that makes children giggle foolishly, that adult’s will hear and wince. This vicious game of Chinese Whispers needs to come to an end. We want to put down the facts and give this wonderful art form its ‘Comeback Tour’. It may be old, but it certainly isn’t pretentious, it’s not for the rich, the singers aren’t all fat, and there isn’t a Phantom!
So what is “The O Word” really about? Only one way to find out.
Writer: Katherine Goyder