jueves, 21 de mayo de 2009

Opera in the Lark

Looks like opera is making its way around the scene again. Started as a sort of elevated popular entertainment in Italy the early 1800s, opera outpaced other entertainments and took Vienna and Paris by storm, finally turning into the highest of highbrow entertainment by the close of the century.

In fact, the form had become so elite and distanced from the popular culture that, through the verismo era, opera’s ‘golden age’ developed ‘exotic’ themes that had a kind of vérité aspect, focusing on the lower classes.

I was at the San Francisco opera recently and was surprised by the number of people who had shown up in sweatpants and jerseys – something I found shocking, and anoying. I myself was not wearing a tux; I’d dressed in sport jacket and tie. I realised that when people no longer bothered to dress for the evening, it was only a natural progression for opera itself to start to shift.

And shift it has: we are now back to the elevated popular entertainment, as opera loses some of its high-falutin’ shine. We’ve seen Opera in the Park. We’ve braved the crowds for Opera in the Ballpark. And now there’s Opera in the Moviehouse. Opera’s gone pop, as multiplexes have started showing simulcasts with all our favorite stars – and in between those broadcasts of live shows from the Met or the SF Opera, we’re able to see ‘encore’ performances – prerecorded shows directed from the booth just as the cameras are directed for the live shows.

The Lark Theater (Larkspur’s small independent) recently had a great opera program going on, and it seems that the Lark filled the seats. We’re glad about that, and we hope you are too.

After an Opening Night Gala to put people in the mood, the Lark showed a lineup to be proud of – from Strauss's Salome to Adams' mindbending Doctor Atomic, the program seemed to try to catch everything in between: Berlioz's La Damnation De Faust, Massenet's Thais, Puccini's La Rondine, Gluck's Orfeo Ed Euridice, Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor, Bellini's La Sonnambula, and Rossini's La Cenerentola. (And when are they going to revive that local story made so 'foreign' by Puccini - La Fanciulla del West [La chica del oeste o La ragazza dell'ovest]?)

At roughly thirty bucks a seat, this isn’t some lowbrow entertainment. But the actual live shows charge far more, so the cost isn’t perceived as astronomical. And, as Hollywood utters fewer films per year – by the latest figures, all studios average about a 40% drop in number of films produced (though the studios, in their need to keep putting out enough films to hold the screens, are picking up many films at festivals for at or near negative cost) – the theater chains need something to pick up the slack.

And opera’s just the thing, apparently. With the appeal of a continental background (and the exotic quality of something known but not fully understood by the mass of moviegoers), opera may be finding its place in the sun… er, or on the screen.

So what’s next, sporting events and horse races at the old Bijou?

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online: www.reeldirectory.com.

All material copyright 2008 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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