I recently read an article by Fred Plotkin, who is considered to be a foremost expert on opera, regarding the "relevancy" of opera (you can and should read this article here). This is a topic that comes up with alarming frequency. I am not sure why those who love opera, including yours truly, feel that they must constantly prove its relevancy, but this article succinctly speaks to this.
At TVOP, we intend to bring new and rarely done works to Vermont and we intend to do so not only because there is a marvelous surplus of new work, but because I believe firmly that there are plenty of other opera companies who do the standard repertory much better than we could on our lean resources. It saddens me to think that there are some who think they need to ignore that operatic canon and question the relevance of the works of Verdi, Mozart, or Puccini. Granted some works are a product of their time, but that does not mean that they are not relevant in our time. As Mr. Plotkin states in his article: "Relevance, “relatability” or believability in opera is not the problem, but rather the aesthetic values and expectations many people who don’t know opera try to impose on it."
Lately, my husband and I have been binge watching "24" (we admit we are a bit behind the times in TV land). For those who have never watched it, it follows a day in the life of a federal agent Jack Bauer as he tries to protect the US from terrorists; each episode is considered one hour of that day for a 24 hour period. Now "24" had an 8 season run starting in 2001 long before binge watching was a thing, so I have to cut it a little slack for its utter implausibility as a viewer would have at least a week between episodes to forget the intense plot twists of the previous week. That said, the sheer number of murders, kidnappings, and betrayals, not to mention the conceit that you can get from one side of LA to the other in 15 to 20 minutes is operatic in its ridiculousness. If this is considered believable entertainment by modern standards, than why do audiences allow the improbable twists of an operatic story to get in the way of enjoying the music and the story?
My hope is that we don't let our preconceived notions about opera get in the way of exploring and understanding what is arguably the greatest collaboration of all the art forms. Whether it is a new chamber work like Orpheus and Euridice or one of the great standards of the operatic canon like Aida, opera has a way of speaking to us deeply. We should let it do just that.