"At any time between 1750 and 1930 if you had asked educated people to describe the aim of poetry, art, or music, they would have replied: beauty." - Roger Scruton, Why Beauty Matters
There is a great article in the New York Times by David Brooks, which validates my thinking of the importance of arts and beauty in our times. In it he says: "This is the view that beauty is a big, transformational thing, the proper goal of art and maybe civilization itself. This humanistic worldview holds that beauty conquers the deadening aspects of routine; it educates the emotions and connects us to the eternal."
As an undergrad studying music history, my friends and I embraced "causa pulchritudinis" - an early music term that describes when a not is altered by adding an accidental simply "for the sake of beauty" as opposed to “causa necessitatis” or "by reason of necessity". I studied at Salem College in Winston Salem, North Carolina and to this day I cannot think of this term without hearing my friend Jenna Claire say it jokingly in her strongest southern accent. It became something humorous that we used beyond the discussion early music. Why are we up practicing until midnight in these tiny rooms? Why is this note so stupidly high and difficult? Why are we working so hard on this? Causa Pulchritudinis (or Cowsa Polk-ri-too-dinnus as we preferred to say.)
Twenty years later, I still ask myself why I am working so hard on this and in the end that is still my answer. I have accepted that creating art, particularly opera is my calling and that I am unbelievably lucky for that. Now that I am in a position to tell people why making opera important and why it is necessary, I am finding that I must strike the balance between pulchritude and necessity.
As we continue to work on building VTOP I find that I can take several roads. I can take the economic bend and tell you that a majority of the money we raise will be reinvested directly into Rutland. I can take the social route and tell you that I can tell you that opera fans often travel to see productions and it could be good press for a community that is struggling. Or I can just tell you what I know to be the truth and that is that it will be deeply beautiful and that is important unto itself.
"We feel most alive in the presence of the beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. … Without beauty the search for truth, the desire for goodness and the love of order and unity would be sterile exploits. Beauty brings warmth, elegance and grandeur.”- John O'Donohue