Opera, musicals and concerts
Eyes wide open
Love is never easy. In music drama, most often impossible. And that’s how we like it! Let’s face it, watching a story about two people who fall in love and then live happily ever after would make for a very dull evening. Well, I can promise you that this season will not be dull. This year’s lovers are in for a complicated, often painful and always passionate journey!
When you look under the surface, beyond the cliché of opera as a loudly warbled love duet, there is much more going on. The relationships on stage are never straightforward and often the love duet is socially complex, often transgressive, and usually there is a power imbalance. The interaction of power and sex has been a central concern of opera and music theatre for 400 years. Sadly, the topic is still as relevant as ever.
Opera and drama bring us to imagine the inner lives and emotions of all the people involved – lovers, abusers and the abused. Opera takes our feelings and exaggerates them, pushes them into extreme situations, allows us to empathise with the characters, and to question what causes the pain, to ask what it is intervening between the lover and the loved. Opera causes us to look at our lives and the world around us with different eyes.
This year we begin our Ring Cycle. Wagner’s epic story begins with Das Rheingold, in which a man renounces love in exchange for power. Does power inevitably lead to the diminishment of humanity? Can pure love exist at all in the midst of power play? We’re not talking about sex here – although there is plenty of sex, and pregnancy too, in the Ring Cycle – but about genuine, deep, human love. Being loved is one of our most earnest human desires. Certainly, the opposite, feeling unloved, can lead to terrible outcomes – despair, jealousy, rage and murder. All these reactions, and more, swirl around in this season.
Most of us have felt negative emotions when the course of our love life fails to run smooth: jealousy, the despair of abandonment, the rage that erupts if we feel foolish or betrayed, the self loathing if we are abused. We can understand the characters on stage although, in our own lives, we can hopefully avoid the tragic results we see in the theatre.
Opera has its eyes open. You will see social outcasts coming together to overthrow the controlling hand of religious authority (Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame – The Musical); casual imperialist seduction and the moral strength of the colonised and exoticised (Madama Butterfly); jealousy, murder and revenge amongst ordinary people trapped in ancient patriarchal honour systems, and theatrical, clowning stereotypes (Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci); the tragic despair of a rejected woman (La voix humaine); and finally, an honest but optimistic way forward offered by Mozart in Le nozze di Figaro, as women from all classes come together to put a stop to the manipulative sexual behaviour of the most abusive of powerful men, Il Conte.
Even in the depths of despair and tragedy, the human spirit can flower and inspire music that will sear your soul with its beauty or whose dark depictions evoke anger. Sometimes the stories and music make us cry. But crying can clear our minds and freshen our souls, so that we can carry on striving. To be honest, sometimes we just need a good laugh, and there is room for that too, even – or perhaps especially – when the subject is a sensitive one.
We offer tears and laughter, profound questions, great music and tales of passion, but perhaps, in the end, it all comes down to love.
Artistic Director Opera/Drama