|photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera|
There is nothing more foolhardy than making predictions. Just ask anyone who dismissed Rick Santorum’s chances of getting past single-digit numbers in Iowa, or was sure that Rick Perry would have vanquished all other Republican contenders by now. But, heck, I’m game. Besides, what can be safer than imagining how the opera world will fare in 2012?
Although not exactly comparable to the very out-of-date line about ‘how General Motors goes, so goes the nation,’ there is perhaps a little truth behind the notion that how the Metropolitan Opera goes, so goes the rest of the business. In this regard, I would imagine more companies -- in other countries, if not necessarily ours -- will test the opera-in-cinema waters that have proven so lucrative for the Met. There seems to be momentum left in this trend, even as it poses questions about long-term effects on the effort to get more audiences into opera houses.
This year may see at least a bit of a decline in Euro-trashy productions in, of all places, Europe. OK, maybe not the continental part, but at least the UK, where a late-2011 staging of Eugene Onegin at the English National Opera drew hearty praise for being revelatory, absorbing AND traditional -- no distorted character motivations or scenes set in public restrooms. (All right, the production was a co-venture with the Met, which may account for the traditional approach, but, still, it’s an encouraging development.)
It would be nice to see a trend toward the celebration of voices and interpretive skills, rather than physical attractiveness, but that may be years away (or never). Meanwhile, 2012 could see something else positive -- more attempts to integrate opera singers into the pop culture mainstream, not with the tired practice of crossover repertoire, but with such off-beat projects as Aretha Franklin’s just-announced contest to find fresh operatic talent.
If Aretha’s project were to produce a meaningful result artistically, and generate even a touch of the typical media blitz for an ‘American Idol’ winner, there could be quite a nice boost in appreciation for the operatic art -- the most desirable trend of all.