Friend A: Hey what are you doing this weekend?
Friend B: Hey, I’m going to check out that new Turandot production at the Met.
Really though, how many of us college students would give a confused Kevin Hart-like face if we heard that response? We go to Knicks games, the movies, even jazz clubs, but the OPERA?? On the rare occasions that we do, it’s usually to fulfill some elective requirement or it’s because we received free tickets. Even those of us who study opera everyday have to admit that we haven’t attended many. We can easily give you a rundown on Wagner, Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, etc. Heck, we’ll even sing a bit of something like La Traviata. But will we make plans to go to the opera on a free weekend?
1. They’re too long.
Operas can easily take up your day. Going to see Lord of the Rings is an event, but Wagner’s Ring cycle takes it to another level. One Columbia student studying music in the College states, “I really think it’s a deterrent that they’re so long. People want to be cultured, but not for 5 hours.”
2. The good ones typically aren’t in English.
Back in the 18th Century, Italian Opera replaced English Opera as the standard, and America hasn’t looked back since. But, just like most Americans preferred English back then, we prefer it now. An Italian opera viewing typically goes something like, look down *read* (the translation), look up *watch*, look back down *read*, close eyes *listen*…it really takes a lot of energy Mr. Rossini.
3. They’re too expensive.
In response to why he doesn’t attend operas, one college student says, “It’s like attending a sporting event. If I had free time, money, etc., I wouldn’t spend it on an event that holds no entertainment value to me.”
It’s all about marginal cost. How much are we willing to give up for an opera ticket? It seems much more appealing to just see Matilda AND be able to afford dinner afterwards.
4. Some people just don’t get it.
Opera singers project their voices in a…let’s just say different way. The only way young people are exposed to it is if they sing opera themselves or study the craft in academia. Otherwise, it’s up to YouTube to disseminate the information, and that doesn’t seem too promising.
5. No opportunity.
When we go to entertainment events, we go for a reason. Whether it’s to experience the atmosphere, scream at our favorite artist, or eat cracker jacks and sing songs, it’s for a reason. Most of us would need a (big) incentive to go to the opera over a U2 concert.
In truth, a large gap exists between most of the young and old(er)’s understanding of opera. Even if we as a younger generation arrive at this true understanding, we will tend to derive greater happiness (or utility) from spending our leisure time on something else. Come on, people in their 20’s weren’t going to the opera back in the 1900s– they were going to the underground jazz clubs. Can we be at fault today if we prefer Ultra or SXSW?
So world, what will it take to attract the great majority of college students and the like to the opera? Education? Hype? How about a star that crosses from pop to opera? Or, maybe we’ll just have to wait until people start dressing like this again…