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Manifesto for a Living Lyric Drama: Is Opera a Museum Art?
The Debate Continues

 

Paris, 26 March 2005In April 2001, Culturekiosque published Lukas Pairon's provocative essay, "Opera Houses Under Fire: a Manifesto for a Living Lyric Drama," (available in English and French) which posited that major opera houses must incorporate newly-written works as a substantial part of their programme if opera is to remain a vital art form and the opera house to be more than the museum of lyric drama which it has become.  He called for a re-imagination of the art form, a re-structuring of opera companies, and a re-thinking of the means by which operas are created and staged, to incorporate more developments in the contemporary performing arts.

While not agreeing with all of his points, we feel strongly enough about the continuing need for creation that we would like to give his point of view the widest possible dissemination. At the time of its publication our readership in the United States and in Europe responded strongly to Pairon's positions, and to this day we still receive considered and substantive responses to a commentary which clearly struck many a nerve among opera enthusiasts and professionals.

To our minds, the issues Pairon raises about the present state of opera and its future are still very much alive today. Therefore, we continue to solicit comments from our readership on this topic.

Most recently, we received the following thoughtful rejoinder from one of our readers in Belgium. Other readers who wish to continue the debate are invited to contact us. We will select particularly interesting responses to this piece to share with our readers and with Lukas Pairon, who has been known to respond at length

—Joseph Romero, Editor, Culturekiosque.com

 

Sir:

Whatever opinion one may have about contemporary music, or "avant-garde", as we can put it, I find it helpful to remember what Walter Legge said about opera, or rather about art in general: democracy is the last thing we need when it comes to art.

Indeed, much of what you have written would be pointless, were our opera houses run by men and women whose only work is music, and hence would know about music, since they and only they would be in charge. I find the idea of involving 'large audiences' to debate about opening up opera houses to such and such work a total waste of time. What do I know about music? Get me the right people in the right places, and let them get on with it.

Easier said than done, I quite agree. But one can always dream of going back to dictators such as Legge, can't one?...

Yours faithfully,

Jean Paul Guillaume
Namur, Belgium



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