A scene from the opera Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly (photo: Pittsburgh Opera)
At times we treat certain art forms as a closed set. Complete. We want our reliable standards and nothing more, nothing new. Opera has this challenge. Treating the creative period of opera as if it were behind us, we put it into a museum for preservation. Yet why do we resist the new in opera, while embracing new works in other arts like film, visual arts, and music? Composer Nico Muhly gives us reason to support the creation of new work. Yes, we have to preserve the masterpieces of the past and keep presenting them on stage. Yet we should also cultivate a creative environment that encourages artists to create within these great forms.
Read on for an argument on Nico Muhly as a case study for why we need our organizations and our audiences to be a part of the creative process, in “Nico Muhly, Dark Sisters and the Case for New Opera” (click here to read full article).
Joseph Gaines as Pontio Pilato in the 2008 Glimmerglass Opera production of Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot, with Ryan MacPherson as Luzio (Photo: Cory Weaver)
Artists pursue a calling in a special way, yearning to participate in an art form often in the face of long odds for making a career of it. What is an artist to do if their calling is opera? Opera has faced some difficult times in recent years, and it is facing an uncertain future. Yet if it is to have a future at all, it must depend on those with unwavering commitment to realizing the form — to celebrating past masters and new works, and to bringing those creative expressions to an audience. Joseph Gaines, a tenor, seeks to serve an art form that he truly loves. In telling his story, we seek to both learn something about the form itself and about the admirable motivations of the artist, motivations from which we might all learn something even if we ourselves are not artists.
To learn of a good narrative about a career artist and to reflect on the nature of opera, we invite you to read our third installment in the opera series from The Muse Dialogue, “Joseph Gaines, the Story of Opera and of an Artist” (click here to read full article).
Mary Cassatt, Woman in Black at the Opera, 1879
The future of opera has many considerations. It must respond to changes in financial markets, in audience tastes, and in the aesthetic direction of an art that has a 400-year history but that also remains productive with new works. Beyond that, it is simply one of the most complex and expensive forms to produce. Consequently, contemporary opera companies are dealing with a number of intersecting issues. How to present new work and find audiences for it, how to mount expensive productions of the historically celebrated repertoire, how to balance the budget in tough financial times, and how to honor the artists who pour their soul into their beloved work. The Muse Dialogue offers some thoughts on the situation, and shares the thoughts of Pittsburgh Opera’s General Director, Christopher Hahn.
Join us for reflections on opera, its history and future, and even on the wonders of nonprofit finance in “The Future of Opera, a Conversation with Christopher Hahn” (click here to read full article).
A scene from the Pittsburgh Opera production of La Cenerentola (Photo: Pittsburgh Opera)
The Muse Dialogue turns attention now to opera and opens a series with consideration of the barrier of our own presumptions and misconceptions. Opera is among the longstanding art forms now in a state of transition, evolving as it faces the current era of the arts. One of opera’s challenges is surely our own notion of what it is, an often misinformed bias. Andrew Swensen writes, “Opera might well stand at the top of the list of art forms deserving your good-faith effort to dispel preconceptions. You might find yourself having what is perhaps the most frequent response of first-timers: “That was not what I was expecting.”” Along the way, we have the thoughts of Christopher Hahn, the General Director of the Pittsburgh Opera, and a reflection on Richard Wagner’s responsibility for one of opera’s great cliches.
Join us for the first in a series on opera: “That Was Not What I Was Expecting”: To Get to Opera We Must First Get Past Ourselves” (click here to read full article).
Lincoln Center, former home to the New York Opera (Photo: Nils Olander)
The Muse Dialogue continues our series on the impact of changing generations on the arts. In this article we ask the question of whether these shifts may imperil certain art forms, and asks the question: Even if Millenials do support the arts, does that mean that they will continue to support all art forms?
Andrew Swensen writes, “The matter for me is not just about “arts marketing.” No, this is a question of the survival of art forms in the face of demographic shifts and concurrent shifts in participation. I do not necessarily ascribe to some notion of arts Darwinism – that some things perish as part of the natural order of things. Yet the truth is that there are indeed some art forms that have largely passed away. Yes, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone working on a fresco.”
Click here to read our latest article from The Muse Dialogue, “A Question of Arts Survival?”
Zandra Rhodes stands in front of costumes for English National Opera’s production of Aida. Photo Credit: London Evening Standard
TMD opens our next issue on Fashion and Costume Design with Alexandra Holness’ article “Fashion in the Arts: A Powerful Collaboration of Creative Minds.” This article opens the series by asking about the role of fashion and costume in collaborative art forms. The performing arts of theater, opera, and ballet involve more artistry than just acting, singing and dancing. Part of the collaborative process includes the visual spectacle of costume. The role of fashion is so significant that in curtain calls after a recent performance by the Pittsburgh Opera, an interesting thing happened. Read more and find out just what that was.
We will be releasing articles throughout the week, and you can find them all in Vol. 1, No. 5: Fashion and Costume Design.