Peter Goodhew

Live opera, well done, offers one of the greatest sitting-in-the-dark experiences available. I came to opera late in life (well - in my mid-forties) and quickly learned to love the combination of music, tunes, action and visual spectacle. If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that at a classical concert, however much I like the piece, my attention occasionally wanders. This very rarely happens at the opera, because there is so much to absorb. Attention can drift from the music to the voices, to the acting, to the stage setting, without loss of focus on the opera as a whole. Very occasionally I am also moved by the unfolding tragedy, but I must admit that this happens less often than the composer or librettist would wish or the critic might imagine/pretend. Nevertheless the whole experience is unrivalled among cultural activities.

I have tried, but failed to appreciate, operas written since 1930. I like to emerge into the light with tunes resounding in my head so Puccini, Verdi and Mozart - and Gerschwin if you will allow me to count him - are my favourites, although when I last counted (about 5 years ago) I had seen/heard live operas by at least 20 composers.

I cannot imagine ever tiring of opera, but it has to be live. I have not found televised opera to be any substitute for the real thing. Consequently I have only seen a few operas more than once (in contrast to classical music where the combination of live and recorded hearings might total fifty for many of my favourite pieces). So let's all keep Welsh National Opera, Opera North and the ENO going!
Note added in 2015: The recent burgeoning of live performances streamed to cinemas has modified my opinion somewhat. I like these screenings, especially of events which I would have no chance of attending (e.g. New York Met Opera). It is hard to dislike watching an excellent performance of an opera, ballet or theatre drama from a very comfortable seat costing about 12 and less than half an hour from one's home. I just hope it does not harm funding for live performances.

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