If Mozart and Wagner and Puccini and Respighi are “dead art,” I would suggest we’ve forgotten how to properly live. In an age of brainless media that celebrates victims, some of us actually seem to believe that we are the victims of a Eurocentric musical repertoire iconographic of phallocentric imperialism and repression. As if there’s some sort of cultural conspiracy out to get us! (We can only wonder where Oliver Stone stands on this.)
What should be important to us is content and whether or not that content speaks to us. Back, per favore, to opera. The great works of the operatic repertoire—these investigations, through words and music, of the human condition—are as relevant and “classic” as the Iliad, Canterbury Tales, King Lear, Tom Jones (the book, not the singer), Catcher in the Rye and Gravity’s Rainbow, and are certainly more relevant than much (if not most) of the pap that passes for contemporary popular culture.
Might I be so incorrect as to suggest that their oppressive sins notwithstanding, when it comes to the arts I’m grateful to the aristocratic and clerical classes of Europe. Without them much of the greatest visual art, music, literature, and architecture would simply not have been created. These people of wealth had the time, they had the resources, and they had the vision—for whatever selfish reasons—to finance the work of great artists. I only wish our financial aristocracy today were one-tenth as interested in our contemporary arts; there would be no “crisis-in-the-arts” as we know it today, and the pluralism that is central to our global culture would help to insure that our new art would become the province of the many, not just the few.
Great opera—great art—no matter when it was created, is not elitist entertainment. It is for all of us, each and every one.—Excerpted from “Music History Monday: A Decidedly Politically-Incorrect Rant.”
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