In a recent article in The Guardian, artistic directors of seven UK opera houses were asked why Opera matters and while most of the answers mentioned the cultural significance, the artistic importance, the creativity, the wonderful singing and musical talent not to mention the sheer enjoyment of the live performance, I found the response from Oliver Mears, artistic director of Opera Northern Ireland, most interesting.
His reply opens with ‘Opera is important because it is totally unfeasible’ and he proceeds to articulate the impracticality of opera. The demands it makes on music, singing, staging, acting etc… the financial cost and the complexity of this most illogical of art forms.
But by doing this he points out the very reasons why Opera should be supported and encouraged and why its presence should be vital to any community with an artistic sensibility. Opera is a tangible expression of the human spirit. In its very ‘lack of deference to economic realities’ to quote Mears, lies its human, emotional and artistic importance. In its very illogicality lies its achievement.
My first live introduction to Wagner was Oliver Mears production with Opera Northern Ireland http://www.niopera.com of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ in the Grand Opera House, Belfast in 2013 to mark the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth. Wagner can be a difficult and inaccessible at the best of times but Mears production was a joy to watch and a wonderful introduction to Wagner.