Overcoming Opera Stereotypes

“It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”  That’s a fun one, isn’t it? Unfortunately, that phrase paints an outdated picture of what opera is and whether it’s true or not, it does help form the perception of what opera is for some.  As an opera singer myself I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve talked to people who honestly have no idea what opera is.  I’ve heard everything from “it’s loud”, “it’s boring”, and even “didn’t Bugs Bunny do that?”, which honestly, we can thank Bugs and Warner Brothers for getting some of the classics into the mainstream.  Sadly, I don’t know how many kids watch old cartoon reruns. Anyway, what’s the problem here? Opera used to be one of the most common forms of entertainment. Of course, this was before High School Musical, Netflix, and YouTube.  They didn’t have the same platforms to complete against that we do now. Also, the pace of life meant most people had three or four hours to dedicate to a night at the opera. What else were they doing? Times, as they do, changed and so did people’s interest in sitting down for hours at a time to watch people “sing loudly”.

So, what’s a modern opera singer to do if fewer people are interested in coming to performances? Although audiences are shrinking, there are surprisingly still a fair number of young singers who hope to make opera their career. But who is going to listen to these singers if audiences don’t want to watch an opera sung in Italian with the cast dressed up in 18th century garb?  These are questions I’ve asked myself on the daily for more than a handful of years now.  Ever heard of the phrase “evolve or die”?  It rings true as I think about the fate of opera.  It’s horrifying.  After all, I love this art.  It matters – like all art, but I do think part of the change lies in the creators.  We must challenge the traditional concepts in order to generate new audiences, a new generation of opera lovers.  That’s one of the goals at Steel City Opera.  I started this journey as a lover of song and I’ve evolved into a lover of art.  I’m looking forward to seeing all we can create together as a community of artists, friends, and neighbors.

Just keep singing,


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