Another Tim weighs in on Baltimore's operatic future
In his piece entitled "Small Opera Companies Try to Fill Gap," Tim Smith makes the true and important point that Baltimoreans should not forget the role of grand opera in the city’s cultural life. We all hope that from the ashes of the Baltimore Opera Company some more healthy and effective opera company will emerge. Perhaps the premise of his title is ...
What concerns me about Smith’s piece is the sentence “My concern is that Baltimore could end up witnessing more locally generated good intentions than genuine high-caliber opera.” It begs the question “what is high-caliber opera?”. Is grand necessarily good? Not always, and in the United States right now, not usually. Opera sits at the pinnacle of all the arts because it is gesamtkunst – total art – and encompasses all of the arts. Opera is about so much more than singing, orchestral playing, and large sets. Opera is an apex because it has within itself the potential to be deeply relevant to the contemporary cultural dialogue. It has been a long time since performances of the Baltimore Opera had anything interesting to say on a dramatic level, since they added anything to the music that one could not have received, perhaps even better, from a concert performance.
We who create smaller scale, but more interesting, opera no doubt need to have a commitment to engaging ever higher quality singers, increasing our investment in production value, and establishing a uniformly high quality of instrumental playing. But, whatever company can “fill the gap” left by the Baltimore Opera Company, they too must have a commitment to creating productions that meet great singing with great dramaturgy, that speak to contemporary audiences, moving audiences to understand the important role of opera and to sustain both their local grand and alternative opera companies. Whatever the case, Baltimoreans should be proud to have so much operatic activity in their city, and I hope they will explore all its many manifestations.