I didn't realize we were so pervasive either. It's taken me weeks to find Opera Rat: The Blog.


Haha, Gale - it hasn't taken you weeks. The blog has been in existence for all of seven days. Thanks for reading. I'm surprised and delighted by the traffic so far. This Twitter dealiebobber is amazing.


Singers now have to get used the the kind of scrutiny (on a smaller scale, of course) that was once reserved for movie stars.

On the one hand, it's nice to have a detailed (and often very opinionated) rundown on every performance out there, but the problem is that, because it's a live performing art, readers of blogs can't ever see "original sources" to formulate their own opinions. Thus, the opinions--and biases--of a few very popular bloggers can have an undue influence. This has always been the case with criticism, of course, but the speed and size of the blogosphere just (ahem) amplifies it.

Welcome to the blogospher--good, bad, and ugly.

Natalie Christie

Ooh - allow me to expand on what the underlying problem is. Opera companies are essentially broke, saving all of their best fees for the Netrebkos and the Flemings of this world, while paying pennies to all the kids straight out of high-level music colleges, who they can "nurture" under young artist programs. Being grateful and young, these singers jump at the chance to join a major company and will usually sing whatever they are handed (they wouldn't ask me to sing it if I wasn't ready, right?) A few years down the track, the singer has a repertoire of roles, nothing to show for it in the bank and most likely a voice that is now a little rough around the edges...

And the cycle just repeats itself - the next wave of young, cheap talent emerges from the colleges, and a whole tier of singers get left behind.

Most opera singers study for at least 6 years - longer than a law degree - and in such a specialised form you would think the financial prospects would be so much rosier. But most "everyday" singers struggle by on barely enough to look after themselves, let alone a family.

How can a singer turn down work that is potentially too big for their voices? Or refuse to do a gig when they are ill - knowing they'll say a swift goodbye to a few grand when they make that call to their agent? (Who is also a necessity and always gets paid.)

With the advent of air travel it's so much more of a drawcard for a struggling house to just fly in someone more famous than the local bloke they've been bleeding for years anyway (he'll be the perfect cover, of course) leaving a smaller pool of work for a smaller pool of the usual suspects.

I could go on. But because the culture of a "company" is gone - and I mean a proper company, like they used to have at Covent Garden in Joan Sutherland's day - there is no real nurturing going on. A singer's longevity is the last thing on the employer's mind when the house is staring down the barrel of its own demise.


Maybe opera needs minor leagues, akin to baseball: A, AA, AAA, the majors. Of course that would entail opera becoming more pervasive, especially outside major cities. It could happen, thanks to technology. Last time I visited family in North Dakota I heard people talking about seeing the Met at the local movie house.

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