An attempt at a critical view of opera as a genre today :







 The musical level seems separate from the staging level, which is usually oriented towards the text and usually not really to the music.

 Stage space, orchestra pit and audience space are separate spaces, experienced as such by the audience.

 Text comes via surtitles, as it is often not acoustically perceptible as such. Text therefore does not appear as itself in combination with the music, which does not allow for a (linguistic) articulation adequate to the text. Text is not present directly, but in projection, unless the singer speaks.

Music only incompletely represents the text (libretto). Text melody, text sound is only reflected musically in rudimentary form. Moods of action and characters are de-differentiated by the music as such into generalities (beautifully euphoric, beautifully painful, beautifully despairing...).

Literary content is acclimatised into the music.

The setting of text to music, especially when it represents action sequences physically and psychologically, is fundamentally problematic. Text structures are rhythmically, melodically and tonally as well as functionally, especially in its realisation on stage, very different from those of music. Music in itself can have expression but not really say anything.

 The sequence of events is broken down into scenes. Situations change suddenly at scene changes, time sequences jump, then often give way to a comparatively slow scene filling. For the audience, it is very difficult to settle into a given timeline. The production then sometimes seems to stand almost still within a scene.

Conventional structural formalisms, also in some contemporary music theater, tend to cause disturbing interruptions of sensual concentration (scene sequences, arias as isolable climaxes, interludes...), which can level differentiations in their self-evident sequences.

 The soloist runs the risk of overreaching the narrative as an interpreter, as a fascinating performer the scenery dominating the context, disturbing the flow.

 Primal components of musical theatre (space, sound, voice...) are buried in the tradition of their usual handling.

Such comments do not, of course, cast doubt on the greatness of conventional operas, but on aspects of new composition and production.

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"The great effect that Italian opera has on us does not derive from a power of song that supports language or interprets it additionally, but from the contradiction that becomes manifest in song between a rational order of circumstances, which at the same time appears as an order that shapes people, and the demands of the human drive, which cannot be deflected by it; hence that in it the characters sing as drive subjects (and this to the extinction of subjectivity itself), whatever they may rationally put forward or communicate. Once again: whatever they have to communicate, independent of reason and consequence, unaffected even by the plausibility of a course of action organizing time and space: as drive objects they sing."

These somewhat exaggerated words of Klaus Heinrich (Reden und kleine Schriften 3) apply, I believe, beyond Italian opera at least to a limited extent to the present day. The problem of the setting of (verbal) thoughts and describable courses of action becomes here clearly to the splitting into two spheres.

The inaccuracies in the attempted analogies between text and music settings herald a desubjectification of the visible actor on stage to a rather general and therefore easily comprehensible intentional rituali-zation, the characters losing their individual differentiation from the drive subject to the drive object.