Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Recommended Posts

I seem to be making a habit of posting articles from UK hacks about how dreadful opera is, but here is another written by a bloke with the highly appropriate name of Thicknesse; clearly thick by name and thick by nature.


This is a long and ambling piece with his thoughts on the art peppered with factural inacuracies such as-

You hardly need me to tell you that opera is pretty stupid. Ask the audience: plenty of them will tell you the same, if you can get them to wake up.

People fall asleep at the opera (and the ballet) occasionally, but the idea that the place is packed with snoring bored patrons is a myth. In London I suspect that if the odd person dozes off it is most likely down to the Brits being Europe's workhorses with all those long hours at work being to blame and half the population being in a state of utter exhaustion. I once fell asleep at the ballet I freely admit, but it was more down to sampling a few too many at the cocktail bar down the road rather than boredom.

And here comes the obligatory dig at Glyndebourne:

The opera festival is the ne plus ultra of this: an affair where the supposed main event is actually a sideshow to a rigmarole of Issey Miyake shawls, mud-caked mules, champagne and salmon on the lawn.

Now I love Glyndebourne and am seeing Billy Budd there in a week or so - can't wait. I love the drive down into the country past the llamas, the camel and the flocks of sheep and the dress code doesn't bother me at all. I've seen some stupendous performances there including two that for some reason really got up Thicknesse's nose.

Last year at Glyndebourne, the conductor dressed in a bunny suit, and heart-shaped confetti rained down on the audience in a performance of Purcell's Fairy-Queen. The same company's feted production of Handel's Giulio Cesare turns it into a four-hour Bollywood song and dance romp;

Well William Christie (aka 'God' in the Mashinka household), was the conductor and did not wear a bunny suit the night I went though a large number of the cast did in an hilarious danced number by eminent choreographer no less. It was so funny I laughed until I felt pain, what is wrong with an audience enjoying itself? Guilio Cesare wasn't Bollywood at all just an imaginative production again highly enjoyable. Both are on DVD should anyone want to check these productions out.

But hang on this guy even knocks the very down market Holland Park event where you freeze in the open.

A few years ago, after Opera Holland Park had staged Fidelio with the prisoners dressed up in a Guantánamo chic of orange jumpsuits, a perturbed bigwig enquired anxiously whether their forthcoming Lucia di Lammermoor would be set in Walter Scott's 17th-century Scotland. Actually no, he was told, it was going to be the 19th century. "Oh, that's all right," says the relieved aesthete; "just so long as it isn't modern." Quite right: we don't want anyone thinking Lucia might have something to do with the way we live now, heaven forfend.

Seems it isn't just the Brits at the opera he despises:

The boss of one of the major Parisian opera houses told me the opera houses in Paris cater to the same 50,000 people year in, year out: that's 2% of the population of inner Paris, and a mere 0.5% of the urban region of Paris.

Same people eh? What percentage of the Paris audience is made up of non French patrons? Got to be high as I have found myself sitting next to Brits, Americans, Australians and Danes at the Garnier as often as French, interesting the 'Paris Boss' doesn't have a name.

The worst part of this attack is that this opera-phobe actually earns money as an opera critic. It's all enough to make me weep.

Link to comment

Thanks for posting this, Mashinka. The article certainly does ramble but in fairness it should be pointed out that Thicknesse is an opera fan and he seems to be throwing his doubts and confusions out there feverishly like a religious wrangling with thoughts of unbelief. There is also a link to a piece that refutes some of his points, which observes that Glyndebourne gets relatively little in the way of Arts Council funding. The public funding question does seem worth looking into even if it's obvious that the less popular the art, the more public money it will need although the fat cats in the audience should be putting in their share.

Link to comment

I would just note on the statistic of 50,000 audience members....that's about the same as season ticket holders for most major sports...

IMHO, same difference. Both opera and sports are televised at times, but since we live in a free society, we can pick and choose which season tickets to purchase, or watch on TV, or none of the above.

If Mr. Thicknesse doesn't like this opera, go see a different production! Lord knows there is plenty of opera in Europe.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...