Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
In this article, the author Fred Plotkin discusses the cultural distinctions between American and Italian Opera goers. Plotkin describes what happened when he used social media to explore the culture that revolves around the opera. The differences in how Americans and Italians consume opera is very interesting!
At the Italian opera La Scala, audiences are inclined to dress in their most formal of formal wear. Further, many members of the audience are considered loggionisti, or as the article says “those opinionated, self-appointed arbiters of quality and taste—are allowed to behave badly during performances (as opposed to during curtain calls, when many people express their opinions audibly)”.
In the American opera scene, people dress up, but they aren’t necessarily required to wear their tuxedos and ball gowns. Also, Americans tend to be much more reserved during performances, generally waiting until the end of an act to applause/boo (I do no think that many Americans WOULD boo… we are too polite in this way. What do you guys think?).
Being American, I feel biased in my opinion of the Italian vs American way of consuming opera. I think that quiet and casual is just fine! As a classical musician, I do not think it is a huge deal for audiences to dress to impress… we cannot see them from the stage anyway! Also, I would HATE it if someone booed while I was playing. That would be quite the blow to the ego.
However, I have to give Italian opera goers the benefit of the doubt, as their behaviors are based on old traditions. Italy was where the first operas were composed and performed, all the way back in the late 16th century! For today’s Italian opera goers, they are just following along with what tradition tells them to do. For example, dressing ALL the way up for to attend the opera is a tradition that dates back to the when opera began. Attending the opera during 17th and 18th centuries was much less about the music than it was about being seen by OTHER opera goers. And you had to look your best. Status was everything! Today, while it is clear that Italian opera goers are more interested in the music (all of those loggionisti), the tradition of dressing up still remains.
From the article I see a clear dichotomy in how Americans and Italians consume opera. Americans are casual and calm. Italians are fancy and flamboyant. I am curious to see what you guess think about the differences: do you guys think one way is more appropriate for consuming opera than the other? Does it even matter?