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Know Those ‘Chamber Operas’ DFW Has Been Seeing Lately? They’re a Trend.

by Jerome Weeks 7 Feb 2013 10:34 AM

But they’re called ‘black box operas’ — for the kind of small venues they get staged in. Enough of a trend that maybe the opera world is splitting in two?


Andrea Ujhelyi at the Merlin Theater in Budapest, Hungary. Photo from Shutterstock.

In particular, the Fort Worth Opera has started doing these small-venue works, like Hydrogen Jukebox or coming up soon, Glory Denied and Dog Days. But the Dallas Opera also weighed in with The Lighthouse last year.

Some of these works have been undeniably exciting — more intimate stagings, more contemporary, even riskier subjects and music. But NPR Music’s Anastasia Tsioulcas asks, do we really want to go down this road – because of what it says about audiences?

Is the opera world splitting — out of both aesthetic choice and for more basic financial reasons — into two very different scenes? On the one hand, you have the model of the Metropolitan Opera, not necessarily just to fill the 3800 seats at each performance, but now, with the worldwide theater simulcasts, to which millions of people buy tickets each year. Everything is big…

The rise of small-scale, more experimental presentations of opera is hugely exciting. But I can’t help but wonder about the financial costs and the “statement” risks associated with such stagings.