Opera – really now?!?

Opera – really now?!?

“Opera is the only place in the world where the hero begins to sing after being stabbed in the back.”

Boris Vian

Dear opera lovers,

After a young man once kindly explained to me that “Bach and Beethoven are guys who write music for cell phones”, the question always arises as to whether opera – or so-called serious music – is still contemporary. We, who love opera and visit it regularly, naturally answer this question vehemently in the affirmative, especially after watching the current Immlingen production of The Threepenny Opera.

You could also ask whether love is still in keeping with the times. This question will probably be sufficiently answered on July 13 with the premiere of “Roméo et Juliette” …

But seriously – do young people only know the “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana from Nestlé advertising? Since the beginning of the 1990s, advertising has been increasingly unabashedly mixed with snippets of classical music, and since then more and more symphonic pieces and concertante works have been mutilated into mini-pieces and presented out of context.

But how can we convey our experience through music to the younger generation? Presumably only through repeated and early exposure to classical music. That is why the children’s choir and youth academy in Immling are so important. We now know that, similar to the construction of identity, taste preferences are also formed early on – once they are formed, they remain relatively stable. So anyone who was introduced to classical music at an early age will see classical music as part of their identity for the rest of their lives.

According to a study by the University of Frankfurt, classical music mainly interests people who came into contact with classical music in their youth: “Almost all respondents (94 percent) had their first concert experience before the age of twenty. (…) An impressive 75 percent of all respondents stated that they had learned to play a musical instrument and 35 percent are still actively playing”

Photo – Leonardo Sanchez (Romeo) & Diana Alexe (Juliette) © Verena von Kerssenbrock

Can you still remember your “first time”? I was seven years old when my father sat me down on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, put the libretto of “Hansel and Gretel” in my hand, put the needle on the record and left the room. There I sat, alone with a booklet and music, and was quickly drawn into this new fairytale world. Every Sunday, classical music was played for breakfast, usually a concerto or a symphony by Mozart, and at the age of eight I was able to experience my first “Carmen” at the Munich National Theater.

Did I enthusiastically wave my lighter (and burn my fingers) at a Joan Baez concert? With enthusiasm! Whether Gipsy Kings, Queen or the Beatles, whether Alexandra, Katja Ebstein or French chansons by Edith Piaf – everything inspired me, interested me and I still enjoy listening to it today.

Music is considered the key to identity. Identity arises from experiences made, and since music could only be experienced collectively until the invention of the sound carrier, a collective identity was created by making music together or listening to others do so. And this creation of identity through the shared experience of music is still valid today.

Anyone who was able to experience Gustav Mahler’s incomparable 2nd Symphony in Immling last year will confirm this! I was able to experience it and I have to admit that at times I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I was so overwhelmed by the emotions that came over me unfiltered. Maestra von Kerssenbrock had virtually placed her heart next to her on the stage when she raised her baton. The orchestra and choir followed this emotional trust with a unity and a wave of emotion that is rarely experienced. When the baton fell with the fading of the final chord and the conductor lowered her head in exhaustion, you could have heard a coin drop in the hall, it was so breathlessly silent – for a good half a minute!!! I think most people felt like me – I had to beam myself back from this flood of emotions, from this incredible experience of music as pure feeling, and hesitantly joined in the applause. But then the emotion broke out in the audience and there was standing applause for minutes! Some in the choir wiped the tears from their eyes, and as they left the hall, the faithful lady from the entrance was hugged, because somehow we had to express everything that had been given to us. We had become a close-knit community through this experience and we all knew that we were sharing something incomparable. Collective identity in its purest form.

Photo – Cornelia von Kerssenbrock & Orchestra © Mariella Weiss

So: get the children and young people involved, make opera, concerts and everything to do with classical music palatable! Streaming services are increasingly including classical music in their program, and it’s okay to point out the “popular hits” in order to open up access. Of course, a ticket to the children’s opera in Immling for children or grandchildren is also a particularly good gift – the whole thing is even more fun live!

With this in mind, let’s prepare the festival audience of the future for great performances together

Yours sincerely, Christiane Berker

Photo – Magic Flute 2022 © Nicole Richter