Steve Flinders – The business of opera
Text & Photo: Steve Flinders
Opera can be a spellbinding experience – as can opera broadcasts to cinemas, with their luscious, wrap-around sound, dramatic close-ups, and total ban on popcorn.
One downside to broadcasts from The New York Met, however, is the Bloomberg sponsorship ad. It’s very clever: two parallel sequences from the worlds of opera and of international business, accompanied by rousing orchestral music. We see the singer in her dressing room, then the executive in his hotel room adjusting his tie. The singer walks up the tunnel to the stage; the exec’s tunnel leads to his flight. Next, a key moment on stage as the singer belts out an aria; switch to an exchange of tense looks in the negotiation in the top floor suite. Then the applause and bouquets on stage, and the handshakes on the deal in the boardroom. Opera and business – both worlds of high drama.
Except that I can never stop wondering what the execs are negotiating: an Arctic oilfield? A supply chain involving semi-slave labour somewhere in Asia? Software to spy on our online searches? Increasingly, I distrust big parts of a global business culture intent on the enrichment of a relative few to the detriment of the many and of the planet.
Yet putting on opera is an expensive business, especially in the extravagant style favoured by The Met, and much of the cost is borne by business. Perhaps I should be boycotting these productions rather than lapping them up. Moreover, many argue that opera is so elitist as not to warrant any kind of public subsidy.
The power of opera is too important to sacrifice so tritely. It can and should be brought to a wider public, and arts organisations can seek more ethical sources of sponsorship, as the Greenpeace campaign against BP is trying to demonstrate. So I’ll go on watching opera, but also press for opera companies to stop taking dirty money. And maybe Bloomberg could change its ad.
Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine.
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