In inglese? Ma, naturalmente!

April 3rd 2011

It seems, in New York, at least, one of the first questions you're asked when meeting someone for the first time is "what do you do?" My stock response at the moment is "websites for money and music for love" and then see where the conversation goes from there. When it turns, as it does eventually, to composing opera, there's usually a moment of silence as my interlocutor processes this strange, strange answer. You can see it their eyes, the quizzical look of disbelief that someone in the 21st century writes opera. The conversation can then take many other turns, but a question that often comes up is "what language are your operas in?"

Now it's my turn for a little surprise—in English, of course. What seems so natural to me, however, is, upon reflection, a vary valid question to someone new to the idea of contemporary opera. Opera is, to most people, the ultimate in "foreign," and not just language.

This leads to me to wonder if I could write an opera in another language. Mozart and Handel did it regularly but Puccini, Verdi, and Wagner—not that I know of. Not that I see much need to. The language of the audience is, in most cases, the natural choice for the language of the opera. (Should my works start traveling the globe, I could be in trouble.) I'm glad this seems to be the norm for contemporary opera, I just wish there were a way to spread the word to all those people out there who are turned off by opera because of the language barrier.

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