Report by Catherine Kontz, 6 June 2015

Discussion on the definition of the term opera and what we use it for.

Regarding a definition of the term here is what was mentioned:

- opera as a staged work

- a large work - opus

- combining different live art forms

- including voice (or not i.e. mime opera…)

- size and scope

- venue

- differences to using the term music theatrer or musical theater which usually refers to musicals nowadays and has possibly the wrong co-notations for the audiences

- opera as a brand

- the possible need to sub-categorize the term opera or add adjectives instead of the contemporary/tradition divide. This might mean going back to terms like comedy, tragedy, puppet-opera, experimental, new, historical, circus, physical theater….

It was thought that the problem might lie with the understanding of the term by the wide public and prospective audiences, some of which are put off by it as too elitist, others may have strong conceptions about what an opera is in their mind. This causes problems with modernisation of older operas as well as keeping the concept of what opera is wide enough in the contemporary field. An opera in that sense may only have two performers and three musicians instead of an orchestra, it may happen in places outside the usual opera venue circuit, it may include multi-media, amplification, even untrained signing voices, or no text at all…

The problem may lie in that opera houses ‘own’ the term and market it according to their needs. working on defining the term so that it includes bringing a new experience to the audience.

Poaching audiences from the physical theater world, the mime festival and the dance world where boundaries seem to be wider and less strict. This may also reduce the average age of the opera-goer.

Including audiences who watch related opera in movie theaters as opera audiences and not as film audiences.

When does opera cease to be opera? When does it start to exist? No real conclusions were found here. It was agreed that usually there is a musical and visual element to opera although a radio opera may also qualify despite the lack of the visual in the same way that a radio play is also theater.

We came to the conclusion that it was important to keep using the word opera in its widest form and trying to slowly change the conception of it with the wider public by introducing them to engaging shows and making them aware that opera may not be at all what they think it is and anything can happen.

We ended with stuffing some dolls that one member of our group had brought and discussing if a chorus of 700 exhibited stuffed dolls with a hidden choir in the room would qualify as an opera with singing dolls.

This conversation was held between Catherine Kontz, Joe Attard, Anna Gregg, Emma Bernhard, NatashaFreedman, Sarah Booth, Imogen Burgen, Li E Chen, Alison Porter and Andrew X.


brand, what, Audience, concept, Brand, public, new, Opera, audience, definition, voice, Public, opera