Gen Y & Opera: When Stereotypes Collide

There something I really love about the Opera. 

I love the decadence. I love the fact I generally don’t understand what they’re saying, though I can absolutely feel it. I love the fact everyone is so damn, well-dressed. I love the ambience created as the fullness of the orchestra collides with the richness of voice. And I love the fact, full sentences are generally a given when conversing with other members of the audience. Ah, the delights of the well-spoken, and culturally refined. 

However, am I the exception? Might I remind you, I’m a Gen Y. I’m from the generation that loves auto-tune, raves about singers who sound better digitally than they do live, and live for the repetitions of electro and house music. And truth be told, I often enjoy these stereotypes. 

Where amongst this, does the wonder of Opera survive? 

It’s a question I believe the management of WA Opera and other similar organisations must face, as they consider the future of their ‘older, traditional’ arts, in the space of emerging contemporary ones. Is there room for the old, in a room filled with the rapidly growing new? 

Spoiler alert: The answer is a resounding Yes. 

Whilst the 50th Anniversary of WA Opera was celebrated with its annual Opera in the Park, you could feel the sense of rich community as the 10,000 capacity crowd was filled. The world-class line-up featured Fiona Campbell, Virgillio Marino, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Emma Pearson, and Sam Roberts-Smith duoing as host in conjunction with conductor Brad Cohen. 

Sam Roberts-Smith, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and Paull-Anthony Keightley at the Opera in the Park Qantas After Party

The starry stars above you, the city landscape in their nightly glory, and the half-moon above christening the evening. 

The night featured some risk-ay moments as a shirt was literally ripped in passion, when two operatic lovers flirted (complimented by the gasp of the elderly lady next to me, who seemed positively thrilled). There were moments when the full orchestra played songs you could recall from your favourite Hollywood movie (but it was at a heightened level you could never experience elsewhere). And there were moments when you could eat nachos with your hands, and still feel ritzy af, because the people singing to you were so damn classy. There were moments when lovers were conversing over a bar, and you could feel the sexual tension as though it were between James Bond & Vesper Lind herself. 

WA Opera made the fine choice of using Gen Y opera singer Sam Roberts-Smith to host, and in doing so allowed a message to be transferred that this art form is for the young and old alike. There’s a future in it, as Gen Y themselves are committed to make it relevant and carry it forward. 

As I spoke to Paull-Anthony Keightly at the Qantas Backstage After Party – another notable Gen Y WA Opera singer – he mentioned that he fell into the art similar to Sam [read our interview with Sam in the Pearl Fishers here]. He was in school, a teacher found his voice suitable, and after awards and hard work, here he stands. Make no mistake, there’s a lot of hard work, and his words echo similar thoughts. Though as he shared his love for the art – and the way he was disappointed a recent surgery stopped his involvement on the night – you could literally see his eyes light up, a fact I pointed out to him. I recognised the look of passion and admiration of your craft. 

So here’s the twist: Gen Y & Opera may not go hand in hand, stereotypically. 

But passion, stories, and music always have. 

And it’s this writer’s opinion, that anyone who shares a love of either of those three elements, will definitely love the Opera – no matter how old they are. 

To quote conductor & co-host Brad Cohen’s words on the night, “This is all about the power of the human voice to tell stories”.

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About Roma Christian

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With her hands often in numerous projects at once, Roma maintains a level-head with copious amounts of green tea & Seinfeld reruns. A strong penchant for writing about the human condition, she loves discussing human psychology, and uncovering magic found in the ordinary events of Life. Instagram: @roma.ireen.christian