“Susanne Mentzer was the first Octavian I ever heard onstage -- an unforgettable performance, and yes, she was completely convincing as a boy, and as a boy-dressed-as-a-girl, and as a boy-in-love-with-two-women. (She was also the first singer I heard onstage as the Composer in 'Ariadne auf Naxos,' another trouser role, and equally memorable.)
This essay really hits what frustrates many opera fans: we see the wider public getting excited about the sort of performance that opera delivers all the time -- and better, because better trained and better disciplined in better techniques. And opera singers do it without microphones. When I can get my godchildren to watch a video clip for a few minutes, they do (usually) marvel, but the rest of the time -- and the rest of the kids in the world? How to reach them the way that reality competition programs reach them? If TV programmers build it, will they watch?”
“I agree wholeheartedly with what you write here, Ms. Mentzer, including the praise for the Prado, which I revisited a few years ago (after touring it as a teenager) and found beautifully proportioned, thoughtfully curated, and thoroughly inspiring. Full of "light bulbs," in other words.
One thing that strikes me is that your light bulbs went off while you were experiencing the art. Visiting a museum, attending a concert or play, these experiences are triggers that lead us to think more, beyond the present moment.
If some people are dismissive of the importance of art, and hostile to it, it must be at least in part because they haven't been exposed to art: they haven't allowed themselves the light-bulb experience. But in consequence, these same people are effectively working to deny the rest of us -- anybody else, really -- a light-bulb experience.
You say you're not an art-museum person, and yet (for my money) your reactions to the art you saw were exactly right, original to you and yet in keeping with what the artists wanted. Your experience brought you into a community of men and women alive today, and long since passed away. (You were also able to express your reactions beautifully, and to share them with more people still.) What happened to you in the Prado and afterward pretty much sums up why we need to support the arts. Thank you for sharing your feelings and ideas, and for making me think about my own.”