Attending the performance was in itself a very wonderful experience. I still can feel the joy and emotion I had that night, a very special feeling. To hear and see a live performance of one of Mozart’s greatest operas, Die Zauberflöte, is an unforgettable event. To say it in a nutshell: attending a live opera performance surpasses every listening experience at home. Listen to the music below.
The Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London once decided to lower its ticket prices drastically for one or two nights. Someone commented: “The purpose of the management of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden seems to be to bring opera to the masses. Something close to Mozart’s heart, I believe. But some regular opera goers are quite sniffy about it, worried they’ll have to sit with the hoi polloi.” Hoi polloi is actually Greek for ‘the big mass’, the ‘common’ people. Well, did I see them that night, the ‘hoi polloi’, in the City Theatre in the centre of Rotterdam?
To plunge into the matter: no, I didn’t see them at all. I saw the elite there, the privileged. The audience mainly consisted of old and middle-aged rich folks and I’m sure quite some of them were only present to be seen and to network. I could see and even hear that. Anyway, I saw nobody of the masses, the working class and the (lower) middle class. No steelworkers, no carpenters, no cleaners, no cashiers, no shop assistants, no construction workers, no small shopkeepers, no small tradesmen. Most people were members of the higher middle and upper class. I could see that by their faces and their clothes, by their manners and their behaviour. I could hear it by their affected accent. Don’t think that I only had a vague impression of the public there. I had the intention to observe the audience quite well, because I was curious about it. So I mingled with the crowd there as much as possible: I attended the introductory speech, I looked around as much as possible, I walked through the theatre, I spent time watching the public during the interval, many of them drinking red wine.
And last but not least: I verified my observations by asking my daughter. She is used to mingle with folks of almost all classes and she confirmed my observation unequivocally. Well, we all recognize birds of whatever feather rather easily.
You won’t be very surprised when I say that it was rather stuck-up. If you think that elitist people are more polite than ‘ordinary’ people you’re wrong. I remember I heard some people snoring for a while during the first act. And in the beginning of the second act some people just kept on chatting with each other as if the interval was still going on. There was of course no whistling.
I think it’s needed that things change and to change things in a way that also common people will go to the opera, especially Mozart’s operas, and in particular to that ‘vulgar’ and popular opera Die Zauberflöte. The problem is certainly not a matter of (lack of) familiarity. I’m absolutely sure that if I could have picked some common people from the street to attend this performance they all would have been wild about the music.
So I think it would be a good decision to make attending a Mozart opera mandatory for every citizen (illegal immigrants included). Several times a year and of course for free. It certainly would make people happier as well as more peaceful, which not only will pay out economically, but also will result in less violence.