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Your Reaction: Are opera and ballet elitist?

A selection of tweets and comments following our Big Question debate.

By Lottie Butler (Assistant Content Producer)

12 March 2013 at 12.01pm | 2 Comments

Our Big Question series of events opened last night with a discussion about elitism in opera and ballet. The event, organised in partnership with the Telegraph, was a live-streamed debate with artists and thinkers debating the topic.

Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, Written on Skin Director Katie Mitchell, The Royal Ballet’s Gary Avis and novelist Dreda Say Mitchell formed the panel, chaired by Telegraph Arts Editor Sarah Crompton. The evening also included a rehearsal with Artist-in-Residence Liam Scarlett, working on his latest production Hansel and Gretel, and music performed by our Youth Opera Company.

We’ll have video highlights online soon. Until then, here are a selection of your comments:


Your Reaction: Are opera and ballet elitist?

A selection of comments from our first Big Question debate.

Storified by Royal Opera House· Tue, Mar 12 2013 04:29:00

#bigquestion I agree some people go to the Opera just to be seen and not to enjoy itAchi Dreams
If not understanding it means it’s elitist then arguably so is rap. ROH for the first time over Christmas. Grand but absorbing #bigquestionSebastian Jones
#BigQuestion I’ve had friends worry they have to watch ballet/opera in a certain "way" – they don’t realise you just sit back and enjoy!DaveTriesBallet
#BigQuestion Elitism in terms of pricing is not the point here, rather capturing the imagination of the wider public. In audience.Jiajun Tan
The Big Question: Are opera and ballet elitist?royaloperahouse
Can we even extract culturally/historically ingrained elitism from opera and ballet? If so, what are we left with? #BigQuestionFlorence Waters
Do people actually go the opera in order to be seen anymore? Are there not better arenas? This is not the 19th century. #BigQuestionAksel Tollåli
#bigquestion Need to distinguish between opera being performed well by an elite like Olympics, Premier League etc and opera being for a few.Arun Kataria
Gary Avis discussing opera in unconventional spaces. Last time I saw the Royal Ballet was at Bestival. It can work #bigquestionAlice Vincent
The live streaming of The Big Question: is opera and ballet elitist? © ROH 2013Royal Opera House Covent Garden
#bigquestion good to hear that composer Mark Turnage is an Arsenal fan. He says Emirates ticket is more expensive than operasumant singh bhatia
Ditch the talk of elitism & say ‘If you like music & theatre, here’s a great show’. Then make sure it IS great. @TelegraphOpera #bigquestionMark Valencia
Maybe ballet wouldn’t feel so elitist if people could see & understand more of the difficult of its creation. #bigquestionDorothy Trigg
To conclude; #ballet & #opera as elitist and exclusive as you want to make it. #BigQuestion @RoyalOperaHouseFreed of London Ltd.

What do you think, are opera and ballet elitist?

By Lottie Butler (Assistant Content Producer)

12 March 2013 at 12.01pm

This article has been categorised Ballet, Opera and tagged Big Question, debate, discussion, Dreda Say Mitchell, Gary Avis, Katie Mitchell, Mark-Anthony Turnage

This article has 2 comments

  1. Daphne Thurlow responded on 13 March 2013 at 5:44pm Reply

    If children were brought up listening to different kinds of music (other than "pop" which seems to be the norm) and were given the opportunity to watch ballet and dance in general, without parents telling them it's only "for posh people" (which I have often heard, to my horror) - I am sure their eyes, once opened to all of this, would not take the view that opera and/or ballet is elitist. Certainly, money is required to train singers and dancers, and visits to the ROH do cost, but it should be understood by those who critisize, that a company of professional dancers, singers and full orchestra, plus the running costs of such a huge (and wonderful) building, does not make for "cheap" seats.The artistes have devoted their lives from young, to attain the standards they are, to be part of such an excellent world class company, and should be rewarded accordingly. Over the years the ROH has done it's best to be as inclusive as it is able, in the encouragement of youngsters who show an interest in the Arts, plus the "big screen" events etc. It saddens me that in the 21st century, a secton of people still hold the old views. They do not know what they are missing firstly. And secondly, should not pass their views onto youngsters.

  2. I was raised up listening to opera/ballet and this form of art slowly became part of my everyday existence. I cannot live without music and I know that there are many other people who feel the same way. What has to be done is to show them that one can enjoy music directed to the heart as much (or, probably, even more!) than the one directed to the body. I remember watching this Pavarotti clip when it came out and I think this is what opera and ballet should aim at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0afcLgqyt0
    It is a pity when one listens in high school, for instance, to some breathtaking Puccini arias and posts them on Facebook and one's colleagues view him as a weirdo. Because they HAVE his sensitivity, the only problem is that it hasn't been cultivated yet.
    In order to answer the question clearly: There is absolutely nothing in opera/ballet that makes it elitist in itself. By contrary, its core is the essence that could ultimately connect humanity. Think of it - opera/ballet as the universal language that we've been searching for centuries. How knows? It may be.

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