Thursday, March 14, 2019

Opera as the emotional equivalent of Pilates


In response to my meditating with Beethoven thread the Danish/Australian conductor Alexander Colding Smith writes to point out that Kasper Holten, while at the Royal Danish Opera, proposed the concept of an opera house working as an “emotional fitness center”. Kasper Holten was the acclaimed Director of Opera at Covent Garden between 2011 to 2017, and Alexander provided the following quote by him from Living Opera by Joshua Jampol:
“Music is what we use to express ourselves about emotion. We express something that words can’t. We live in a society where we speak a lot, where we talk about emotions, and that’s great. But how can you tell someone what love feels like if they’ve never felt it? How would you express that? You have butterflies in your stomach? Yeah, how many? When is it real love? How do you tell the difference? What is sorrow? Should I feel more sorrow now? Is it enough? Is this the right feeling? All of that you have to find out. I compare it to skiing. You can read all the books in the world about skiing, and it doesn’t help one bit when you’re out there. You have to find out with your body what it’s like. It’s the same with emotions. You can read about it, but once you’re in it, that doesn’t help. That’s what opera can do. It’s an emotional fitness center, where you live through love, being jealous or desperate or losing someone. You train your emotional muscles and your empathy.”
Emotional workouts are in the DNA of Scandinavian opera. Seen above is the recording of the Danish composer Per Nørgård's opera/ballet Siddhartha based on the early life of the Buddha, premiered in Stockholm in 1979. Kasper Holten's vision of the opera house as an emotional fitness center is worth dwelling on. As well as being a fitness activity Pilates is also used in rehabilitation programmes. On Google there are 147 million entries for Pilates and 109 million citations for the 'benefits of Pilates'. There are more than 9 million people in Pilates training in the US alone, and in the UK the value of the Pilates and yoga studio market has grown to £875.4 million in 2017. Now I seem to remember someone saying that classical music needs a big, new, affluent and younger market....

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