(American Conservative) -- Over the last three decades or so of attending performances, I always lean forward with anticipation at the prospect of a new composition. The times being what they are, I know I’ll probably be disappointed, perhaps even repulsed, but there is always a chance that something remarkable may happen. It was with just such mixed anticipation that I recently settled into my seat at the San Francisco Opera for the fourth and latest John Adams opera, Girls of the Golden West. It’s rare that one gets an opportunity to attend the world premiere run of an opera. In fact, such premieres draw opera fans and critics from all over the world.
Opera, which combines the orchestral music of a symphony, the finest singers, and the full stage production of a play, is an expensive—even extravagant—art form. Perhaps as a result, the opera world is rather conservative in its productions choices. A handful of particularly beloved and audience-tested operas make up a disproportionate share of any year’s performances.
Most operas are built upon eternal verities of human passion: love, war, lust, hatred, revenge, jealousy, murder, betrayal.
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