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Is opera really accessible to regular young people?

HIGH NOTE: Noah Stewart was the first black musician to top British classical charts

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...


HELENA POOLE
NO

IT’S FRIDAY night and I’m hanging out with some friends trying to think of something fun to do for the evening. Cinema? Bar? Nightclub? These are the options that spring to mind. Never does a trip to the opera figure in my list of ‘things to do for entertainment’ (because, you know, I have a list for that).

The funny thing is I love musicals. I could go to see Wicked or Les Misérables any day of the week, but when I think about opera I just want to yawn. Paying £150 for the privilege of watching fat old ladies sing 400-year-old songs in a foreign language – no thanks.

It’s not as though I’m not culturally curious or interested, and I’m generally not intimidated by ‘high brow’ culture. I enjoy going to museums and art galleries but not once have I considered seeing an opera.

The thing with opera is it just does not relate to modern day issues. I’m not saying let’s stereotype young people into a Skins-like cliché of teen pregnancy, drugs and gang crime, but please let’s just be more creative and base operas in the modern day.

The themes and time periods of classical operas completely alienate a younger audience.

For those of you who think I'm being unfair on opera, let me tell you the feeling's mutual. I don’t want to go to the opera, and quite frankly the opera does not want me either, otherwise it would surely try and draw ‘ordinary’ young people like me in with cheaper tickets, social media campaigns and more relevant story lines.

So, whilst I’ve never been to an opera and therefore should not really be able to judge, I do know this much: going to the opera does not appeal to me.

I’d rather spend a lot less money and go to the cinema, thank you very much.

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ROSA DOHERTY
YES

OK, SO going to the opera on Saturday night was not what I was doing at 17. That doesn't mean I didn't have access to it. There are no age, sex or race restrictions in opera – we can sing, watch or take an interest in it at any age.

To suggest it’s not accessible only reinforces the stereotype to young people that opera is not for them.

It’s the job of society and the arts to encourage young people to broaden their minds and think outside the box. Opera is out of that box and – like the saying goes – you can try everything once.

There are myths that it’s too expensive. Well, show me a 17-year-old who doesn't spend 80 quid on a pair of trainers? Young people have access to money, it’s about challenging them on how to spend it. It’s all in the mind set.

If we teach and encourage young people to be excited by worlds they feel alienated by, or don't know, we can give them a unique opportunity to grow and develop.

It’s about changing people’s mind set about certain things. No one wants to live in a box so don't put young people or what they can have access to in one either.

The fact is we've seen opera singers crossover, like Charlotte Church and Il Divo, and Pavarotti is even a household name. It might not be something you’re into but you have access to it, and it’s there for us to explore if we want. Who knows, the excitement of a opera might get you hooked. Young people should at least be give the chance to make up their own minds!

THE 'HEAD TO HEAD''COLUMN IS BY THE LONDON 360 REPORTERS
 To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to www.communitychannel.org/london360
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