An exotick and irrational entertainment

We all know someone who just doesn’t get opera. Try as we might to win them over, or at least to make a case for our interest, they simply can’t understand why anyone would pay good money to listen to people going on about such things as love, death, revenge, or cigarettes. And the fact that it’s in a foreign language certainly doesn’t help matters.

This anti-opera bias is as old as the art form itself, and many of the most interesting denunciations have themselves been almost operatic in passion and intensity. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some of my favorites, starting with this gem from the 17th-century French critic, soldier, and epicurean Charles de Saint-Évremond:

“[Opera] is a bizarre mixture of poetry and music where the writer and composer, equally embarrassed by each other, go to a lot of trouble to create an execrable work…Nonsense filled with music, dancing, stage machines, and decorations may be magnificent nonsense; but it is nonsense all the same.”

Don’t these sentiments sound familiar?


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