Things more important than opera

Things more important than opera

Jenna Simeonov

Opera and music and theatre mean a whole lot to me, and I take seriously what I write about it. To talk about the arts during times like this, after the horrific attacks in Paris, seems to take more justification than usual.

I saw on my newsfeed that someone had shared that quote of Leonard Bernstein’s quote, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” It’s a sentiment that means something to me, in that I see the arts as something we all respond to and find stimulating; for me, the ability to be creative is a symptom of a society with rights and freedom. To carry on with this music-making, painting, singing, is to stand up for the continuation of these rights.

It’s not the same as giving first aid, or helping to restore a bombed building, but there must be a reason why music is ubiquitous in tragic times, despite its apparent unnecessity. I think it might be that simple: if there’s music and entertainment, it means that people are living in some modicum of comfort. They’re beyond a state of emergency, past the immediate danger, and they’ve gained the luxury of being able to sit with a guitar, or fund a benefit concert, simply for the pleasure of others.

So, if we’re stubbornly making music, that means that the industry and society that supports music-making is stubbornly present, too. It’s not about ignoring tragedy to “bravely” maintain our status quo, but it’s fighting for the good in our daily lives. In reality, something tragic happens in our world every day, and loud events like the attacks in Paris should serve to remind us of that. As we wade through the messiness of xenophobia, in a world where tragedy can happen, it often seems like we can do little to control the infuriating violence of others.

If that’s all true, it would be a shame not to ask more from the quality of our daily lives, and it would be a waste to deny ourselves the temporary relief of music while we can still make it. The space between emergency and banality - that’s what is inevitably filled by the arts.

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