Letter To The Editor: Opera Not

Letter To The Editor: Opera Not


You “assiduously avoided using the word opera” for your own work [“Opera Today”]. But you said that The Invisible Guy “is a kind of opera.” It’s not. That’s why I don’t use that word. It is “a real soundtrack for an imaginary spy film.” If I wanted to write an opera, I would and would call it that.

I bring this up because I know that some people are interested in pushing the definition of opera. More importantly, as I see it, is that many composers seem to want to be known to have written or to be in the process of writing an opera. I do not walk among them. I don’t need the word.

Back in the ’80s I worked hard to find an appropriate term for my theater pieces because I knew if I didn’t come up with one they would get called performance art, which I definitely didn’t want. So I came up with “physical poetry.”

If I have written “my opera,” it is the album Sgt. Pekker. It has a lot of singing on it, a semblance of a story, and characters that interact in a variety of ways. It could be staged effectively. That could “become” an opera—maybe. But The Invisible Guy is not one. It would make a better video game, actually. Although I certainly appreciate your mentioning it!

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