There’s no denying it: opera singers are a misunderstood bunch. Singers revel in sharing posts, comics, and videos about how misunderstood our craft is. Even though we know what we do is beautiful and engaging, others tend to scoff at us.
Another group of professionals that seem to be commonly berated are politicians. It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make. However, these four ways opera singers are viewed like politicians can perhaps reframe our understanding of how we appear to outsiders.
#1 People think both opera and politics are not relevant to them
As engaging as politics and opera can be for some, as a general rule, most people don’t involve themselves with either. Voting rates are still pretty dismal, and opera house after opera house still struggles to get by.
This tends to be because the public thinks that neither politics nor opera is relevant to them and their lives. While I’m not here to create a debate on whether or not that’s true, being uninvolved with either certainly makes them less relevant (although that doesn’t mean less important!).
#2 People make wild assumptions about opera singers and politicians
The second you say you’re an opera singer to someone, there are various ideas and images that come to mind. People tend to think of a glamorous life with jewels and flowing gowns, old white dead guys in wigs, and they tend to place a general air of snobbery on you. Some of these ideas may or may not have been earned, but needless to say, there are plenty of associations that come with the title of “opera singer”. They don’t always seem to be good ones either.
This is true for politicians as well. No one will deny that politicians can have their fair share of scandal, but the instant that someone is deemed a politician, the cultural associations appear. Similarly to opera singers, these associations tend to be negative as well. In fact, sometimes they’re even the same assumptions!
#3 They think there’s too much money involved
Again, I’m not going to comment on whether or not this is true, but there seems to be a general consensus that too much money is spent on both opera and politics. Furthermore, people believe that opera and politics both are only for the rich.
Although there have been posts to debunk that myth in opera, it all goes back to the earlier ideas: if opera and politics are only for the rich, then they’re not relevant to the common person.
#4 They think that kids can do as good of a job (if not better) than current singers and politicians
The general public tends to point out videos like these to highlight how amazing kids can be in either of these arenas. I’ll leave that kind of decision making to the voters.
The actual singing starts at around 2 minutes in for this one. If you want to see more, go ahead and search “kid opera singers” on Youtube, I just picked one and ran with it.
Okay, to be fair, this kid is pretty cute.
So in short, opera singers are viewed like politicians in a variety of ways, and most of it is because of misinformation. I won’t comment on any particular politician or political topic. It’s worth thinking about how much of a negative stigma surrounds opera though, and how that stigma is a lot like that towards politicians. If we recognize that truth, then perhaps we can use that knowledge to change the cultural mindset around opera for the better.
How else are opera singers viewed like politicians? How can opera change its cultural image, or “rebrand” itself? What other professions have similar stigmas towards them? Please keep in mind that this discussion is not about any specific political viewpoint, and therefore does not need to be discussed as such.