Just days after premiering my first blog post which was a gushing review of the “This Is Opera” YouTube page, I am saddened to see it has been shut down.
I hope they come back someday. I know they were extremely controversial and were accused by some of running a vocal studio. (As if that was illegal??) But they had excellent content and were able to provide countless examples of why the singers “of the past” were better than their modern counterparts. For me, it wasn’t just the singing that had changed over the past 75 years – but the entire culture entrusted with keeping this art-form alive had changed and the traditions of the past were deliberately dismantled. On the surface, opera companies still worked to produce the often performed “standard” repertoire, however using this same “standard” repertoire the art-form was subverted to re-interpret the artistic and cultural narrative.
What TIO did was document (although inadvertently) this systematic dismantling of the traditional operatic culture and mindset. Why were the singers “better” in the past? Was it because the concept of “chest voice” wasn’t being taught to singers today, as demonstrated by the TIO YouTube channel? Perhaps. But there is a deeper reason for the complete disregard traditions of the past, not in just the vocal style, but in the way the art was packaged, marketed, and delivered to the “high brow” culture of our bourgeoisie consumers. It was a corporate take-over of the art and it was also ideological. Singers couldn’t be like Brigit Nilsson or Mario Del Monaco any more, because the “singer” was no longer the star. It was the sets, the director, the “edgy” reinterpretation of the “standard” works that demanded the spotlight. The modern singers were just a part of the inter-changeable scenery. Singers could no longer be unique, but are now forced to comply with cultural and aesthetic standards set not by musicians, but by corporate huskers and political ideologues.
I think TIO was a threat to the self-absorbed bourgeoisie consumers and to the self-important promoters of this 21st century “art” – although I don’t think TIO understood the nature of the threat they posed themselves. I think their detractors saw TIO’s comparison videos as an attack against the hard working singers of the modern era, and any criticism only served to turn away audiences from an already diminished pool of potential supporters.
To me, and probably only me, the TIO YouTube page provided the most damning evidence of the cultural aesthetic decay. Video after video, not only did they show how much better the art was, and the performers were, but what is celebrated as “great” today, is in fact a phony imitation of what the art-form once was.
The most heart-wrenching reality presented by TIO, was that the grainy videos of Mario Del Monaco, Franco Corelli, Renata Tebaldi, Apollo Granforte, Maria Callas, and all of other videos of the past showed that the opera and cultural high experienced in the mid part of the last century, was actually a sunset mistaken for the dawn. Now, we are in the dark of the night.