Somewhat along the lines of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s well-known essay “The Aporias of the Avant Garde,” one could write a piece about the aporias of opera today. Especially so as one contemplates the production of Leos Janacek’s The Makropulos Case at the Metropolitan Opera, the first time the venerable house has mounted that great but demanding work.

It is not that opera as such has lost its validity or appeal for our era; the problem is merely its feasibility. With the need for education apparently a recessive gene, with our schools teaching little of value and even that poorly, and with universal ignorance fostered by all the media spurred on by television, the taste for and cultivation of opera is ipso facto imperiled. Add to this the economic climate of global cooling, and subsidies for this costliest form of theater may prove to be less and less forthcoming. Hence the contradictory needs for...

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