The English National Opera and its counterparts in great cities across the world will all shut their doors for the last time over the course of the next six months. According to industry insiders, this has been caused by the growing consensus that opera is actually unmitigated rubbish that has no chance of ever becoming popular.
‘In retrospect, I’m amazed we got away with it for so long,’ admitted John Berry, artistic director at the ENO. ‘I mean, think about it for a second. Bloke’s about to be killed, he stands there singing. Woman has to marry man she doesn’t love, she stands there looking miserable and singing. Couple are blissfully happy, they look at each other and stand there singing. Spotted the pattern yet?’
Whilst acknowledging that some productions continue to play to full houses, Berry and his colleagues have revealed that every opera company in the world is losing money. This, they say, is because the productions are ludicrously expensive, all the performers are overpaid salad dodgers and the whole format is basically tripe.
‘It will never take off,’ warned Francois Garnier, chief executive of Paris’s Opera Bastille. ‘Here, in the world’s most romantic city, an art form where the heroes are fat middle-aged blokes and the heroines are built like power stations, screeching like doo-lally fishwives? You wouldn’t even want them to get their tops off. You’re having a laugh mate.’
Added Garnier: ‘No, not even Katherine Jenkins. Seriously, no.’
Some aficionados have argued that opera has survived for over 400 years from its origins in Italy’s Commedia dell’Arte through the golden years of Mozart and Strauss and enjoying occasional waves of renewed vigour through modern takes on it. However, Herbert Kampfert of the Bayreuth opera house will have none of it.
‘I’ve sat through more productions of Wagner than you’ve had hot dinners and it bores the pants off me,’ he told reporters. ‘So some people like opera – well, people are strange, that’s all I can say. Some people like basketball. Some people like being pelted with cream buns by elderly women dressed as nurses. Apparently.’
As the ENO prepares for conversion to a multiplex cinema and a ground floor wine bar, Berry has locked his office and is applying for teacher training. He hopes against hope that his life so far has not been a complete waste.
‘I feel terrible for taking so much money off so many people to deliver such garbage for so many years,’ he told reporters. ‘I just hope I can repay my debt to society in some way. Hopefully the Royal Ballet’s next for the chop, that’s shit and all.’