The gradual disappearance of opera and ballet from the American cultural scene has been all too similar to that of the eagles, grizzlies, and wolves from their natural habitat, but in both cases downward trends may have been reversed. This year, the Kalispell Cinemark theaters and the Whitefish Performing Arts Center are bringing 10 of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s current productions to the movie screen plus one encore from an earlier season, and Cinemark is screening seven ballets from the Moscow Bolshoi Theater.
But what if they screened a Met Opera or Bolshoi Ballet performance and nobody came?
I was a participant in such a cultural abomination earlier in the summer when my best friend and I attended a Cinemark encore showing of the tragic operatic romance, “La Boheme,” and we were joined in the audience by just two older folks. A few weeks later, we were all alone at a showing of a genuine opera comedy, “The Barber of Seville.” Thus the average attendance for the two shows was three.
But the current situation does not have to remain in this sorry state.
Could not the dance, voice, music, and drama teachers join with some of the movers and shakers of the Flathead education and music establishment and work something out with either or both the Whitefish PAC and the Cinemark theaters? I’m suggesting some future audiences comprised of perhaps a majority of younger folks (for instance ages 10 to 20) who might appreciate a free or generously subsidized introductory look at art forms they may have never seen or even heard about.
As Flathead County’s population approaches 100,000, surely there are several generous donors who might feel privileged as I would in helping children and young adults to enjoy their first opera or ballet. As Central School (now the Northwest History Museum) was saved from the wrecking ball, a half generation later surely the cultural horizons of the Flathead Valley qualify for a bit of expansion per the above suggestion.
Franklin Schroeter lives in Somers.