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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > August 2016 > Should we stop subsidising opera?

Should we stop subsidising opera?

The Duel


Each year the UK’s major opera companies receive around £65m of taxpayers’ money, from a total government arts budget of around £1.1bn.

YES It’s an appealing proposition whether or not you go to the opera.

If you do, there comes that moment when you look around the audience and think “Dear God let me not be one of them.” And if you don’t, you’d reasonably think “Rich snobs; they have so much money, so why should they get mine too?” It seems simple. But it’s not. Let me deconstruct it a bit.

“Should” surely implies a moral imperative. But what sort of morality? Social? Aesthetic? Political? Or just an animal gut instinct, bile and spite and tooth and claw? All of them, I suspect. Socially, the opera audience is there to display its culture. It disdains the demotic mood of the times. Aesthetically, opera is on thin ice, too, shimmering between the crass and the sublime. No other art-form can, as in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in the scene of the rose presentation, turn two people into the quintessence of erotic desire. But it comes at the price of a hefty dollop of vulgarity and slop.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s August issue: Rachel Sylvester argues that the EU referendum has started a re-alignment of British politics while Roger Scruton and Jay Elwes say that it has thrown Britain into a bout of self-examination with the fundamental question of who we are as a nation at its centre. In addition, Peter Mandelson says without reform the EU could fall victim to a populist uprising. Also in this issue: Philip Ball explores quantum entanglement, George Magnus looks at the political situation in Brazil ahead of the Olympics and Adam Mars-Jones unpicks the work of Steven Spielberg. James Cusick looks at the impact of the Chilcot report and Kathy Lette explains what the world would be like if she was in charge.