What is Gonzo Opera?
- First of all, despite its subject matter, it is real opera, and
not a parody of the genre as are many works in the last few years that call
themselves “opera.” It uses beautiful classically-trained voices and allows
them to demonstrate all the marvelous attributes of traditional vocal
technique. The Gonzo style is full of melody (something
sorely lacking in most contemporary opera) — memorable melody that
shows off the voices in the best possible light.
- Gonzo Opera takes as its subject matter outrageous comedy/satire,
subjects heretofore completely foreign to opera. It is as contemporary as
the movies. Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man was made into an opera
with great success. It was not so much the traditional opera audience who
came to see it, but Shannon’s audience (the 20-40 year olds). This was the
first of the Gonzo operas.
- Gonzo Opera is designed to be portable and inexpensive to produce. This should
prove a boon to smaller opera companies as
- It attracts a new, young audience (which all companies are crying out to
- It can be produced with simple sets, and a small combo of
instrumentalists (as opposed to a full orchestra), and in less expensive
- It will be attractive to sources of publicity otherwise uninterested in
Opera, as an art form, desperately needs a swift kick in the pants — the
same kind that was given it by the verismo movement in the late
1800s. When the overwhelming percentage of works in standard repertoire are
100-300 years old, something is severely wrong. One need only compare the
quantity of good and memorable new operas from the second half of the 20th century with the second half of the 19th. The 21st has so far fared little better.
It’s no secret that developing a new audience for opera is critical.
Gonzo Opera is intended to breathe new life into a music genre that is too
often not immediately attractive to younger generations.
Daniel Steven Crafts