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Boston-area arts letters

Eric Antoniou

An opportunity awaits opera fans and the city

How exciting to see a Boston opera house being discussed seriously in the Globe, to hear of support from City Hall, and to read confirmation of the strong leadership that Esther Nelson and Boston Lyric Opera have been giving to nurture this vision (“Is Boston ready to talk about a real opera house?,” SundayArts, Sept. 21). Paradoxically, the fact that Boston does not currently have a viable opera house is a hugely positive factor, since — literally — nothing stands in the way of imagining something truly innovative and impactful.

New opera houses around the world have strongly impacted their communities while giving a glimpse of what might be possible, but none has yet demonstrated the full package for the future. The Norman Foster-designed Winspear in Dallas marries a traditional theater to state-of-the-art stage technologies and communications infrastructure, but it still has the dimensions and performer-audience relationships of a 19th-century house. The in-construction, Pierre Boulez-inspired modular opera house in Lucerne allows for experiments in performance/seating configurations and media enhancements, but is constrained in size by its complex mechanics. Perhaps boldest on the civic scale is the new Oslo Opera House, designed by Snohetta, whose roof slopes not just down to — but right into — the harbor, inviting the public to swarm all over the building, which indeed they do. Still, the theater within is relatively traditional.

With a clean slate, with the leadership of BLO and others, and with the participation of the area’s vital artistic and academic communities, Boston could design and build the first great opera house of the 21st century — post-multimedia, organically shape-shifting, massively connectable, an “instrument” rather than an icon, ideal for reimagining tradition while creating explosive new experiences — that would embrace the public, energize the art form, and be a beacon of inspiration to the region, the country, and the world.




Muriel R. Cooper Professor
of Music & Media

director, Opera of the Future Group, MIT Media Lab

I wonder whether there would be so much vibrancy and innovation on the local opera scene if we had had a proper opera house and a single dominant opera company all along. Perhaps the very absence of a large venue has enabled more grass-roots companies to thrive. This is something to bear in mind as we consider what kind of opera venue — or venues — are needed for the future.


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With the demolition of Harbor Garage at one of Boston’s most spectacular development sites, an opportunity arises for development of an opera house or multipurpose performing arts center at its base. On a waterfront parcel that requires significant civic and cultural accommodation under state regulations governing tidelands, the stars could align to produce such a venue.

A Harbor Square performing arts center would be the jewel of the downtown waterfront. Offering opera (perhaps a dedicated space) along with dance, theater, and music performances as well as civic functions would be a wonderful complement to the 1.3 million square feet of office, hotel, and residential density proposed for the site. Such a venue could also kickstart a renaissance in thinking about civic and cultural uses throughout the waterfront.


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Truly overrated

I tried to like “True Detective” the first time through but was shunned by co-workers for not “getting it.” As HBO gives it a second spin, I clicked by and thought, “Nope, still don’t see it.” I Googled “overrated” next to the title and found Matthew Gilbert’s article (“Is ‘True Detective’ overrated?,” SundayArts, March 9). I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for letting me know I wasn’t nuts.



Albany, N.Y.

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