Activist Blog: “I Am Not Your Typical Opera Patron”

by Kendall, age 16

I am not your typical opera patron. I’m a sophomore in high school, and although I often profess my love for musical theatre, it is in reference to the works of Lin-Manuel Miranda as opposed those of Verdi and Puccini. Opera rarely invites young people into its world, instead favoring the archetypal wealthy patrons in glamorous fur coats. It is a world, although intriguing, seems far too vast and ancestral for a sixteen-year-old to access. This identity of an outsider was not on my mind as I settled into my seat at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater to see PermaDeath. At first glance, the gilded theater with it’s lofty, painted seemed like what I would imagine to be a typical opera venue. But even a cursory glance would reveal one primary difference- the prevalence of attendees with their phones held aloft. People had eagerly downloaded the PermaDeath companion app, and were delighting in the virtual characters rendered masterfully in 3D on their screens. Ask any frazzled parent, or even glance at a New Yorker cartoon, and odds are that they will rail against the plague of teenagers and technology in perfect unison. Too frequently for my taste, adults complain about the frivolity and uselessness of technology. Can’t you just appreciate art and other refined pursuits, they say as they berate us. Sitting in the audience before the show, I felt slightly vindicated. Art and technology can exist harmoniously, and even better each other. Seeing older generations get excited at new technology was a magical experience, and the curtain hadn’t even risen yet!

When the show started, it was enthralling. The score and plot were both exceptionally well written and engaging. The actors and actresses all put on fabulous performances. I will be the first to admit that I am not an opera critic. I can’t assess the quality of each actor’s vibrato or their exact level of versatility on stage. Thus, I can only rank this show through the criteria through which I enjoy something: how interesting, engaging, unique, and well-produced the show may be. PermaDeath scored a perfect 10 in each of these categories. I would love to spend an hour inside the mind of Cerise Jacobs. The creativity and storytelling she possesses is like nothing I have ever experienced before, in the best way possible. The plot was truly an original conception. I know I am not the first to praise the show for its originality, especially in a genre with so few new pieces, but it was truly refreshing. Seeing young people on stage in an opera allowed me to connect with the show better. The female protagonist was excellent as well. She was nerdy, spunky, and strong-willed: traits I aspire to as a young woman and that are clearly not dated from the Baroque era. She was never afraid to take her destiny into her own hands: an important message to which I think more young people need to be exposed. I feel truly lucky to have borne witness to even a fraction of the process that went into this production. PermaDeath was a comprehensively fabulous show, with an inspiring message, incredibly talented performers, and an overall engaging experience.