Monday, November 4, 2013

Opera for Masses

Breaking Bad, a remarkably popular American TV show, has been determined to be produced as an opera. The artistic director of the New York –based One World Symphony, Sung Jin Hong, is the composer behind the project. The production is planned to open in January of 2014 in New York City. The finished opera will carry the name Breaking Bad – Ozymandias, the latter part referring to a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which was also a title to one of the TV show’s episodes.

This is not the first time Hong is stepping into the popular culture. The One World Symphony regularly plays pop songs along with classical music in their concerts. Hong has also composed music based on novels by Sylvia Plath and Paulo Coelho. He is attempting to bring the new opera as close to the audience of the TV show as possible: he does not have a set vision of the opera, but is open to fans' suggestions. He even wishes to have Bryan Cranston, the actor of the main character in the TV show, to get involved. The idea of including popular culture into opera is not brand new either; already ten years ago, a production about Jerry Springer was performed.

The reason why Hong chose Breaking Bad to be his next project lies in the brilliance of the intricate plot; it explores similar matters to most traditional operas. The character of Walter White, in fact, is very similar to many heroes and heroines in the operas. The composer also suggests that the future generations may find Breaking Bad equally important as the Greek dramas.

 I could not think of a better way to spark new audiences’ interest in opera. I believe this is a very successful way to bring the traditional institution closer to contemporary society. It is important for art music to become available for as diverse audience as possible. In the article by Clemency Burton-Hill (, she asks an interesting question: Are pop culture adaptations the future of opera? I would say that it is perhaps not a bad direction to explore.

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