Notebook

The Use of Opera

This morning, waiting for an airport bus that never arrived, I and others in the queue watched with bated breath as two men abseiled up and down the wall of the Paris Opera. Were they acting in an outdoor performance of the Entführung aus dem Serail?

No, they were displaying a mega poster advertising the latest Samsung. A fine gadget, I’m sure. Still, it is dispiriting that the façade of one of Europe’s great sanctuaries of culture is reduced to a mere support for trade.

Chagall, who painted the opera’s ceiling, maintained that ‘the dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world’. Such wonder is of its nature gratuitous. I wish the abseilers had put up a giant portrait of Mozart instead.