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RC practice Passage with Explanation -15

As opera becomes more popular in America the scarcity of theaters and the unconscionably costly logistics of the lyric stage make it difficult to meet the demand. Many a good—sized and well—to—do community would be able to operate and maintain a modest but live opera theater, but are unwilling to do so because it would unfavorably compare with the splendors of New York's Metropolitan Opera.

It is not realized that the rich operatic culture of Italy and Germany is mainly due to their many small municipal theaters which alternate repertory theater with opera. These circumstances have led to concert or "semi—staged " performances which, formerly an exception, now occupy entire companies expressly formed for this purpose. However, stage music, real operatic music, often fails to exert its full power in the frozen formality of the concert platform. In a true opera the particular charm and power of the music does not come through without staging and acting, for gesture is an expression of feeling, and the decor and costumes summarize the external aspects, providing a vision of the whole action. Both are to a considerable degree determined by the music, but they also complement it.

An opera is a play in music. If it is presented in concert version, then it should not offer a half—hearted gesture towards the theater. Indeed, the "partly staged " performances are even more unsatisfactory than the concert variety. The tenor is all excited, but you do not know why; the soprano is obviously dying, but she remains on her feet. Nor does the stationary chorus, its members turning the pages of their scores without looking at the person they sing about, contribute to the illusion.

Different aesthetic laws of governance apply to concert music and theatrical music, for they are incongruous worlds calling for an entirely different sort of imagination from both performers and audience. Opera is theater, the most involved, elaborate, and exciting form of theater. The Italian term "opera " is far more inclusive than its English interpretation, for it embraces not only the musical score but the whole theater, "the work. "

Without the stage, paucity of musical ideas immediately becomes evident, often painfully so. Take for instance Richard Strauss, some of whose late operas are being performed in concerts. Strauss was a composer who knew every facet of the lyric stage as few have known it, yet what can be quite pleasant on the stage, even if it is not particularly inventive, appears bare and contrived when removed from its natural habitat.

Some may say that the end justifies the means. I can see merit in the concert performance of an opera which otherwise could not hope to be heard, or of one deficient in true theatrical qualities yet of genuine musical value. But neither Strauss, nor Bellini, nor Donizetti qualifies for such a role. Even if we forget the vital function of staging, it is practically impossible, for purely musical reasons, to present such a work on the concert platform. The large orchestra belongs in the pit; when placed on the stage, together with the singers, it makes their position almost untenable, even when led by an experienced opera conductor.


Which of the following statements seems most in agreement with the attitude of most "good—sized and well—to—do " communities regarding opera?

[A] Certain pleasures can only be appreciated by the educated.
[B] Much can be achieved even if inherent limitations exist.
[C] There is no sense in trying if you can't be among the best.
[D] The opinions of your neighbors are more important than those of strangers.
Option: 3

Find the author's discussion of these communities: they appear in paragraph 1. The author argues that they don't produce operas because they won't be as good as New York's enormous opera. Looking for an attitude that would reflect this immediately yields (C). Paraphrasing in advance usually means quick points!

Wrong answers:

(A): Out of Scope. The author never says anything about education and opera.

(B): Opposite. This would more accurately reflect the opinion of a community that did produce opera..

(D): Out of Scope. There's nothing in the passage that reflects this distinction.


Based on the information in the passage, with which of the following statements would the author most likely NOT agree?

[A] Staging and acting are an integral part of the operatic work.
[B] Some acting in a concert is better than no acting at all.
[C] An opera is a much more involved production than is a concert.
[D] Understanding the characters is essential to an appreciation of operatic music.
Option: 2

The author has a strong point throughout the passage: operas and concerts don't mix. Look for a statement that the author would actively dispute, or eliminate the three answers that he'd agree with. (B) turns up as a statement that distorts what the author spends paragraph 3 arguing.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. This is the point of the passage.

(C): Opposite. This is implicit in the idea that communities stage concerts when they feel they can't do justice to an opera.

(D): Opposite. The author mentions this in paragraph 3.


The author discusses "opera " in a very particular way in the fourth paragraph of the passage. Implicit in the author's discussion of the term is the idea that:

[A] Italian words typically have broader meanings than English words.
[B] the term "opera " in English refers to only some part of the theatrical work.
[C] the same word can have different meanings in only two different languages.
[D] there is a fundamental difference between Italian and American opera.
Option: 2

Look to the fourth paragraph for this information. The author argues that the term "opera " in English does not connote the full experience of the theatrical work (as it does in Italian); choice (B) mirrors this.

Wrong answers:

(A): Faulty Use of Detail. This could possibly be inferred from the passage, but the author is not trying to make this point.

(C): Faulty Use of Detail/Distortion. The author never goes so far as to limit the scope of the discussion to only two languages.

(D): Distortion. The author does not imply this, he is only saying that the way we think of opera is different.


Take, as an example, an opera that contains strong musical ideas throughout its score and suppose that it will be performed in concert. According to the passage, the presentation will:

[A] succeed, because without staging the strong musical ideas will become evident.
[B] fail, because the orchestra will have to be on stage with the singers.
[C] succeed, because the composer knew every facet of the lyric stage.
[D] fail, because the music is secondary to the staging and acting in an opera.
Option: 2

An application question. Break the situation down into pieces that can be evaluated against the author's argument. The performed—in—concert part of the situation is likely the easier to evaluate. The author will surely think that it will fail because of his idea that operas shouldn't be done in concert. While the author mentions musical ideas in paragraph 6, there's no reason to think that even if this were fixed the author would still think a concert was a good idea. (B) refers to a failure based on one of the author's criticisms in paragraph 6.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The author argues that operas are failures without staging.

(C): Faulty Use of Detail. Though the author mentions in paragraph 5 that Richard Strauss was such a composer, his point is that even this isn't enough to avoid failure if the opera is performed in concert.

(D): Distortion. While the author argues that staging is necessary, there's nothing in the passage to indicate that it's superior to the music.


Bellini's works have historically been considered to possess both true theatrical quality and genuine musical value. What is the relevance of this information to the passage?

[A] It supports the author's claim that many great works have no hope of being heard.
[B] It supports the author's claim that Bellini does not meet his criteria for concert performance.
[C] It weakens the author's claim that Strauss and Bellini exhibit a paucity of musical ideas.
[D] It weakens the author's claim that presenting an opera in concert can tarnish its image.
Option: 2

A tricky question. Think carefully, and reread the relevant text. Where is Bellini mentioned? Go through the last paragraph again, being sure to paraphrase. The author argues that concerts might be fine for operas that wouldn't be heard or that are up to snuff musically but not theatrically. He then argues that Bellini, among others, doesn't qualify for "such a role. " What is the role? The concert treatment. The author must therefore think that Bellini's operas have both the musical and theatrical quality needed for a fully staged opera. The information in the question has to therefore support this belief, ergo (B).

Wrong answers:

(A): Distortion. While the author says that some works might not be heard outside of concert, Bellini doesn't fit in this category (if you haven't heard of Bellini, note that as he is mentioned alongside Strauss, he is clearly a famous composer).

(C): Opposite. The author implies just the opposite when talking about Bellini.

(D): Opposite. The author would argue that if this is true about Bellini, presenting his operas in concert would cause all sorts of harm to the opera.


In the passage, the author uses the phrase "the end justifies the means. " In context of the passage, what is doing the justifying is:

[A] the exposure of the public to operatic music.
[B] the resolution to discourage the concert performance of operatic works.
[C] the placement of the large orchestra on the stage next to the singers.
[D] the performance of an opera on a concert platform without staging or acting.
Option: 1

Go back to the last paragraph to analyze the statement. It might be easier to start with the "means " for which some argue. (When an author uses the passive voice to say that "some might say... " it's almost certain that the author disagrees!) The means must be the concert treatment, which would make the end the performance of the opera itself. This is backed up in the next few lines. Choice (A) reflects this.

Wrong answers:

(B): Opposite. The people using this phrase would argue for concert performances.

(C): Faulty Use of Detail. While this does happen in concert performances, this isn't the end itself for which the concert promoters are hoping.

(D): Faulty Use of Detail. Again, though this might be what actually happens, it's the means rather than the end.

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