Tips on how to approach CAT Reading Comprehension passages
- Don’t get into the minor details of the passage; just focus on what each paragraph has to say
- As you read, create a map of the passage; you must remember what thing is located where in the passage
- Once you read the question, come back to the part of the passage that is likely to have the answer
- Compare the options and eliminate the incorrect choices based on the evidence that you see in the passage
- Choose the answer once you are convinced of the right choice
PassageAs 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.