Emily Alane Erken presented a paper "The Classic in the Contemporary: Opera Fans’ Online War for Russia’s Soul"
On October 21, Emily Alane Erken (PhD, Lecturer at School of Music, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio) presented a paper “The Classic in the Contemporary: Opera Fans’ Online War for Russia’s Soul” on the Research Center for Contemporary Culture Academic Seminar.
Fury abounds on Ru.Net, even in the spectator reviews of classical opera written by otherwise self-consciously elegant fans. New productions of classic operas elicit particular venom. Though spectator reviews seem to be amateur attempts at professional music criticism, in these texts description becomes slander and debate becomes a battlefield. Analysis betrays the biases of the writer in every statement. Why do people shriek about opera online? Why does the “preservation” of the classics remain such an incendiary topic in twenty-first century Russia?
In this paper, I present an alternative framework for understanding amateur arts criticism. Replacing the assumption that the internet’s anonymity allows for hate speech, I argue that the “classics discussion” online is actually a battle for a usable past. In the wake of the twentieth century’s shifting ideologies, many Russians struggle to redefine their country’s moral identity. Like people of every cultural group, many contemporary Russians seek to present their contemporary beliefs as the natural development of a national heritage. I present spectator reviews of Dmitri Tcherniakov’s 2006 production of Evgenii Onegin at the Bolshoi Theater as a case study. I show how online writers articulate their morality – what matters most to them – in each review. This framework allows scholars to see antagonistic statements as productive and articulations of artistic conservatism as layered with meaning. Moreover, the online discussion of the Bolshoi’s Eugene Onegin presents the ordinary members of the intelligentsia, fans of all things classic, as active participants in the contemporary fight for Russia’s soul.