The sacred cow in the operatic byre is not, as you might imagine, a particularly tempestuous diva, but a person of a certain age who comes from what used to be known as ‘the blue rinse set’ – though these days they are more likely to be blonde.

Sacred Cow

An opera audience in boxes with a view of the stage and orchestra pit, c. 1920s–1930s. Image: Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy Stock Photo.


Let’s call them Buttercup and Ferdinand for the purposes of this column. Buttercup and Ferdinand are ageing fast, to the point where their tastes have become almost sclerotic, especially when it comes to opera, and they are more averse than most to change.

Let’s face it, while people might think they welcome change, when it isn’t quite what they wanted, many discover they don’t like it one little bit. However, reluctant to be a stick-in-the-mud, most people at least try to adapt, while some even welcome the new, the innovative and the shockingly contemporary. If they don’t, most will pack their ports and decamp for pastures old. (Possibly DVDs of fabled 20th-century productions and stars,...