LETTER: Operatic costs, funding and audiences

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From Professor Arthur Jacobs

Sir: Those of us who write about and teach the history of music are grateful for your editorial revelation that "opera started as a commercial mass entertainment in central Europe's concert halls".

Hitherto we have traced opera's origins to early 17th-century Florence and its "essentially courtly entertainments in the form of the then fashionable pastorale ... for the delectation of aristocratic spectators" (Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, current edition).

We have chronicled the long dependence of operatic performance on financial subsidy from aristocratic, state or municipal sources. Somehow we missed its genesis in the concert hall, whether in central Europe or elsewhere, and failed to identify it as a mass entertainment before the 19th century.

Yours faithfully,

Arthur Jacobs