Thursday, July 21, 2011

Obsess Much? Identifying Your Inner Opera Fanatic

"You know the opera fanatic even if you have never attended an opera performance in your life. He or she knows every performance, every singer, every composer, every conductor. The critics... phooey, they know nothing, but the fanatic holds the key to opera knowledge and enjoyment. Only they truly understand the art, and only they truly appreciate the art. In The Opera Fanatic: Ethnography of an Obsession, Claudio E. Benzecry identifies four distinct types of the obsessed attendee: There’s the hero, who believes he is keeping the opera house open and the art itself alive and vital. There’s the addict, who is willing to sacrifice his families, friends, lovers, money, and sanity to attend multiple performances of the same opera, to listen to the records and attend lectures and travel to distant theaters. There’s the nostalgic, for whom everything was better when it was sung by Maria Callas, or Joan Sutherland, or back in 1965, or back when people took pride in knowing about opera. Then there’s the pilgrim, the devoted subject who treats the opera house as a religious temple." [Source]

About the author: I came to U Conn in September of 2007, after having completed my Ph D at NYU. I'm currently working in 4 projects. The first one is the completion of a manuscript based on my dissertation, The Opera Fanatic. Ethnography of an Obsession. Based on three years of fieldwork, archival research and 44 in depth interviews, this study serves to make more complex the relationship between engagement with high cultural products and the attainment of social status. Honor in this case is not related to how much recognition fans can gather from peers outside of the opera house or in how much they can convert their lifestyle in capitals and resources (money, connections, jobs) but rather with how they craft themselves as honorable people. Passionate fans produce themselves as worthy selves, through a laborious, sustained long-term engagement with opera. Fans conceive of opera as a meaningful activity that offers them a stage on which to enact certain values, feel in public and express themselves as superior and highly refined beings among equals. The second project, is a stand-alone piece, in direct relation to my previous research. The objective of this particular study is to understand how much social closure the elites managed to produce on opera attendance in Buenos Aires during the foundational period of its main house, the Teatro Colón (1908-1931). As a result of it, I'm writing a comparative article, focused on the organization of opera in Buenos Aires, Boston, Milan and Manchester, with an emphasis in the interplay of elites, immigrant populations and State institutions in the early organization of high culture and its consequences in terms of audience stratification. The third project, a collaboration with new colleague Andrew Deener, will look at the micro level of the political economy of fashion globalization, focusing on trend forecasting agencies and second rate clothing and accessories companies and the ways in which they participate in producing both patterns of innovation and reproduction. The study will start by focusing in a few firms from New York and L.A., but we hope to extend it to other locations later on. A fourth project, locally based, which will look at the way in which "talent" is discovered and evaluated, focusing on pro basketball scouts and the way they construct and forecast college players, as potential treasures, sleepers or busts.

New York University , Ph.D. (Sociology), 2007.
Universidad de General San Martín , M.A. Studies (Cultural Analysis), 2000.
University of Buenos Aires , Licenciatura (Political Science), 1997.

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