Monday, June 17, 2024

A Night at the Opera (1976)

From the June 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The hypocrisy of capitalism’s protagonists is to be discovered in all corners. For example, who would imagine that it would find its way into an opera programme?

In this case, it must be admitted the occasion was a special one. The Proms at Covent Garden, in fact, a week in which, due to the generosity of the Midland Bank Ltd., sections of the working class (not apparently horny-handed sons of toil but students, office workers, lawyers’ clerks, etc.) can grab a space on the auditorium floor for 50p. As put in the programme: “inexpensive accommodation at prices well within the young person’s pocket”.

What is not mentioned is that to do so successfully, apart from the back-breaking, bottom-aching business of squatting two or three hours in a space just enough to fit in a sleeping dog (not too large a one), he or she must stand or sit on the pavement outside in winds or rain (as the case might be) unless lucky enough to find a doorway in which to cower.

The very long queue only serves to underline the numbers of impoverished so-called “middle-class” workers waiting for prices to be lowered to “accommodate” their pockets to enable them to visit the opera.

The point of all this, however is, that it seems the writer of the programme blurb overlooked one fact. There are some young persons whose pockets do not need to be “accommodated.’ '

On leaving at the end of the performance the present writer spied in front of the theatre a massive, polished conveyance, a Rolls no doubt, whose doors were being opened by not one but two uniformed (not their own to be sure) flunkeys to facilitate the entry of three or four “young persons” whose dress, besides all else, made clear that they had not formed part of the queue earlier on. Did the Midland Bank in its worthy and laudable project in making possible a 50p. entry to the Covent Garden Opera have this section of “young people” in mind? It is to be gravely doubted.

Of course, the Midland Bank could have asked a Socialist to explain in the programme that in a class society, such as our present capitalist one, allowing for the obvious fact that it is the privilege of the privileged capitalist class (and their young) to be privileged because of their ownership of the means of production etc., it is not to be wondered at that we find the distinction being enacted in front of our eyes.

However it is not the practice of our capitalist masters to say such things. Hence the crass hypocrisy laid down in the programme. In this context it would not be inappropriate to remark that in a Socialist world the glorious music as rendered in Covent Garden, that night and other nights, would be freely accessible to all the young (and others) of that world, without the humiliation of having it handed out to them as a charitable gift.
Max Judd

No comments: