In the Golden Age, being a slob wasn't as easy

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Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen wonders why opera singing has declined. Two of his possible explanations are worthy of comment:

2. The best voices grow up watching TV, rather than reading Romain Rolland and Thomas Mann. The Zeitgeist makes them dull.

4. The best voices came from Germany and Italy and Austria, and World War II destroyed the musical and vocal training networks of those countries.

My only comment about 4 is that it's an interesting idea. I don't know enough about the history of opera to comment in a credible way beyond that. I'd be interested to learn.

Explanation 2 is one we've heard before in many different contexts. The modern age breeds mainly slobs. It's true that there's a lot of garbage in culture these days, but this is a function of technology and not of newly-created interest in crap. If there had been the technology to broadcast Friends back in the heyday of opera, opera would have started suffering immediately.

Back in the golden age of opera there were fewer entertainment options for people. Now there's television, movies, movies on television (DVDs), the internet, etc. It makes sense that with more options the former only option's share of the pie would decline.

He's smarter than I am, so I'm sure he knows this.

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