Opera News editor Brian Kellow approached me a few months ago with that question, which inspired a short riff in the April issue. Here’s a sample:
What is the elevator pitch for Wagner’s Parsifal? Is there any opera today that could survive the rigorous condensation of modern life? Opera, it seems, requires a slower world. It hides vast amounts of time in its form — not just the duration of the music but the astonishing hours of preparation, the rehearsals and the private study (years, decades, whole lives) upon which every scintilla of music is predicated. When the public balks at the high price of tickets, we often explain the problem in terms of money — the millions of dollars it may cost to put a production onstage. Even more impressive, though impossible to quantify, is the sheer accumulation of time — and history — in every finished work.
And here’s a link to the rest of the essay.