Opera and Censorship At Issue

At Issue

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Over the centuries political authorities have frequently feared the power of operas and subdued them through censorship. Given the perceived ability of music and words to convey powerful political propaganda, to move emotions, and possibly to stir people to action, opera has long been viewed as a potentially subversive force requiring censorship controls wherever political regimes have been authoritarian.

Concerns that have led to censorship of the theater have also generally applied to opera. Indeed, there has been more censorship of the stage than of the printed word. Stage productions are unique in gathering together in public places large numbers of people, who may be mobilized for concerted action (whereas the printed word is usually consumed alone and in private). Live performances are more powerful in impact than readings of the same words. Furthermore, stage performances are accessible to the illiterate and usually feared poor, while print often is not.