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Opera Added to UNESCO World Heritage

By Sara Schabas on January 29, 2024

What’s up: In 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added “The practice of opera singing in Italy” to its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The addition of opera singing came to fruition due to the advocacy of a contingent of opera professionals and scholars.

Driving the news: This week, American soprano and queen of Italian bel canto Lisette Oropesa was interviewed by the New York Times about UNESCO’s addition of opera singing to its list of intangible heritages. Oropesa noted the absence of funding for opera in the United States, which lacks the state support given in many European countries. She posits that opera provides a safe space to process difficult emotions that may otherwise go unattended, leading to negative societal repercussions. Oropesa also noted that while opera currently has a reputation for being elitist, it began as a people’s art form.

Why it matters: In July 2023, the United States rejoined UNESCO to become the 194th member state of its organization. This reinstatement followed its withdrawal during the Trump administration. As Donald Trump and his philistine rhetoric rises in American polls again, the fragility of these cultural heritages is apparent once more.

Sara Schabas
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