Why Must Music Be Transcendant?

Classical music, and opera in particular, is often held up as a beacon of transcendant, other-worldly beauty, in a culture obsessed with speed and reduced to communicating through sound bites. But that perception doesn’t often square with reality, says Anne Midgette, and the fact that listeners aren’t being transported to a higher realm on an average night at the Met doesn’t mean that the music has failed, simply that our expectations are misplaced. “Opera deals in human emotions, not divine and ethereal ones. When singing is sublime, it’s partly because it amplifies those emotions with a kind of inner purity.”