It's sad but true -- in the land of Lortzing, Weber and Wagner, the opera is struggling for public recognition. Government funds are being cut, and some opera performances have been attended by such a small crowd that audiences and musicians alike were relegated to the lobby of the opera house, rather than in the performance hall. Things look much different in a country that has long boasted Hollywood and Broadway as its cultural flagships. In the United States, the opera is more popular than ever. The number of people who go to the opera has increased by a third over the past 15 years, and the number of opera houses has even multiplied. America, the world's number one TV nation, has discovered the opera as a multimedia attraction. Opera houses owe their success to persistent advertising, as the virtual absence of government support keeps them dependent on ticket sales. This, however, has artistic consequences. The willingness to take risks is limited in the land of unlimited possibilities, as Georg Hirsch reports.

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