Chapter 1 provides a sketch of 1920s operatic culture, in order to provide a context for subsequent chapters. It introduces the nostalgic, pessimistic terms in which opera was framed in the years around 1920, before charting how operatic culture developed across the course of the decade. The chapter introduces the key companies that were active during the decade and the sorts of venues in which they performed. Performance standards are analysed, in terms of both singing and staging. The chapter outlines the particular financial problems that opera companies faced during this period and also considers the threat posed to opera by various alternative forms of entertainment and diversion, including film, dance, musical theatre, jazz, sport, and motoring. The chapter examines how the British situation compared with operatic culture in both continental Europe and the USA, and concludes by discussing the ‘feast or famine’ approach to operatic performance that typified the decade.
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