Tom Sutcliffe has a long pedigree when it comes to opera. He was hooked at the age of four. It's given him plenty of time to fathom what it is that makes this theatrical form impinge so powerfully. He argues that while it might seem grand, flamboyant, passionate and overtly emotional, when you look more closely it's the intimacy of it that counts. The aria, and Tom believes these are at its core, is a confessional form. It might be launched into a huge auditorium with gut-busting zeal and massive vocal projection, but what it does is to open the character's emotions up to the audience by way of the music. The music, the singing, is everything, and it's why the aria, which Tom believes is opera's version of the cinematic close-up, is so important.
There are plenty of other elements that contribute. Relevance in setting and substance can be too slavishly observed but they matter as well. Laced with his recollections of the good and the bad in his many years as a critic, Tom makes the case for opera by going beyond the usual cliche's and enthusiasms for grandeur and beauty.