Erza Setyadharma: Opera Lover
The Jakarta Post | Tue, 07/29/2008 2:46 PM |
says opera is a dying art hasn’t met Erza Setyadharma. The driving force behind
a black coat, white shirt and necktie, Erza Setyadharma strolls through the
rotunda carrying a large, fashionable bag in his hand. Bespectacled and with
spiky-gelled hair, he walks, talks and gestures like a man on a mission. For
the last three years, that mission has been to revive cultural awareness in
an opera society in pop-mad, dangdut-loving
God. Have you got time for this?” he asks, laughing and leaning back in his
seat. The answer that follows is typical of opera lovers everywhere, yet rather
extraordinary for a man who spent his young adult life pursuing a major in chemical
At the age of 28, Erza has produced and created dozens of shows that would not have seen the light of day without his passionate presence. He has provided a positive outlet for local talents to grow and, he hopes, for the general public to nurture a sense of appreciation toward artistic indulgences.
“I want to change the perception that most people have about the opera,” says Erza. “When people think of an opera, they immediately have this notion that it lasts forever. That you have to sit still for three hours and listen to music you can’t relate to, or lyrics you don’t understand. I want to show people that opera can be fun.”
“Some performances last no longer than six or nine minutes, the music is beautiful and even if you can’t understand the lyrics, you almost always understand what they’re trying to tell you.”
in a joint effort with the Italian Embassy and the Italian Institute of Culture
show then went to
“Some people are too quick to say they don’t like opera, yet it’s everywhere. For instance, Mozart’s Magic Flute is often used at the opening of social events. This is why I’m applying a different approach, instead of forcing people to enjoy opera, first I want them to understand what it is.”
Founded in 2005, the Indonesia Opera Society was Erza’s idea of bridging the gap, one he had mulled for years before going ahead with it. In the past three years, he has shouldered most of the load.
“I can’t do it alone,” he admits. “So far, it’s been working out, but in five years’ time, I’ll be damned if I have to do this all by myself.”
But it has not been entirely a one-man show. He proudly mentions the various parties who have helped him along the way, foreign embassies in particular. Their investment is invaluable, says Erza, in providing both material and moral support. Asked if the Indonesian government has supported his cause, he rolls his eyes.
“You know what I want to be in the future?” he asks. “I want to be the minister of culture. That’s my goal post at the moment. Because, as the minister of culture, I would make sure that culture is preserved. I would create a fund to be used specifically for the preservation and growth of our traditional culture.”
year, Erza will present the first grand opera conducted solely in Indonesian, using
“People have this notion that opera belongs in the West — well, that isn’t true. What is opera?” he asks. “Whether you realize it or not, our traditional dances are opera. Our wooden puppet shows are opera. Opera is music, drama, enlightenment.”
Aside from running the society, Erza also sits on the board of advisers for Usmar Ismail Hall in Kuningan, a venue he describes as “decent” in comparison to other “structurally inadequate” performance venues in and around the capital. In between, he juggles a less demanding profession as a freelance writer. His articles on culture, travel and art have been published by upscale magazines throughout the country.
Erza says he is what he is. When it comes to his work ethic, he claims some people who have worked with him find him rather fearsome, because he won’t settle for anything less than perfection.
“Much like the opera itself,” says Erza. “You can’t create an opera without being a perfectionist. Opera is perfection. For some, that may be intimidating. For me, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“Perfect is not without flaws; perfect is knowing that you’re giving everything you’ve got for the greater purpose of what you’re doing.”