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Research Case studies

An Examination of Taste Cultures: the case of 'Opera Man'

Jonathan Long

Using the lens of Bourdieu’s cultures of taste, this research examined the coming together of an unlikely mix: opera and rugby league. The one confirmed by the ESRC project on cultural capital and social inclusion as being at one end of the spectrum when cultural space was mapped; the other proud of its working class roots. Despite that, John Innes’s performances at Leeds Rhinos’ home games have been celebrated by the crowd.

This relationship was examined through participant observation, informal discussions with the club and semi-structured interviews with the fans. The resultant data contribute to an examination of the ‘omnivores’ thesis that suggests (primarily middle class) people derive cultural and symbolic capital by demonstrating eclectic tastes. It leads to the conclusion though that the performances have neither sold more tickets for opera performances, nor changed the tastes of the predominantly working class fans. What has been produced is a clear example of post-modern hybridisation: elite culture has met working-class culture and produced a distinct form of entertainment. The value of Opera Man lies in the myth that he and the fans have co-produced, in his functional contribution to the match day atmosphere and in the symbolic value that marks Leeds Rhinos as different.

Research outputs

  • Long, J. (in press) Opera Man and the Meeting of ‘Tastes’. In Sandle, D, Long, J, Spracklen, K & Parry, J. (Eds) Fields of Vision – the arts in sport. Eastbourne: Leisure Studies Association.
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