Opera and Theater
Rasennans enjoy a good show. The theatrical arts are widespread through the nation, at every stratum of society. Ragtag traveling troupes put on bawdy farces for the common folk, passing the hat for copper basa and sometimes just donations of food and drink. Better-renowned troupes offer good seats to the artisan class, and reach a little higher with their subject material. And each principality has at least one grand theater devoted to the pinnacle of the art: viciously satirical comedies, gruesome tragedies, historical works massaged to be even more dramatic, and of course operas of all sorts.
Actors, singers, playwrights and other dignitaries of the stage fill an interesting spot in Rasennan society. Not quite as respectable as other members of their general social standing, they nonetheless intrigue many with their celebrity. The most famous find themselves invited to numerous celebrations, usually with the implicit hope that they’ll entertain the guests — not by performance, mind, but simply by being the sort of interesting, witty, borderline scandalous people that the “theater people” reputation carries with it. Some attempt to rise above this expectation, presenting themselves as true artists. Others revel in it.
The great opera houses of Rasenna are remarkable institutions: almost universities for the performing arts. Many actors are given over to an opera house as apprentices when they’re small children, and raised amid vigorous training — song, dance, enunciation, memory, acrobatics, stage-fighting. Several opera houses have even developed their own dueling and unarmed combat styles to give their performances a particularly distinctive edge. Many people believe that these techniques are genuinely deadly, though experts tend to scoff; that is of course what the theaters would want you to think.
The presence of magic as a potential commodity is a controversial one. While it’s accepted to use generally mundane products of arcane and scientific research, such as alchemical smoke powders, magic itself is a rare presence in the grand opera houses of Rasenna. For one, genuine adepts usually use their hard-won arts for purposes other than entertaining the masses. For another, theater culture generally sees it as cheating: the true skill of an illusion is in performing it with moonlight and mirrors, not with sorcery. Still, a few troupes feel that the art of the theater will stagnate if resources such as arcana are forbidden. The two most notable opera houses that employ some small amount of magic in their performances are the Grand Phantasmagoria in Raspian City, which is embroiled in constant feuds with its competitors, and the Penumbral in Ladona, which employs one or two minor adepts in shadow magic who lacked whatever ineffable qualities it takes to prosper in House Sespech.