Monday, February 18, 2008

Opining on Opera

I do not like the opera.
Not in New York.
Not in Philadelphia.
Not on a boat in a moat.
Not even with a Croat.
I care not for it in French,
Nor Italian. Not in German or even in English.
Too many high notes and screaming,
Too evocative of the mongering of fish.
Too much pleading of the suspension of belief
That the moving, singing House of Velvet
Is a young lass, deserving of many men's attention,
That the 60 year old slow-moving crooner
Is a young prince, a real swooner.

And then there's the repetition of the same verse. Of the same verse. Of the same verse. And it's not an awe-inspiring verse to deserve such repetition.

I've gone to a few and have been encouraged by Xenoverse to be more open-minded to this art form. I have tried, with no success and much frustration.

My mother, on the other hand, lives for operas. She has the stories all at her fingertips. She goes to at least 5-6 performances a year. She went to a recent one in Princeton where, at least to her studiously judgemental eye, the performance was marred because "The hump! The hump was on the wrong side of Rigoletto!"
"And that singer doing Gilda? Well, she was a little too big. Other Gildas I've seen were slimmer."

I pass these comments on only thanks to the Ever-Loving Wife who, going beyond the safe grounds of most daughter-in-laws, accompanied my mom to this performance. I would have imploded, had I gone, due to all of the reasons listed before. So, some good stories came out of the punishment that opera can be and I pass these along.

These operatic thoughts all came back to me when I was recently watching a DVD of Billy Connelly's performance in New York City. A bit slow at times and not necessarily clicking, the DVD had some golden moments, specifically his take on the opera, which he admitted he liked as an art form. He just thought there should be some minor adjustments, like reducing all performances by 2/3rds. He launches into a 6-7 minute shtick about the "verse repetition" that I moaned about. It's worth the wait just to see this bit, at least if you're having deep unsettled thoughts about opera.

Though I'd generally agree with this review, there were some bits in the program that were worth the wait, specifically one about New South Wales, an Aussie swimmer, and a shark and the bit already mentioned about Mr. Connelly's take on the Opera.

2/25/08: Had to change the photo as the one I'd linked to...disappeared. Seems Mr.Olafur Sigurdarson, in his role as Rigoletto, was a highly prized photo. So, I guess the youngish rogue, Mr. Pavoratti, will have to do.

In the words of the mighty John Candy, "Where's my Provolone!?"


I like opera, but not The Opera (as in I like the music but not the theatrics). Love your Dr. Seuss poetry and your mother's observances though. :-)
As always, I marvel at your ability to find a knock-out illustration for your post. What comes first: the picture or the words?
Have you seen the film 'Fitzcarraldo?'
An interesting approach to opera.
Great question. Sometimes the picture posted does inspire the words tageed along with it. In this case, the opinion came first and the Googled "Rigoletto Loud Screaming" phrase came upon this deranged looking guy. His demeanour may have been due to the bad placement of his hump. Maybe my mom was right.

Always a pleasure to have you saunter by and leave a bon mot. I've been meaning to Netlfix "Fitzcarraldo"; this will nudge me to bump it up the queue. So, you'd classify "Fitzcarraldo" as an opera? I must admit that opera in cinema is more interesting. One reason I love "Amadeus" is the opera scenes, specifically where there are audience rabble scenes. There's an earthiness to the form in the movie that I've never experienced in attending live operatic performances.
No, I don't think the film is an opera. I meant that perhaps you might like opera more if you listened to it in the jungle, ala Kinski.
Having said that, the outtakes of Kinski losing his mind on the set are quite operatic!
Wup -- here we go, DV:

"The fact is that when done right, opera is the most immediately exciting of all art forms, one that is more than capable of appealing to a truly popular audience."

Looks like the stage is set and lit for another go-to with TT.
Mr Double T may have it right. ...when done right, opera ... can be something. I'd say "done right" would be of the well-done charred variety as offered at the local eat-or-ium that specializes in providing meat of dubious nature.

The "popular audience" he may be referring to is one that died off in the 1910's. Heck, I remember a Caruso-loving nun I had who tried to tutor/indoctrinate her charges in 3rd grade who put on the scratchy LP's of Enrico crooning about some oft-repeated theme or another. She cranked it up high in our classroom and we, the "truly popular audience" appreciated the vocal churnings as it drowned out the sound of our Bic pen spitball hurlers. Wet globby wadded up paper and Opera. Yeah, that's the combo of appreciation I think of.

As far as Mr. Double T's campaign to popularize opera?? Good luck with that.
He has set the bar mighty high, that's for sure. "Where's my provolone?" indeed!
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