Friday, August 17, 2012

Opera for All

I had the great pleasure of seeing the opera Turandot at the Seattle Opera two days ago.  Puccini's Turandot is about a princess that relishes her freedom being unmarried and kills her suitors if they can't answer her three riddles.   She meets her wit's match in the unknown Prince.  I've mentioned before how much I enjoy opera and so I might as well say it again.  It's part musical, costume drama, symphony, sculpture, performance art, humor, dancing, acting, singing, and poetry all rolled into one.  And Turandot is also pretty violent.  (OK, artistic violence, but in spirit it's as violent as any action picture.)  So you can't say opera is boring or all sappy love stories and such. 

I was struck that I needed to say more about opera after reading an article in the New York Times today about How Hollywood Films Are Killing Opera.  Basically, the article points out how a few movies like Moonstruck and Pretty Woman have made the American viewer think that real opera can only be serious and traditional and thus has stopped opera houses all over the country from trying anything new or innovative because the masses won't come to anything they don't think is real opera.    
 I both agree and disagree with this premise.  Moonstruck went a long way to making me interested in opera to begin with, only it took a couple of decades and more money in my pocket to finally get to go see any opera.  The price is one of the main reasons in keeping people away from it.  But really, when you see the sets and the costumes and all the actors and musicians that take part, you realize how cheap the tickets really are.  Stop and think, how much do people pay for Madonna and Paul McCartney tickets?  At some point in my early thirties, I lost interest in going to concerts and staying up all night in clubs but I still longed for rich cultural experiences and opera has helped to fill that need easily. And maybe in New York opera is all fancy pantsy and intimidating but at the Seattle opera I have seen Crocs and polo shirts and dog collar necklaces and Birkenstocks as well as full on suits and fancy strapless gowns.  You can take it to whatever level you want.

As a newbie to opera (I have only seen four.), I find myself wanting to see a lot of the traditional "classics" just as the article states.  And I don't think this is wrong.  But the more opera I see, the more interpretations I want to see and the more variety I want to see.  And as I looked over the Seattle Operas current season, I caught myself thinking I wasn't interested in the unknown operas and that we really needed to see Cinderella and La Boheme.  But I am still a beginner and need to pick and chose carefully where I spend my opera dollars.  Hopefully next season I will be able to get season tickets and then I will get to experience a larger range.   I also have a fantasy of traveling the world to see different versions of the Barber of Seville, my first and favorite opera so far. 
If you have a chance to see opera, don't turn it down.  You may be surprised how much you like it.  And do research.  Read up on the opera or listen to it beforehand if possible.  The more you know, the more you can appreciate and enjoy. 

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