Opera for the People

Like so many people, I’d pooh-poohed opera, but then I realized, maybe it’s just because I hadn’t really paid attention to it. The only exposure to opera I’d had was to satires of it, such as the “Kill the Wabbit” Wagner Ring spoof sung by Elmer Fudd.

Anna Netrebko, my favorite soprano, in the upcoming "Manon"

The doorway in for me was a serenely beautiful sounding tenor at my former UU congregation named Grady. His transporting arias made me curious about opera, but I was put off by the expense. But then the Metropolitan Opera started offering “Live in HD” transmissions of some of their performances in movie theaters for about $21/show. At a big ol’ multiplex with stadium seats, I went to Verdi’s Aida, and then to Bizet’s Carmen. I recognized so much of the music from Carmen from advertising and popular culture. Like Biblical references, opera has infused our culture deeply, and I like discovering the origins of these influences. And Carmen is a great starter opera–it’s sexy and melodic and accessible, with lots of action.

Satyagraha, an opera about Gandhi's influences (and his influence on MLK) sung in Sanskrit to a score by Phillip Glass. Beautiful!

I saw that the Lifetime Learning Institute in New Paltz had an opera course that focused on that season’s works featured by the Met Live in HD. I took two semesters with teacher Maureen, then signed up for the 2011-2012 Met Live in HD season so that I could carpool with her and take advantage of her obsession with and knowledge of opera. (She also has a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Sadly, she is probably going to be moving away soon–even more reason to take advantage while she’s still in the area.) Maureen summarizes the outlandish plots of the operas but then encourages us to suspend disbelief and just let the music and drama wash over us. This is very good advice.

The superb and super foxy tenor Jonas Kaufmann was amazing in the recent Met production of Faust.

Five Things I Love About Opera:

1. Listening to glorious tenors

2. Being exposed to foreign languages (I especially love the French and Italian operas, and recently I saw an amazing one in Sanskrit!) and painlessly learning a bit of world history.

3. I am a sucker for Romance.

4. Taking a sweet little nap in the slow parts

5. The costumes and sets–and the fascinating interviews with the singers and production staff that the Met Live in HD transmissions affords moviegoers

Someday I'll go to see a live performance at the Met. Maureen advises us to sit in the balcony.

Try a Met Live in HD production out – you may find a new passion, as I have. Now if I can just get NetFlix to carry more opera DVDs…

2 Responses to “Opera for the People”
  1. vintagejenta says:

    Hmm… maybe I should start watching operas? I love watching theatrical ballets. Growing up we had a VHS copy of the PBS American Ballet Theatre version of “The Nutcracker,” which I loved, despite the late ’70s man hair on Mikhail Baryshnikov.

  2. Kathe Nack says:

    Great article! encourages me to give it a try!

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