Don't like opera? A guide on where to start
You don't like opera. Could you please bear with me for a few minutes? I have wonderful news!
It's not that you don't like it. Rather, one must develop a taste for it; and once you do, believe me, there is no turning back.
What is so special about opera?
It's a feast to the senses, a thrilling experience. You listen to an orchestra and superb singing, voices that have trained for decades; see the lighting, costumes, and stage production; and by combining it all with superb acting, you get to escape to another world and experience romance, drama and tragedy, even humor.
Can you fall in love with it?
If you choose to, totally yes!
- As David B. Devan said, “Open ears and a warm heart is all you need.” Whatever your profession or background is, you can find something to relate to. It's a matter of will. It's up to you.
- The music is sublime. It can take you to places like the underworld (L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi), a bullfight in Seville, Spain (Carmen by Georges Bizet) or a hill overlooking the harbor of Nagasaki, Japan (Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini).
- It's as dramatic or hilarious as Netflix or an Oscar-winner movie. You will certainly always find someone dying, crying, lying or getting married.
- You'll feel pure emotion: the story, music, singing, and acting will move you, momentarily becoming one with them. Their pain, passion, heartbreak and joy, all will be yours too.
- It's about human instincts. David Pountney said that opera is emotional truths being more important than material realities. What could possibly beat this?
Where to begin?
I'll tell you a little story. Back when I lived in Mexico, I was teaching Music Appreciation to my primary school angels. Our projects were based on a specific period, from Ancient Music to Tchaikovsky: We'd dive deep into its music, painting, and sculpture. Narrowing it to operas, I'd say the most popular ones among 6- to 12-year-old kids were L'Orfeo and The Marriage of Figaro. If you're still reading this and are interested, I'm sharing a little bit of information on the operas previously mentioned (L'Orfeo, Carmen and Madama Butterfly). If you decide to open your heart, they're a nice beginning for all this opera non-sense I've been talking about.
What's my advice?
Unlock your senses and let go of prejudice. One can't like what one doesn't know. If you find a story you fancy, explore it before you watch the full thing. Understand what it is about. Second, search which are the most important/relevant/famous musical pieces and check them out. Lastly, watch the full opera. I suggest locating one with subtitles, in both English and the original language. That way, you'll follow the story and start identifying what is being sung. Remember, this is not a one-time exercise. It's only when you learn the story and internalize it, that you'll fully experience its unmeasurable greatness.
Three Suggested Operas to Start With
L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi
Based on Orpheus, a Greek legend, it's about his journey to the underworld to bring back his deceased wife. Can you imagine?! They get married, she dies from a snake bite, after which he makes the journey from the living world to the underworld. He's finally allowed to bring her back, under one condition, but he doesn't comply. He loses her again and forever. Can you imagine the tragedy?! It's the earliest opera still performed today. I'm sharing with you "The tragic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice" by TEDEd (TedEducation). It's not the opera but the story it's based on.
Carmen by Georges Bizet
It takes place in southern Spain. Don José, a naïve soldier, is seduced by the flirtatious and unscrupulous gypsy Carmen. After much suffering and betrayal, guess who stabs who?
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
Sacrifices, conflict of cultures, love, betrayal, death... A tragedy. It's about a United States Navy lieutenant living in Japan and his marriage with a 15-year-old girl. He knows he's marrying for convenience and intends to leave her as soon as he finds a proper American wife. What he didn't take into account was how much she was going to love him. More than life.
You can attend London's Royal Opera House right from Eindhoven or anywhere you are. Vue Cinemas, NatLab, and many others give you the chance! Check out their program. Here's Vue's. I absolutely recommend La Boheme (January-February 2020). And if interested in attending The Marriage of Figaro in Salzburg next January, let me know. I've bought my ticket already. ;-)
Tot de volgende keer!