Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Do You Like Opera? Enjoy Our Two Opposing Views!

Mara here: They say you either "get" opera or you don't. I don't.

I want to like it. And I do appreciate it. I appreciate the skill and I understand why people like it. But I just don't feel it.

I like listening to opera-ish singers who get popular like Andrea Bocelli. And my mother, who I'm sure will write about her deep love of opera below, has tried several times to share it with me. But I'd rather listen to Hamilton.

Opera is too much for me. Everything is slightly grander than I want it to be: the costumes, the drama, the emotion...they're all amped up to level 15 out of 10.

But I know many many people will disagree with me...especially my mom.

So, what about you? Are you an opera fan? 

Toni here: I didn't like opera either until I got sick and was stuck in bed all day. (Thankfully, I no longer have to spend every day in bed although I'm still virtually housebound due to this 16-year old illness.)

Here's how I came to love opera (and, as you'll see, like many opera fans, I'm very picky and opinionated!).

Stuck in bed, too sick to read, but with a TV in my bedroom, the first thing I did was subscribe to Netflix (back in 2001, the offerings were only DVDs). I watched a lot of movies. Then, one day, I decided to face my aversion to opera so I put an opera DVD at the top of my Netflix queue. I picked Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro because I do love Mozart and it was a comedy. To my surprise, I found it easy to listen to. And, it was very funny! I thought, "This is opera?" And I was off and running.

That said, I am very picky. For example, I know that almost all opera buffs love Puccini, but I don't...except for his arias. Between those arias is a lot of orchestral music and I find it boring. To me, it sounds like movie soundtrack music. But his arias are fabulous. I have a few CDs just of his arias.

I also don't like Wagner—too heavy-handed for me. In fact, the range of composers I like is small. My two favorites are Mozart and Verdi, and I also like the bel canto composers: Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini. Donizetti wrote some hilarious comedies. And Rossini wrote Cenerentola which is the pre-Disney telling of Cinderella's story with nasty stepsisters but a stepfather instead of a step mother.

I'll tell you why I love Mozart and Verdi so much and then provide a link to a piece I wrote for Psychology Today in which I wax poetic about my favorite of their operas,

Mozart: His operas always feel fresh, as if they were just written. They make me feel as young as he was when he wrote them. My two favorites are Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte. (To find out why, click on the article link at the end of this piece.)

Verdi: Verdi's operas do have some of the qualities that Mara mentioned—they can be overly dramatic and overly emotional. But somehow, he's able to create big sound and then, just like that, throw in an aria or a duet, or a trio, or a quartet (!) that is incredibly intimate in feel. When his sound is big, it often has a great beat; in fact, some of it sounds like rock and roll...and I do love that! 

One more thing. These days, many directors update the settings of operas and so The Marriage of Figaro could be set in 2017, with the characters dressed in today's clothes instead of in costumes.

And so, if you're interested, here's a bit more I wrote about opera: "Opera is Now for Everyone!" I hope you'll have a look.

And many thanks to Mara for thinking of this topic!

"The Marriage of Figaro" set in modern-day Beverly Hills

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