Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons on love from NAU's opera director

  I sat down to talk with Nando Schellen, director of NAU Opera, last week.  Nando was recently nominated for the Governor's Art Award for an outstanding individual in Arts Education.  We were discussing his upcoming opera, "L'elisir d'amore" (The Elixir of Love) that he is preparing for the first weekend of April. "The Elixir of Love" is a comedy done by the Bel Canto composer Gaetano Donizetti.  (Bel Canto simply means "beautiful singing.")

  When Nando and I talk about his operas, we often end up talking about love.  As an opera afficionado, Nando is very philosophical about the human emotion.

  The Elixir of Love is a tale that touches on unrequited love. It involves a love potion and a love triangle between a wealthy woman, a peasant man, and a soldier.  It is, Nando tells me almost immediately, a love story.

  So my prompt reply was "Does opera deal with anything else besides love?"

  His answer?  "Nothing in the world deals with anything else but love."

 (What else could he have said?  Nando is in love with love.)

So then we talked about love.  "Love is a very small word that encompasses a lot of sides.  We've all had our parts," said Nando. Why doesn't love work sometimes?  "I think the mistake is that the partners are not equal."

  Take Jerry Seinfeld, he proposes.  All the girls Jerry likes aren't equal to him.  Or (I would add) they are way out of his league.  These situations inevitably lead to humor.  "A good comedy doesn't deny that we still have a lot of problems," said Nando.

  And if you are a man looking to attract a woman?  Perhaps you should become a soldier.  "Soldiers attract women like honey to a fly," said Nando.  He should know.  He was a young boy in occupied Amsterdam, and women went for the soldiers all the time, even though they were Nazis.

  So what does all this talk about love and opera have to do with us on Valentine's Day? I think that opera teaches us that despite all the changes in our daily lives, with ever-increasing  technology, mankind doesn't essentially change much. And it's good to laugh at ourselves. We should always laugh, and be reflective on our human emotions.

 That's why an opera from 1832 is still funny.

NAU Opera director, Nando Schellen, rehearses a dramatic love scene with graduate student Maria Lopez.
Photo by Jason Bullard

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