Monday, March 28, 2011

Opera: the music equivalent of "slow food"

  I had a great weekend.  I got to help out at the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra Gala event.  I got to celebrate an early birthday with two other Aries friends at the Flagstaff Photography Center (always a good time to be had in THAT place.)  And I'm getting excited for April, a.k.a. "Event Season" here at the university.

  The first big event of April is the NAU Opera.  This is your only chance this year to experience a full-length, full-orchestra opera in Northern Arizona.  You can read all about the opera performance of "The Elixir of Love" in Charles Spining's article for the AZ Daily Sun here.  But what I want to talk about is why opera is such an enduring art form.  (Disclaimer:  I am certainly no opera expert.  That would be Nando Schellen, but he's busy getting ready for "The Elixir of Love.") 

  Let me put it like this.  Opera is the musical equivalent of slow food.

  My first professional opera performance was the LA Opera's performance of Madame Butterfly.  I was warned by my date to prepare myself--opera was much slower than anything I was used to.

  And so I received my first clue to understanding opera; an opera story is slow to unfold.  It takes its time.  Every angle of a lover's quarrel/dilemma/and scheme is expressed; emotions are more deeply explored. It is cooked with care and attention to detail.  It's much different than our television world, where every week we watch a drama reach denouement in 30 minutes.  In contrast, opera encourages you to savor each moment, each bite, of drama.  

  My second clue in opera appreciation; it's a sensory artform.  It doesn't use any new tricks or technologies, just good solid singing and expressive body language.  You don't need to understand Italian (or French, or German)--you can understand a lot of the story through reading the posture of the actor/singers.  You don't have to read all of the supertitles!  Just read the program notes beforehand (or better yet, fully research the opera before you even go) and watch the singers' expressions.  There's a reason love is called the "universal language." 

  And that leads me to my last observation; opera is traditionally about love.  (Read my blog posting about Nando Schellen here.)   It seems to me that opera seeks to preserve and immortalize the "ingredients" of love, ingredients that stay pretty much the same throughout the centuries.  Love stories are pretty universal, and the elements don't really change much.  Who couldn't use some instruction in love?  

  Just as you would probably enjoy a traditional meal cooked with care, and eaten with appreciation, you also might enjoy this upcoming opera like the gourmet meal that it is.  So I encourage you to sit down to the table  and order up some opera. 

  The opera will be performed April 1 and 2 at 7:30 and April 3 at 2 p.m.  You can order tickets from Ticketmaster at 928-523-5661


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