Overboard on Opera

Why do I like opera?

Here’s a typical synopsis: Boy meets girl. Boy is king in disguise. Father of girl is banned from kingdom. Father wants daughter to marry another boy. But girl is in love with a third boy. All get called to war and sort it out after the tribal war. This is the material of opera, a mirror of life.

What’s your favorite? A musical? Poetry? Symphony? Art? Technical perfection? As a novice to opera, I found that it combines all of these forms into one efficient, elaborate, and exhilarating performance.

Songs are stitched together to make a story. The stories are not always realistic, but they end up being strangely irrelevant anyway. The pacing builds the drama and time slowly sucks the viewer into revelation, rapture, and eventual addiction. That’s what opera has done to me. These are true confessions of a hopelessly vulnerable opera fanatic. Maybe you know one.

Or perhaps you relate to another passionate persuasion. Being or knowing a skier? Snowboarder? Card player? These are obsessions that keep us going. After this week in New York, I can say opera is mine. Like anything, it grows with commitment.

For those of you just dipping into the scene, here are a few tips I can offer:

1. This is an expensive sport, just like golfing or skiing. Rather than get cheap tickets in the beginning, choose one opera and the best seats you can afford. Bad seats, especially in the balcony, will put you to sleep. You need eye contact with the performers on stage, no more than 80-100′ to stay engaged. I like the ones on the sides of the orchestra. After you have seen the same opera a couple of times, you can then buy the cheaper tix.
2. Rest or take a nap before the performance (you have to quit your job first).
3. Knowing a little Italian, French, or German will really enhance your experience. One of the reasons I am learning German is for this purpose.
4. Watching Metopera high definition movies is definitely the best way to learn and appreciate opera. For the price of the balcony seats live you will get a much better experience seeing the performers close up (heaves, sweats, and bad makeup), but you will learn from interviews with performers what inspires them to perform. You can imagine being a composer like Rossini or a performer like Anna Netrebko, and vicariously live their lives? What wouldn’t I give to be one, short of talent and dedication???

If you really don’t intend to commit to live performances, you can see plenty of excerpts on YouTube. Look for Anna Netrebko or Jonas Kaufmann. I learned about them from the Metopera Movies, and they are currently among the best in the business and highly sought after.

You can also see and hear clips of the Donna del Lago Met performance I saw today with Joyce diDonato and Juan Diego Flores at http://www.metopera.org/opera/la-donna-del-lago-rossini-tickets#. Where else would you find a Mezzo-Soprano won by another Mezzo soprano in a male role in a kilt skirt over the King of Scotland?!? A good starter.

2 thoughts on “Overboard on Opera”

  1. Good. But didn’t you mean ‘relevant’ here:

    “Not always realistic, but strangely irrelevant.”


    “Not always realistic, but strangely relevant.”


    “Always realistic, but strangely irrelevant.”


    Peter Basmajian
    Richards Basmajian


    1. I corrected the statement. Hope this clarifies any confusion. Opera doesn’t really make sense. Have I convinced you to try it? They must have the films in HKG.


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