The majority of the general American public is not much impressed by opera–you know all that “high-brow weird singing and stuff like that” turns people off. I sort of understand that since that was me as late as last year. However, being a musician and a music educator, I was always a bit guilt ridden that I didn’t fully appreciate the art of the operatic composer/conductor/musician. So I decided to acquire a taste for it, behind closed doors of course, which means on the headphones. I started with Richard Wagner (which is pronounced Ree-kard Vahg-ner, another reason to look down the nose at opera. Strange sounding names can be off-putting. Hey, he’s German and that’s how they say it.) So I started listening to Wagner’s gigantic four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, 14 to 15 hours of solid “music of the gods,” an experience that immediately thrust me into the “opera lover’s closet”, a space which at the time seemed vital for the preservation of relationships.
Well, I’ve come a long way, baby! A month or so ago, while working in my school music room, my door opened wide and my speakers cranking out Tosca, a wonderful opera by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (Ghiah’-camo Poo-chi’-ni), I felt like the proverbial dude in his snazzy car with his music blasting mainly through the sub-bass woofer in his trunk, shaking the rear end of his car to pieces. Like him, I was not afraid that someone would hear the high-soaring soprano singing the role of Floria Tosca or the lyrical tenor power-voice portraying the character of Mario Cavaradossi. I wanted people to hear. You see, today, I am a full-fledged lover of opera and one Thursday evening in March this year helped to accomplish it.
My wife and I were invited to attend Minnesota Opera’s dress rehearsal for their upcoming production, YES, Puccini’s Tosca, which opened the following Saturday night at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was the first opera performance my wife and a I had ever attended together, except for The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, which doesn’t count since that is considered a musical, (though technically virtually all of Lloyd-Webber’s masterpieces are operas). I must say that exposure to the wonderful world of opera thrust me out of the closet probably for good.
If you have read my early posts about my music habits, you will know that for the past few years I have been on a Gustav Mahler kick, pretty much binge listening exclusively to Mahler, which is operatic music in nature, but not opera at all. Mahler was by trade an opera conductor but he never wrote an opera though that never stopped him from writing very dramatic music.
As much as I love Mahler, I am now hooked on Verdi, Puccini, Meyerbeer and many other opera composers I am yet to discover. I hope you’ll stay tuned for a review of Minnesota Opera’s premiere performance of Stephen King’s The Shining, new music by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec with libretto by Mark Campbell. I also hope you will try opera on for size–Maybe the Minnesota Opera’s next year’s opening performance, Gounod’s (goo-noh’s) Romeo and Juliet, or the subsequent Das Rheingold by Wagner (see pronunciation above), right here in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Ordway Center for the Preforming Arts. You will not be disappointed.
Bye for now.