In which Karen Akers, Alto, President of the VCS Board, and person of acute and hilarious wit, holds forth on opera as we head into the last two weeks of intensive rehearsal for Opera For The People. (Early bird tickets still on sale, available until Monday, May 6, 2013.)
Swallow all food and drink before reading this on your electronic device of choice, you have been warned.
Here’s the deal – a lot of people think they don’t like opera because it’s stuffy. An audience of over-dressed people, withstanding the assault of large men and women singing at them, at decibel levels that can induce deafness. The language is incomprehensible, the choruses never seem to end, and singers wander up and down the stage like a rather unfocused staff meeting. If staff meetings featured singing. And maybe hats with horns on them. And what’s up with the horns?
I have a theory that most Americans formed their opinions of opera based on the Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Loony Tunes cartoons, and screwball comedies of the 1930s. Along the way, we picked up the notion that opera is rarified, over our heads, meant only for snobs who know their way around a plate of snails and can identify wine merely by sniffing the cork.
It’s a shame, really, because the reality of opera is so much crazier than its reputation. Opera is the bad boy of the classical music world – the place where vengeance is sweet, people die tragically, and – no lie – Vikings swagger towards Valhalla. And to be an opera singer, you’ve got to have a voice that can knock down walls, a personality that carries to the back row, and the stamina to survive performances, concert seasons, and those incredibly heavy costumes.
Opera was a cultural leveler. Sure, the rich held court in their box seats, but the lower classes crowded the floor and followed the stories as avidly as anyone else. And everyone grooved to the music (18th century style).
Imagine it’s three hundred years from now, and the wealthy are donning whatever version of tuxedos and ball gowns the wealthy have in 2313 to go to the Kennedy Center to hear the music of Metallica, while the children of the wealthy roll their eyes (yup, kids in 2013 still do that). . . Metallica’s sooooooo boring! It’s so stuffy. Incomprehensible. Noisy.
It’s time to challenge your own notions of opera – I bet you’ll be surprised at how accessible music this gorgeous can be. It’s like finding out the bad boy has the heart of a poet.