Thursday, November 17, 2011

33 New Things: Go To The Opera


Prior to November 10th, my only experience with opera was watching a telecast in a rainy park while I was visiting a friend in Philadelphia. 
Truth be told, we were more interested in our sandwiches and the dog on a neighboring blanket than we were in Carmen's treachery.

Nonetheless, I jumped at the chance to attend The Minnesota Opera's world premier of Silent Night.  I could see the inside of the opera house!  I could practice my German! I would wear that awesome vintage cape-let my grandma gave me!

Silent Night is based on the screen play Joyeux Noël and the story of World War I’s western front when the Scottish, French and German officers defy their superiors and negotiate a Christmas Eve truce. I certainly did not anticipate getting so wrapped up in the story what I would actually clutch at my armrests when the main character crept out of the trenches and started singing a Christmas carol.  Weep!

If you, too, are new to opera, here are a few things I discovered:

1) You don't have a wear a vintage cape-let to fit in
In fact, you could probably just wear a cute dress and boots.  Or dress pants and a sweater.  Or a cute red vintage dress with blue tights and a fake fur coat.  It doesn't really matter.

2) It doesn't matter if you don't speak Italian/French/German
That's why there's a screen with captions above the stage.

3) Wear a good 'sitting' outfit

Because that business is looooong.  Now is not the time for control-top tights and that super fitted vintage dress.

4) Yes, they really do sing that high.  And yes, it is crazy impressive

Would it have shattered a crystal glass?  Perhaps I should have smuggled one in and found out!

Have you ever been to the opera?  What "fancy, cultured" things intrigue you?

21 comments

  1. This is on my 27 list too! I don't know if I'll manage it before April but you've spurred me on now!

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  2. I'm going to my university's opera production tomorrow night! What a coincidence!

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  3. Only if seeing Phantom of the Opera nine times on Broadway counts ;-)

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  4. When I lived in DC, a friend handled all the printing for the Opera so we could go for free performances before it opened to the public. For those that think they hate opera, there is no substitute for seeing it performed on a beautiful set. Similar to Shakespeare, it's meant to be performed! magical.

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  5. We actually went to the opera two nights ago ('had tickets from a silent auction that included a dinner at a fancy restaurant with free limo service to the operahouse). And I have to say, it still bores me to tears.

    However, that being said, if you ever get a chance to see an opera at the Met, DO IT. It is an amazingly different experience (with the captions shown in the seat in front of you and amazingly costumes/set design).

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  6. The Opera is on my 31 Things list. It's actually been rolled over a few times. I really hope to go soon. Sounds like a great show; thanks for sharing and I love your tips!

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  7. If you think the opera is boring, do me one favor. A week before you go, go to the library and get the highlights CD and listen to it. Just leave it on until it's familiar. Then when you go, you'll say "hey, I recognize that" and be able to follow along better. Or, just go to Carmen first. You know Carmen.

    Also, if you go to a classic Grand Opera, beware. The plot will be TOTALLY INSANE. We are going to see Turandot tomorrow night at the SF opera (so psyched!) and I was trying to explain the plot to my husband. I'm not sure he believed me, it is that crazy.

    And I am thirding the comfy clothes for sitting. It will most likely be 2.5 to 3 hours with one or two intermissions and now is the time to bust out the crazy shoes you can't walk in, because you will be doing a lot of sitting.

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  8. I love opera. I like it when sung in the original language. Wagner is heavy but the context of it has bothered me some so I prefer italian opera. Aïda is a favourite, as is Turandot. The end aria of nessun dorma when you hear it live will give you goose bumps :)

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  9. I am actually an opera singer by trade, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it! It's too bad though that you couldn't get more into Carmen in the park, as that is my favorite!

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  10. I'm not an opera singer- But I *am* an actor, and can I just say regarding all forms of theatre: I know it can be intimidating if you're not used to it, and I know that it's hard to judge how to act- But it's supposed to be enjoyable. Performers LOVE to hear the audience reactions. Laugh, gasp, clap. Go for it, don't be shy. And depending on the kind of show you're going to- The occasional woop may even be called for!

    My absolute favourite audience reaction ever was at the end of a Chekhov play. Chekhov is a bit intimidating to a lot of people, understandably, and with this show we weren't sure a lot of the time if people were into it. But one night- after an especially dramatic moment just as the stage went silent and the curtain fell, in reaction to the moment, one man went- "Oh my GOSH!!!" Really loudly, and hearing his shock was possibly one of the most validating moments for me as a performer. So get into it! If you like the opera, encore and cheer away.

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  11. For me opera is either a hit or a miss. I saw a very heavy Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht one with school a month ago and it was horrible: longest three hours of my life.

    But then I saw a dvd version of Don Giovanni from the Met and my god I could watch that a million times and still fly over to NYC to be able to see it live.

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  12. I sang classically for years and studied opera during my first couple years of college. I didn't want to sing it professionally; I wanted to teach. I never had the guts to perform, and I wasn't talented enough anyways. But let me tell you, when you know the amount of work and time that happens behind the scenes of opera...well, I think it's one of the most impressive accomplishments in the world. Truly. The human voice is AMAZING! The things it can do are incredible...but only after a *lifetime* of study and exhausting practice. Opera singers give up their whole lives for their art. And I think that's lovely.

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  13. I go fairly regularily and ended up seeing Verdi's La Traviata something like three times already but I still love it. It even made me cry once which is a little embarrassing but I didn't care. I love the music and the atmosphere and the whole feeling of it.

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  14. I remember going to some type of mini opera for a school field trip but that was years ago! I should go again though just for the experience of it all.

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  15. One time I worked in a deli and an opera singer came in and invited me to one of his shows...it was super neat because I "knew" one of the singers...it was my first opera and I LOVED it. And I brought my grandma in case he thought something was gonna happen, know what I'm sayin'?

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  16. Ha!
    "Yes, they really do sing that high. And yes, it is crazy impressive"

    SO TRUE!
    I thought I "didn't like opera"... that is... until a friend convinced me to get tickets to go with her. I'm a total convert. Love it!

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  17. I tried to get cheap seats at the Met last time I was in NYC, but they were sold out on the one night we were there. I'd love to go someday...

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  18. I've been to the opera a half dozen times and if there is one thing I've learned it's that it all depends on the cast and their take on it. I went to an avant-garde opera rendition of Cassandra and I have never been so bored in my life, the pretension oozing out of the self absorbed soprano was depressing and un-engaging. BUT I also went to see Aida at an open air coliseum and it was amazing, the leads joked with the audience in the interval and the whole crowd really got into it. I guess like everything in life, it depends on the interplay between you and the action.

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  19. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the opera! I am a college student studying to be an opera singer, so obviously i love opera, but I have to deal with people who have never seen an opera but still tell me that they hate opera or think that it's boring. It's awesome that you kept an open mind.
    I'll be honest, I didn't like the first opera I saw (a mediocre production The Cunning Little Vixen) but eventually, I fell in love.
    Interestingly enough, I didn't discover my love for opera after seeing a staple work like Carmen (which is an awesome choice for a first opera), I saw a modern work based on real historical events, just like you did. In my case, it was Doctor Atomic by John Adams, which is about Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. If you liked Silent Night and ever want to see another opera, I would highly receommend it.

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  20. Question is: would you go again?!

    Maria xx
    http://www.cheekypinktulip.blogspot.com

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  21. First of all, remember that there's nothing scary about it - it's just people singing the story instead of speaking it. If you're worried about being able to follow the subtitles, go to Wikipedia and look up the plot summary before you go.

    Also, there's nothing like seeing it live, but Fathom Events often shows live recordings from the Met in local movie theaters, and they usually only cost as much as an IMAX ticket. If you can't make it to the opera house, take advantage of a showing near you!

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