Of that list there was one that perhaps I was unsure of.... Opera. Ballet? hey I love Tchaikovsky I can listen to his ballet music with no bother. But opera? Fat people shouting! You know the image of a typical Wagnerian female "fat lady". No way! But of course I knew it was more than that and I was aware of some good tunes EVEN I have heard Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti sing!
So I did some research, asking friends and I came across this article by John Crace in the Guardian.
Decisions. Well go for something popular then. As Crace says the classics are classics for a reason so Verdi, Puccini, Barber of Seville or Carmen then. I wanted to see a classic production not an Opera transported to say 1950's America, I wouldn't go and see Macbeth reimagined in Prague for instance, well not as a first Opera! Oh and the killer I wanted it in the original language (there are surtitles which you can glance at - it works!). Again at least for the first opera.
So given I live close to London and the language ruled out English National Opera (they sing in English I believe) that meant the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
So some searching came up with Puccini's La Boheme. I then looked at prices HOW MUCH!!! I stopped having heart attacks and found tickets for £36 (which if you think about it compares well to a premiership football match). I booked and the die was cast.
So on Saturday I turned up. And I was nervous, one of those what have I done things.
Opera has a stuffy elitist image and half expected that my t-shirt and casual trousers would stand out like a sore thumb but of course they didn't. The odd person had dressed up but that was the exception rather than the rule. It was a matinee so it maybe different of an evening.
It was interesting to note that the clientele was not all old! Lots of youngsters (more than you ever see at the Wigmore Hall or LSO St Luke's for instance). And no not everyone was posh, the people immediately behind us had a typical East London/Essex accent.
Even up to this point I fully expected to dislike it and then it began and.... well it was good! I have no idea how good the performers were hey I'm a novice ! All I can tell you is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Why? Ah that' easy good tunes, comedy, tears, emotion. And if you think about it that are the staples of any classic. Think of those great Hollywood Musicals of the 40's/50's.
The first act flew by I was quite stunned. It never once dragged!
Would I go again ? Oh yes! I'm not convinced you'll ever get me to Wagner but some more Puccini, Verdi, Carmen, Barber of Seville a bit of Mozart? You could convince me to see Porgy and Bess (Gershwin good tunes!). I am going on holiday to Lucca in September and Lucca was the birth place of Giacomo Puccini and every year in the church of San Giovani there is a Puccini Festival. The concerts start at 7pm and last an hour or two I think. Whilst there we have on.
- Puccini and the Italian & Neapolitan Popular Song
- Arias and duets from the female characters of Puccini's masterworks
- PUCCINI & MOZART Arias and duets from Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Così Fan Tutte, La Clemenza di Tito, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly
- PUCCINI & VERDI Arias and duets from the major works by Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi
I think I might slip one or two in.
But dear reader will you enjoy it and how do you know? I think listening to on disk is the wrong way. Opera is as much a visual as it is an oral experience. DVD? yes better but I still think that nothing substitutes for live performance so maybe bite the bullet find a classic opera and leave your pre-conceptions at the door. It may not be for you but then again it might!
I'd say give it a try.