Walk into a room and mention you’re heading to the opera. I bet you’ll get some confused looks and head scratching. For me, the response is typically, “You – an opera fan?” So try it and don’t be surprised if you hear some of these.
But you don’t look like an opera fan, what gives?
What does an opera fan look like? I thought I knew, but when I look around the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (LA Opera’s home) during a performance, I see all sorts of people. Parents with their teenagers, hipsters on first dates, girlfriends on outings, couples young and old on a regular night out, groups celebrating special milestones, others dressed in costumes to emulate the production. You name it; you’ll see it in the theater and on the red carpet out front.
You don’t speak Italian, German or French, how will you know what’s going on?
What I’ve learned is that opera stories are classic. While just a little pre-work goes a long way, you can usually keep up with the story without knowing the language or the plot. Many of them are already stories you know, like Macbeth. A quick skim of the story’s synopsis is usually enough. And like a foreign film with English subtitles, there are supertitles (above the scene) that provide the translation in real time.
You can’t read music, let alone sing?
No, I can’t read music and at first that was intimidating, but I like jazz, the symphony, country music, hip hop and Guns ‘N’ Roses just as well. Opera is another form of music, not a scary thing that you can’t appreciate and enjoy because you know little about it. Honestly, no one is asking me to sing or play the cello, thankfully. My job is to enjoy the grandeur of a live orchestra, the power of operatic voices, and get swept away in the story. I was skeptical at first; but that skepticism went away after I sat through La Traviata, my first opera. It was like an epic movie that came to life and took my breath away.
How can you afford it?
I know, I have kids on the gravy train but honestly, it’s no more expensive for a night at the opera than it is to go to that Guns ‘N’ Roses concert. You might be surprised that tickets to the opera can start at about $20. It just takes a little planning and watching for the best values – early. And, how often do you get to dress up in this town and enjoy a night out?
Who has that kind of time?
Yes, some operas are long, really long. Others, like Salome are only an hour. But, there’s that “getting swept away” thing. You really do. I’ve found that if a production – like the ones I’ve seen since my very first – are amazing, you are in the moment no matter how long it is. How nice is it to escape to a distant time (lured away by the sweeping movements of music) and enjoy the moment without any interruptions.
Do you really like opera?
Trust me, there will be an opera that takes your breath away or gives you goose bumps. There might also be ones you don’t like. Just like the movies, there are comedies, tragedies, and epic tales to choose from. You just have to explore and find the kind or kinds you like. Don’t toss away the entire category of opera if you don’t like your first one and don’t assume they’re all the same. You wouldn’t stop going to the movies because you didn’t like the last one you saw, would you?
So, go ahead, mention opera at your next gathering. You’ll be surprised to discover the Puccini, Mozart and Bernstein fans in your circle of friends. And if you can’t find one, pick a newbie and help them get past what they think will keep them away.