I can’t think of any reason why a person should not like opera.
Think about it: in what other artistic medium can you find realistic people in realistic situations taking part in completely unrealistic activities?
This is excluding the American Broadway musical. In music theater, people walking down a street frequently break out into huge choreographed numbers. But we are all capable of dancing, or at least making dance-like gestures, in the street any time we want.
Opera is much larger than life. In opera, if a tenor gets stabbed in the chest he will continue singing his aria, with notes soaring into the mesosphere, until the end of the act, which is likely a good 30 minutes away.
If a tenor got stabbed in real life, however, he would likely keel over right there on the stage. Not that this should give any of us any ideas.
We should also take into consideration the opening night (March 6, 1853) of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata,” in which an exceptionally rotund leading soprano wails away about dying of starvation.
(You will be surprised to note that every single detail of the last paragraph is completely true. That sort of thing does not occur frequently within this column.)
There’s also Gaetano Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore.”
In this opera, Nemorino, who is madly in love with Adina, purchases a bottle of cheap wine from a snake-oil salesman, convinced that it is a magic potion that will cause Adina to fall madly in love with him (or at least make the next act go by faster).
Two major problems with this plot: anybody in his right mind would first think to read the Active Ingredients list on the back of the bottle, not to mention the FDA would never approve this type of product.
A flair for the dramatic: this is why I love watching opera.
My latest opera took place at the University of Colorado two weeks ago. A group of Tabor students attended a music event that included free tickets to the opera “Le nozze di Figaro,” translated “Figaro delays a nozzle.”
Seriously, you might know it by the name “The Marriage of Figaro,” which does not actually contain the song that goes, if you can read music, like this: “Fiiiigaroo. FigaroFigaroFigaro. Fiiiiiiiiiiiiigaroooooo.”
That was written by Gioachino Rossini for “The Barber of Seville,” in which a vengeful hairdresser goes into the meat pie business. (Just kidding.)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Side note: Mozart had an older brother who also attempted to compose opera. His first and final attempt was the massive failure “The Magic Piccolo.” Little did he know how close he got….
“The Marriage of Figaro” is what is known as an “opera buffa,” which is an opera about buff people. Or people in the buff. I always forget which.
The libretto (that is, the words) was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, who also collaborated with Mozart in the operas “Don Giovanni” and “Così fan tutte.” I’ll let you come up with your own English translation for that last one.
I can’t go into the plot detail of “The Marriage of Figaro,” mainly because it was presented in its native Italian. This means I was unable to pay attention due to a sudden hankering for spaghetti and meatballs.
But I can tell you it involves a love triangle or two, not including the woman who has a crush on the main character until they realize that she is actually—of all people!—his mother.
My guess is you’ve probably heard some music from this opera. At any rate, the overture was featured on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” as people’s pants fell down.
Which brings me back to the meaning of “opera buffa.”