I was not born with a wig on my head. Those of you who know me as squonkhunter on Deviantart might be shocked at this revelation, but I am not posting the baby pictures to prove it.
Numerous people have seen my opera fan art and have expressed an interest in learning more about opera, perhaps even going so far as to watch one.
But there’s such a stigma surrounding this art form that people feel intimidated even approaching the subject, or may not even know where to begin. Which operas are any good? I’m listening to one, but I don’t like the music…is this what it’s all about? Am I supposed to act cultured anyway? When do the singing fat ladies come in? THERE’S A CLOWN OPERA???
In this blog, I hope to answer any questions you may have concerning opera and how to become a nerd.
Where do I start?
You know all those big-name operas you’ve heard of before? There’s probably a reason they’re so famous. A lot of these are ridiculously good, and it all depends on what kind of story you’re looking to see.
Picking out an opera is kind of like picking out a movie for tonight’s dinner date. With yourself. There are comedies, dramas, something a bit like a combination of both (dramadies?), acid trips, experimental pieces, all that nonsense. Opera’s way of telling a story is to let the characters express themselves through music. Sometimes, like in a Verdi opera, the characters might be saying something opposite to what they really feel, and the music surrounds them like an aura, projecting their emotions for the audience to see.
Other times, the orchestra makes fun of the characters, which you’ll very often see in a Mozart piece, where the music might be paced in a way that makes the singer seem like he’s having a temper tantrum while he’s singing about how manly and upset he is.
Hey, sounds like fun (maybe?)! Which opera should I go see?
If you’ve never seen an opera before, I recommend seeing something by either Mozart, Rossini, or Verdi. Mozart and Rossini are hilarious and their music is beautiful. Something like Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) or Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) are wonderful introductions into the world of opera. Verdi is also a wonderful way to start because all of his operas feature amazing stories and his music wraps you up in them and you end up caring so much for his characters. A warning, though, he mostly writes tragedies. Bring a tissue box.
Yeah, um, I saw the pieces you suggested? And I hated them.
Very likely you saw a really bad production of this particular opera. There’s a chance you’ll get a director who makes weird decisions with the blocking or the costumes or the time period, or maybe you get a tenor trying to sing baritone (cough). Whatever the case, don’t let a bad production drive you away from a good opera.
Opera tickets are crazy-bonkers expensive. Can I even afford to become an opera nerd?
Lucky for you, accessing opera is easier than it ever was before! You can still pop off to the theatre like in olden times, but tickets are, scientifically put, crazy-bonkers expensive, and who’s to know you even live near an opera theatre in the first place?
Thankfully the Metropolitan Opera in New York City does LIVE BROADCASTS to your local movie theatre and tickets are normally something around fifteen to twenty dollars. In these live broadcasts, you’re getting close-ups of ridiculously famous singers, like Stephanie Blythe and Bryn Terfel and Ferruccio Furlanetto!
And for FREE, there’s a plethora of opera links on Youtube! Sometimes you’ll find entire operas on there, and if you’re lucky, they’re subtitled in a language you understand.
Yay! I’ve watched one, and I loved it! What now?
Well, watch some more! Once you start exposing yourself to opera (no, put your trousers back on, please), you’ll start saying things like, “HEEEY! THAT’S THE GUY FROM THE THING! I’VE SEEN HIM BEFORE; HE WAS THE GUUUUY!!!” or you may just start dancing, or smiling, or sobbing, or saying, “I wish Simon Keenlyside would just lift up his shirt a leeeeetle bit more…” or “That Anna Netrebko. She’s so hot right now.”
A typical conversation between two opera nerds may go something like this:
Wiggy: “Oh my God and then he was–”
Riggy: “He was, like, under the–”
Wiggy: “YEAH UNDER THE SHEET AND AND AND–”
Riggy: *arms flapping incessantly* “AND THEN, LIKE, THE OTHER GUY–”
Wiggy: “THE OTHER GUY!!!”
Riggy: “HE LIFTED THE SHEET–”
Wiggy: *arms also flapping incessantly* “OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD YEAH AND THEN HE WAS LIKE…” *makes a face*
Riggy: “AND THEN HE WAS ALL…” *makes another face*
Wiggy: *cracks up, then mimics the character* “Dag nabbit…Why does this keep HAPPENING???”
Riggy: *doubles over laughing*
None of my friends like opera, and I’m developing an itch. Who do I geek out about it with?
First off, get a cream for that itch; it might be infectious.
Second off, there’s this awesome opera blog, and this one, where screenshots are taken of different operas and subtitled with lines from Mean Girls. Or this one that my friend and I made, where we give opera characters phones and watch them bitch at each other. Eventually when you’ve seen enough operas, you’ll start laughing over these jokes with everyone else, and maybe even thinking up your own! Because the audience for opera keeps getting younger and younger over the years, don’t feel like you can’t make fun of the productions you love, or those that you hate.
If, in fact, you find that opera’s not really your thing, I’m glad you at least gave it a try. The purpose of this post is to expose you to something that personally brings me a lot of joy, and if you do take to it, hopefully you’ll have discovered something that will also bring you a lot of joy. Best of luck, darlings, and if you have any questions, just ask! I’ll be happy to assist.