Monday, July 29, 2013

Opera L

    Let's look at it this way:  how music can  portray plot events,
characterization, setting, or central themes in opera is a  difficult process to
explain to anyone who says, "I don't understand  opera."  But the process is,
in fact, so simple that even a child can do  it.  In your past is there a
child you remember strutting up and down the  sidewalk chanting,
"Tore-eeee-ah-dore-ay, don't spit on the floor-ay"?  To  what was that child really
responding?  He was enjoying the fun of  pretending to be a toreador, perhaps,
and entering a world of  make-believe.  But MOSTLY, that child was responding
to a melody by Bizet  and the character it inherently portrayed.  How really
"snooty elitist"  that little child must have been, who had learned to love

    Now certainly it may help many adults who SAY  that they "don't
understand opera" to have knowledgeable operaphiles offer a  friendly tip or two on
some specific things to listen for.  But let's all  remember:  the
discoveries that MATTER, the ones that stay with one a  lifetime and become a source
of value in one's life, are the discoveries that we  all make for
ourselves.  So let's expose, not dogmatically explain.   Some 14-year-old boys will
never love the Habanera the way I did when they are  exposed to it.  But
trying to make others re-live our own experiences and  responses is one sure way
to kill them for everybody.  Let them create  their own.  And they don't
need to know what a "fate motif" is in order to  do that.

    Whenever someone says to me, "I just don't  understand opera," I play
'em "Je crois entendre encore," I play 'em "Signore,  ascolta," I play 'em
"Der Hoelle rasche," I play 'em the letter scene from  Figaro as a film clip
from "The Shawshank Redemption," I play 'em "La Mamma  Morta" as a film clip
from "Philadelphia."  I SAY nothing.  If they  ask me what it means, I tell
'em that it means a combination of all the reasons  they liked it, plus many
more reasons for them to like it that are waiting  there for them to
discover as they continue to listen.

Dennis Ryan

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