One thing I like very, very much is opera. That may surprise some of you who think I am entirely uncouth. I actually do have a couth streak . . . I just hide it well. 😉
Last weekend, here in Shreveport, I went to see one of my very favorite operas, Puccini’s La bohÃ¨me. Â Here’s a snippet, with Pavarotti as Rodolfo, the poet, and Mirella Freni as Mimi, the seamstress:
One of the reasons I love La bohÃ¨me so much is that it is my father’s favorite opera, and I grew up with La bohÃ¨me playing somewhere in the background for most of childhood. It’s as familiar to me as a lover and I feel as if I’ve come home when I hear its music.
I also find this opera fascinating. It’s considered typical, overtly entertaining Puccini fare: heavy on the humor and the sex, light on meaning. But I think such dismissals do La bohÃ¨me an injustice. For, rather than a love story, I’ve always seen this opera as something far darker. I think La bohÃ¨me suggests that love can only exist in its own absence, that we only want that which we may lose, and that what we call “love” is only a romantically padded way to articulate our desire to possess.
In other words, while the sounds of this opera comfort me on a visceral level (I hear it and, quite literally, I relax), it disturbs me, intellectually. And I think it’s meant to.
On that note, and because I like things that disturb me, my favorite opera of all time is Verdi’s Otello. Othello is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays as I’m riveted by the cruelty and sadism of Iago. I love the idea of the sort of evil Iago represents, and how easily he manipulates his victims. Verdi’s opera contains all of Iago’s machinations, plus Verdi’s soaring strings, blaring horns, and pounding drums. The music captures the fury of emotion that this story engenders. Here are Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo, as Desdemona and Othello, duking out one of their more brutal confrontations . . . such glorious torture to watch:
If you have a chance, catch an opera.* Don’t watch it as a snob, watch it as you would a movie. Let the music guide your affective response, rather than your brain dictating your reactions. In other words, just let yourself feel the opera, feel the sounds. I promise you’ll find more than you thought possible both in the music and in yourself.
*Attending an opera is also a fantastic excuse for a new dress AND a fascinator. Just sayin’.