Like most people I am a lifelong consumer of media and storytelling. The amount of books I have read, movies and television I have watched, and especially music I have listened to is a number so high that I cannot even fathom counting it. I have always loved a good story and flair for the dramatic this ultimately led me to the grand world of opera. When most people think of opera I know it is of a high uppercrust old art form of women wearing fur coats and old fat women screeching. I sometimes do wear my grandmother’s fur shawl to the opera to feel fancy, but I can reassure you there is so much more to opera than this caricature. Opera is not everyone’s cup of tea but neither is fantasy, sci-fi, or even tea itself. I think anyone with any background can fall in love with Opera.
Opera provides to be a multimedia phenomenon of storytelling that is ultimately powered by the music but transformed into magic. It brings together the dramatics of the theatre, lush music from the orchestra and the vocalists, ballet dancing at times, and the visual art creations of the sets and costumes on stage. The greatest feats of on stage technical work for light and set designs I have ever seen were at the Met.
The music in opera holds a special kind of magic and power. Opera pushes the limits of the voice giving it a resonance and full sound or dazzling technical feats. To imagine such a sound erupting from a mere human is almost incredulous to believe. This can be so foreign to our ears that our first reaction is to laugh or simply label it “weird”. But with many new experiences letting the music set in. The most primal human emotions are held within it’s power and it is easily captivating. The orchestra provides a background so even when the characters onstage may be silent we can hear their emotions and innermost thoughts through the orchestra.
Aside from that the stories in opera can range from the well known fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretl, to a girl from the wrong side of the tracks falling in love with an uppercrust man, to a near Lord of the Rings epic. They are passionate! Ludicrous at times but they hold so much passion. The production can add in flair with the costumes and set designs. Opera can truly be a feast for the eyes. Since operas are sung in many languages, primarily Italian and German, there is a way for anyone to understand. At the Met you can press a button on the back of the seat in front of you and the subtitles of what they characters are saying will be displayed in your language of choice.
One of the many criticisms of opera is how it is exclusively for old people of the 1%. But in the times I have seen an opera live at the Metropolitan this has been further from the truth. The time before the opera begins and during the intermission is a feast of people watching. I have seen many people at the opera dressed in both ball gowns and hiking gear to everything in between. Whenever I go the Met I usually sit in the less expensive seats in Family Circle where I have always seen a great variety of people. But I think opera can reach an even more diverse audience. So I say give an opera a try even if it is just to say you tried it.
Tickets to the opera can range from as low as $27-$1,000. I understand that for many people even $27 can feel like much. So if you are lower on funds or do not live anywhere near an opera theatre the Met does have an On Demand Service. It is about $15 a month but you can start a 7 day free trial just to give it a go. The Met does also do screen select performances at the movies on certain dates. If you live close to a University with a music school or department check to see if they are putting on an opera production. I remember for non students tickets were only $10, which is very reasonable. So I hope for the holidays you can go out and try Opera.