Saturday, February 12, 2011

If Mozart Were a Guido

Last night I attended a party where I was surrounded by opera folk; singers, patrons, a director and all kinds of staff members whose great passion in life is opera.  It reminded me that most of the extra-curricular socializing in my life has been with a non opera loving crowd.  It makes very little difference to me, one way or the other, but last night I was reminded why I am so passionate about bringing opera out of its protected circle and into a place where it can be appreciated by those who are not exposed to it on a regular basis.  I was inspired listening to the director dig deeply into the character analyzation of Mozart's comedic opera Cosi fan tutte; which translates to:  "Women...are like that" - meaning us ladies may have a Mr. Right in our life, but when he's not around will happily entertain Mr. Right-Now.  I can't say as I particularly subscribe to that opinion, but perhaps I have grown wise in my old age. I appreciated the passion of the director's insights, and because I am a geek for this sort of thing, learned so much from him in just a few minutes.
Usually if you are in a conversation with me, I will intently listen to what it is you have to say, until I hear something that sparks an idea which gets the little hamster wheel going inside my head.  Then I will probably stare at your eyebrows while wandering off on the path my brain is taking me down.  Feel complimented, because you were obviously interesting enough to inspire me to head in this particular direction in the first place.  Ha.  This is exactly what happened once I began to process the information I had just been given.  I started to wonder about this story and how it would be portrayed in today's forms of entertainment.  Mozart was not only a genius because of his ability to write the perfect music for expressing text or his flawless compositional skill, but because he chose to portray characters that were commonly seen in society and expose their dirty underbellies in a public forum.  As we see in our celebrity-gossip obsessed society, the masses love to soak up the real life drama of other people's lives.  We have made celebrities out of the most audacious half-wits ever to walk the planet, simply by following them around with a camera crew.
All of this was going through my mind while and I piped back into the conversation with "it's really just an episode of the Jersey Shore".   I don't know if anyone thought I was funny except for me, but it didn't matter because what I said was true.  If you look at the 40 car pile up that is The Jersey Shore, even this week's episode shows sociological evidence which backs up Mozart's theme:  1.  Sammi "Sweetheart" and Ronnie broke up for the 30th time, so Sammi went out to prove that if one man does not give you the attention you want, there is always another one who will.  2.  While JWoww's man was far away, she found several other males from the "juice-head" breed to lavish her with affection.  While these folks may not be the brightest bulbs in the chandelier of life, it does not mean they cannot be motivated by their own subconscious behaviors, just like Mozart's characters.  It's possible that I offended this group of my peers, but this is where they and I differ.  While I don't always like (and am sometimes appalled by) pop versions of operatic interpretation, this rigidity to hold opera up on an untouchable pedestal is what keeps the general public away, in my opinion.   While I am constantly blown away by what incredible artists are out there performing opera with a passion for acting and interpretation, it's getting the people to the performance who would not think of attending it in the first place.  Once we have them there, much of the time opera's greatness speaks for itself, but in other instances there is a missing communication link that excludes them from becoming part of our world.  This is where I believe it is our responsibility to build a bridge of understanding.
I don't know if I would take the direction that The Royal Opera House in London has....but you can decide for yourself:


  1. Brava! You should note that this same basic idea holds true in literature. Don't forget that "clueless" was really a modern version of Jane Austen's Emma. And how many versions of King Lear end up as bad soap opera plots? Romeo and Juliet? Hamlet? The Odyssey (o Brother Where Art Thou?). Human truth is what it is, and that holds for whatever medium you use. Those who want to stultify it in rock end up like the people of Pompeii...brittle, frozen, dead and now, crumbling.

  2. Oh of course! We could compare and contrast most great works from the past with the present. The common ground of their success is human themes that make us all able to relate to one another.