Wednesday, June 06, 2012

just a man singing to his pig head

it's kind of funny that i actually read this article on why classical music is awful AFTER sunday's opera café at our local kulturhus (culture house - it somehow sounds weird in english). but i do think that richard dare is definitely onto something.

classical music - orchestras, opera, even ballet - have built up such a veil of snobbery around them, that i think that many people find them inaccessible. i know that's what i heard around our little town when it was announced that there would be an opera café - featuring excerpts from henry purcell's dido & aeneas and bach's coffee cantata, performed by professional musicians from one of the nearby academies.  i'll admit i even thought it myself when the group said they were going to sponsor an opera arrangement. i thought it was very brave to find an audience for an afternoon of opera in a little town of 3500 farmers.

i've seen quite a lot of opera (and ballet) in my day, mostly because it was on nearly every night at the operahouse in kazan when i studied there. tickets were incredibly cheap and my friends and i went all the time - it was fun to see the costumes, the artists were high quality (it was only a couple years after the fall of the soviet union and in the very theatre that produced nureyev) and they had great georgian champagne for pennies during the pause. even there, tho', people got dressed up in their best clothes (whether they went together or not) and followed some unspoken norms of when to clap and when not to that i'm not sure i ever entirely understood being the cultureless american i was (Q:  what's the difference between americans and yogurt? A:  yogurt has culture).

and now back to our regularly-scheduled topic....why does it have to be that way? so stiff and proper. opera is full of high drama, emotions and yes, even comedy (seriously, are you not amused by this man and his pig?), so why shouldn't we clap with delight and laugh when it's funny? it's what was great about our sunday afternoon opera arrangement  - that it being out here in the boonies, on a makeshift stage in the former lobby of the local city hall meant that none of us quite knew how to behave. we didn't quite clap at the right times and tho' we didn't entirely let ourselves go and really enjoy it out loud, we came close.

opera served up in an intimate space, with the whole room as the stage, not separating audience and performers, and even a bit of audience participation here and there, went a long way towards breaking the boring, stiff barrier around classical music. we did it quite instinctively, without a lot of academic overanalysis, but i think we're on the right track.


will said...

Now just ah gall darn minute ... I've been to the Grand Ole Opry, don't that count?

Gill said...

Love the last shot and I'm overdue to see an opera! Les Mis is coming to theaters in movie form...does that couont i wonder?

Veronica Roth said...

How lucky Julie. Did you get that close to take those pictures? I usually only get to see opera in a big theatre setting...except in Prague where opera is available practically everywhere. (but don’t get me started on the appalling village shows we go to in Oxfordshire. Doesn’t it feel better, more intimate, in a small space? I wana move to your town now.

Sammi said...

I don't think I would ever go to a ballet because of all the pretension involved!

There is a fabulous English guy who is a tenor who I am a bit in love with, his name is Alfie Boe and he tries to do a bit of everything. He thinks that music is music and genre's should be mixed and things should be blurred around the edges. If you can download his tour somewhere you might enjoy it. He sang with Matt Lucas (Little Britain) and one of the lads from McFly too. Also he was in Les Mis for a while a couple of years back as Valjean, and did an incredible job.