Monday, April 07, 2008

Bark: Mother would be proud

My lady and I were up in Manchester this weekend (an old stomping ground of mine, incidentally), visiting a friend for their birthday, and we got to do something very unusual. We went to the cinema to watch an opera, being shown live by satellite.

Now, I'm hardly what you'd call an opera buff. Space opera, certainly. Web browsers, occasionally, but not classical opera. When it comes to the cultural arts, cinema, sculpture and painting are much more my thing, and even though I own well over 100 albums, I couldn't exactly say I have any great love for music in general. There are certain artists I really like, and certain types of music I really like listening to, but until Saturday, opera was not one of them. In fact, the kind of associations I naturally have with opera are those of my Mum hogging the TV for three or four hours on a Sunday afternoon to watch Don Giovanni or Tosca, back when the BBC used to believe in cultural TV programming, when everyone else in the house would much rather be watching the Grand Prix...

I have to say, though, I did enjoy it immensely. Opera's probably the most complete of the creative arts, as it tells a story, uses music, and then there's the aesthetic design of the sets and costumes to appreciate as well. You can enjoy each element in isolation, but when you put them together, it's pretty overwhelming. Especially when you consider just how hard it is to be an opera singer. Not only do you need to know how to sing, but you have to know how to act (albeit more melodramatically than dramatically), and you've got to have a voice that can project over an orchestra and fill an opera house (which are typically pretty immense - much more so than your average theatre). Of course, it's very easy for people to dismiss opera because it's a) very expensive (even the tickets to watch it at the cinema were on the wrong side of £20), and b) not as immediately accessible as a film, but having now sat down with an open mind and watched one from end to end, I think that, while perfectly understandable, that kind of attitude does opera a disservice. Sure, not everyone can afford to fork out £160 for a seat at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden every week, but that's not to say that you wouldn't enjoy an opera, even if your musical tastes are more Moby than Mozart. I know I'm going to try and pick up a few more opera CDs from now on, which can only be good news for my Mum, as now she'll have more ideas about what she can buy me for Christmas...
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