My birthday present to Mum was a ticket for her and a friend to go to the Opera. Mercifully, she selected me as her friend.
The Opera was Don Giovanni, an Italian drama about a rich womaniser. The lead character was sort of like a 17th century Don Draper. (actually I really did wonder if Don Draper was based on Don Giovanni after the show).
As a singer who has recently added a couple of Italian arias to his repetoire, it was an amazing experience to hear trained Opera singers in action. If you’ve never been, here are some things you might not know about the Opera.
I’m sorry to report that nobody uses miniature binoculars on a stick. Why aren’t they included in the price of the ticket? I do not know. I had already planned to nick them and use them for a gag next time I sat with my mate Disco in the MCC members.
The conductor walks out before the show starts, takes a bow and everyone claps… I found this a bit bizarre. When it happened, I turned to Mum and said ‘why are we clapping? He hasn’t done anything yet!’ Mum, the more seasoned Opera goer, waved me off like a soccer referee does to a defender trying to talk his way out of a yellow card and my question went unanswered.
Does anyone know how this tradition started? Mozart wrote the music for Don Giovanni. Maybe he was the conductor in the original production. If he had been conducting the orchestra the night I was there, I would have understood people clapping on reputation alone but how did we know whether this new bloke was worthy of a clap before he started?
If you’ve never been to the opera you may not realise that subtitles are provided above the stage and it works a treat because the dialogue is usually sung really slowly and repetitively. Characters tend to spend several minutes at a time to lamenting heartache and broken promises. There’s no snappy back and forth exchanges like Sex and the City. Just long (and sometimes painful) over dramatisations. So it’s easy to follow the story. I found myself just glancing up at the subtitles occaisionally and thinking to myself ‘oh yeah, she’s still on about her dead father…’
Hearing proper opera singers do their thing is the real experience. It’s completely different to anything I’ve heard in the Lion King or Wicked. Everything sounds is so round and full. Singing in Italian is a bit like that compared to English anyway but there was a connectedness to the vocals that I found stunning.
The vocal control of proper Opera singers is incredible. You know when your friend is singing Living On A Prayer at karaoke and you can sense the effort as they stretch for the ‘Whoa-oh’ bit? Yeah, it’s the opposite to that. The Opera singers in Don Giovanni just sing the notes, high or low, with ease. Soft or loud, it doesn’t matter. You can’t see any discernable effort above the shoulders. All the work is happening somewhere in their stomachs.
Lot of chinos and a lot of pashminas with no particular attention given to colour co ordination. Make of that what you will.
Have you been to the Opera? What did you make of it? Leave a comment below…