Space Opera

on Sunday, November 22, 2009

No one will ever mistakenly accuse me of being high-browed and cultured. I certainly don't track with the black tie penguin suits of high society. Sadly, this extends beyond my lack of interest in participating in the extravagant social rituals of the aristocracy and my lack of money to pursue them. I genuinely do not seem to know how to enjoy or appreciate some of the things that are adored by this set. For example, I do not see the fuss made about foie gras. Please, it's liver! Apart from the debate about whether it is ethical to force feed the ducks to get the fatty liver which is made into foie gras (in humans, a fatty liver is medically a diseased liver), I never liked eating my liver and onions and hiding what it is behind a foreign (non-English) name still does not hide its intense liver taste.

Another thing that brands me solidly as a Philistine squirrel is my lack of appreciation of opera. Wikipedia says that "Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score. The word opera means "work" in Italian (it is the plural of Latin opus meaning "work" or "labour") suggesting that it combines the arts of solo and choral singing, declamation, acting and dancing in a staged spectacle." Hmmm. Well, that just sounds like a musical just like "West Side Story" or "Phantom of the Opera" but in a different language (just like the foie gras case).

Now, don't get me wrong. I love the modern musical. I just don't understand why people pay top dollar, get dressed to the nines and go an see a musical which tells a story in a foreign language that I can only understand from reading the souvenir program which I have to purchase separately at an extortionist rate.

It probably did not help that my early introduction to Opera was something from Wagner's Ring Cycle based on German and Norse mythology. It is of course sung in German, and as I remember it, sung by big women wearing fake blond wigs with pig-tails, armoured breasts (like Madonna's) and horned helmets. Even one of its more famous songs, "The Ride of the Valkyries", made no sense to me in German. It only became a song that I could really appreciate when it was used in a media that I could appreciate; and that was as the song "Kill the Wabbit" sung by Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. Now who said Saturday morning cartoons cannot be educational!

However, if Elmer and Bugs helped me to begin to understand opera, the one performance that really opened my eyes to the true wonders and possibility of Opera was the stunning performance of the Albanian songstress, Inva Mula Tchako, who was the voice behind the character Diva Plavalaguna in the movie "The Fifth Element". In it she sings an aria from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (the mad scene), and “The Diva dance” song. I may still not understand the language but the way it is presented certainly helped me appreciate it. Allow me to share this song with you. For those serious Philistines like me, try to hang on till at least the 3.28 minute mark when a transformation occurs.

12 comments:

geewits said...

Wow. Sometimes it's like I wrote your post. I am so in love with thet Fifth Element performance and I ALWAYS sing "Kill de Wabbit" when I hear that Wagner song. I do like opera though but the ones I went to had translations on a board on top of the stage. I DID fall asleep, but it's not because opera is boring, it's because the music is so relaxing. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Marja said...

lol my parents had always opera on on german TV Now we could understand german because living close to the german border we were exposed to it a lot but for me it didn't go any further. Till I discovered the voice of andrea Bocelli and I was sold. His music is a mix of popular music and opera. Sight

Owen said...

Hi Lone Grey, just spotted a squirrel in the blogosphere that you may want to check on, part of the Canadian Clan apparently...

http://ocean-sunsets.blogspot.com/2009/11/feelin-squirrely.html

Well, I'm afraid I can't join you in your views on foie gras... living in France, it is part of the culinary culture here, and my wife prepares it in an exquisite manner, no black bow tie required either, we wear blue jeans, but once or twice a year we open a bottle of sweet white wine, like a gewurtzraminer vendange tardive, or even a sauternes (a cheap one) or a juran├žon, and then we slowly savor the foie gras on homemade toasted bread, rinced with just a sip of sweet wine... and for me, it is a moment of paradise... but I know, it's not kind to force feed geese or ducks... but it is a rather old tradition in some parts of France I gather, and not just a high brow jet set sort of thing...

As for opera, I never learned to appreciate any of it until I saw the French movie "Diva" (Jean-Jacques Beineix) with Wilhelmenia Fernandez singing in it... that was heaven.

Molly said...

Whacko, but interesting! Opera makes a Philistine out of me too I'm afraid.

XUP said...

I think the beauty of opera is not so much the story, but the opulence of the set and costumes and the skill and passion of the voices. You don't have to understand the words to be moved by the emotion. I guess it's an acquired taste like lots of other things.

Jelica said...

I like bits and piece of operas but I don't think I would have the patience to sit through it all. And, in fact, I never even tried, so I suppose that makes me a fellow Philistine?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

geewits,
Ah, I perceive that you are less of a Philistine than I but i am glad we share a love of the Fifth Element and "Kill de Wabbit". And yes, I too fall asleep because ..... er....the music is so relaxing. Yeah! that's it.

Marja,
Definately, Andrea Bocelli makes opera quite approachable too.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Owen,
Thank you for another squirrel sighting. How do you find all these?

My comments on foie gras clearly does not apply to French speakers and liver lovers.

in Malaysia, eating foie gras is perceived as a status symbol. Hence many eat it even though it is not something known to local cuisine tradition.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Molly,
"Whacko but interesting"! Are you referring to the video clip, the post or the writer? :)

XUP,
I find it hard to appreciate anything that I cannot understand. Still, as I get older, this is not such an absolute rule. Perhaps as i age, I am getting wiser too and realise, that in reality, I really don't know what is going on most of the time! ;)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Jelica,
No way! Your appreciation for culture is way more refined than mine! It shows in your posts. I come by to learn more about culture from you.

secret agent woman said...

I've never liked opera either, although I do enjoy dressy events and most good foods. ('Course I would't eat foie gras for the ethical reasons you mentioned.)

james said...

Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
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