Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What's Operaitus?

Jennifer Rivera made an interesting point in "Trying to Remain Opera-tional" recently. This talented mezzo soprano maintains a highly entertaining blog chronicling her adventures as a professional singer, sprinkled with wry observations about life and the world of opera.

In her post "Operaitus," she comments on the chasm between the art of operatic singing and American audiences. She writes:
I've definitely seen things in plays and movies that were supposed to pass for opera singing that, well....weren't. And very few people seemed to be aware of the difference.

But how do you combat such a problem? And is it even something to be combated? If people are listening to something and enjoying it, why spoil it for them by letting them know that what they're hearing actually sucks ass?

I think the reason to try to educate people is that when they realize what they are missing, they might be able to get to an entirely new level of understanding and passion about this art form, and with that knowledge, their appreciation of the art form can only be deepened. If they went crazy for somebody just because he sang passably and in a foreign language, imagine how moved they could be if they were aware of what went into opera singing, and were able to appreciate it in it's true form! 
It took me a while to appreciate opera (hey, I majored in percussion), but once I got it, I understood how much I was missing -- and what the fuss was all about.

That's really the challenge. How do we educate when there's no foundation to build upon? Ms. Rivera's concerned about opera, but if you think for a moment, I'm sure you can come up with other areas of human endeavor that are suffering in the same fashion.

When we only have a superficial impression about something, we cheat ourselves (a point I've made elsewhere). The more we know about a subject, the more deeply we can engage with it, and the more we can get out of it.

So do yourself a favor. Pick an art form. Doesn't have to be opera -- it could be anything you sort of like. Dig a little deeper, and start reaping some aesthetic rewards.

It's not healthy to subsist exclusively on empty calories -- and that's true of the arts as well as nutrition.

 - Ralph

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