Friday, November 21, 2008

My Year of Opera - Intro

Like many people, I know virtually nothing about opera, and my experiences with it up to this point have been minimal. In my very young childhood, there were the occasional "operas" on Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, which I absolutely adored. In high school, I saw an English production of Mozart's Don Giovanni streamlined to draw audiences into opera a bit more, and I liked that well enough. Also as a teenager, I got into the music of Philip Glass, and I've remained a big fan of the three operas of his "revolution cycle" (Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and my personal favorite, Akhnaten). Beyond those three youthful instances, though, my contact with and knowledge of opera has not really gone beyond knowing about Brunhilde (which I thought for the longest time was spelled "Brunhilda") and knowing that opera in general was a big production.

However, since moving to New York, I've begun to try to rectify this situation out of a genuine interest to learn more about what was once one of the more popular forms of musical expression. As I work at a university library part-time, I've begun checking out operas from the music library to give them a listen and figure out what I do or don't like and why (any suggestions, anybody)? And of course, with the Metropolitan Opera House only a short subway ride away, I am trying to attend a few operas here and there, albeit with the financial restrictions of a part-time job and a grad student stipend provide. That said, over the next year (or maybe longer), I thought it would be fun (for me, if for nobody else) to sort of go at opera from a layman's standpoint, trying to get into opera from the viewpoint of somebody who knows a decent amount about music but virtually nothing about a major genre that we're all raised with (even if it's to instinctively recoil at the notion of the "high culture" of opera).

Anyhow, consider this post an intro/warning of a new series. Although I hope to go into virtually every opera as uninformed as I can (primarily by not reading of reviews of the performances I'll see), I'll try to include some differing reviews by those who are more informed than I that may raise different criticisms or praises, for those who are interested. Ideally, this will get some interesting discussions going on operas, "professional" vs. "layperson's" views on/perceptions of opera, and which operas are duds and which are not; worst case scenario, this ends up being a vanity project that amuses me and nobody else, and given that that's how many blogs start off anyways, I won't feel too torn up about it.