14. See an Opera (and attempt to enjoy myself)

I love music. I love musicals. I love rock operas (The Who's Tommy happens to be my favorite, but I could go for a little Jesus Christ Superstar, too). I have never been to a "real" opera... until now. My mom and I have a long history with the theater. As I was growing up, my mom and I had season tickets to see many of the Broadway musicals that travelled through the Twin Cities. It was important to her to share her love of musicals with me, and luckily I loved them too. No matter where the family was financially, my mom always made sure it was possible for us to continue our theater dates. It was so important to both of us to spend the time together doing something we enjoyed. In recent years, my mom has found a passion for opera, I did not choose to go along for that ride, but now she has invited me, and I am ready to try it - and hoping I don't fall asleep at the wheel.

It turns out that Minnesota has a heckuva Opera Company. I suppose having been very aware of the rich arts community in Minnesota, I should have known that, but Opera has always been an entirely different beast to me. I guess I imagined opera to be above me. For the hoi polloi. Appealing to the sophisticated. I find myself in different categories entirely, but I've seen 'Pretty Woman,' and I know that the prostitute portrayed by Julia Roberts falls in love with the opera, so maybe I can too. The major difference: In the movie, Julia Roberts' character is whisked away by private jet to the Met and given an expensive new wardrobe. In my case, I threw on "this old thing," and was chauffeured... by my mom in her PT Cruiser. Totally different.

My mom and her friend have season tickets to the Minnesota Opera, and her friend was gracious in giving me her ticket for a performance of Rossini's 'The Barber of Seville.' This happens to be a better known opera and what insiders might call a "soft entry point" for a novice like myself. Some of the music from this opera has been made familiar through use in animated cartoons like Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, and Tom and Jerry. It is also featured in a very well known Saturday Night Live sketch starring Eddie Murphy doing an impression of Buckwheat. Now, that's more my speed. I don't imagine the real opera is going to reflect this, however.

Though very comedic, 'The Barber of Seville' follows a confusing storyline incorporating multiple identities for one of the main characters. When you add to that the fact that the opera is sung in Italian, it becomes apparent how necessary it is to read the synopsis before, during, and after the performance. Thank God for subtitles. Yes, during the opera, the English translation was projected above the stage. This was both wonderful and terrible for me. Wonderful, because it helped me remember the key plot points that I was trying to keep straight after reading the synopsis. Terrible, because my eyes alternated between focusing on the action on stage and focusing on the translation above the stage. Like a cat watching a tennis match, the hypnotic back and forth... you are getting very sleepy... well, you get the idea. Yup. I fell asleep. More than once. It was that miserable feeling that I used to get in science class when the teacher was talking about hydrogen, and protons, and blah blah blah, and my head would bob, and I would simultaineously be thinking about how badly I needed to stay awake and how good it would feel to give in to sleep. (A very public apology to my mom's friend Ruth who surrendered her ticket to a performance she surely would have enjoyed immensly.)

I am pretty sure that opera isn't for me. I don't mean that it isn't for "people like me," because I'm certain now that opera can appeal to many different people with many different interests. I mean literally, I don't like opera. There. I said it. Here's the difference between me before seeing the opera, and me now; now I have tried it. I like to throw around the expression, "don't knock it 'til you rock it" a lot. Meaning, you can't really say with great certainty that you don't like something until you have experienced it. Well as far as opera is concerned, I rocked it. I don't totally want to knock it, though. I have great respect for the talent of the performers. Amazing singing, in a different language, and comedic acting layered along with it. That's no easy task, and they performed it with grace and ease. I just was not able to enjoy it with grace and ease, and I am comfortable with that.

The evening was not wasted. I learned something about myself (that's always a good thing), and I got to spend some quality time with the most important woman in my life, my mom. I would have fun reading the phonebook with my mom because she is that cool, and I would like to thank her for opening my eyes, ears, and heart to all kinds of new and exciting experiences my whole entire life. My mom has never knocked something she hasn't rocked - and she rocks so much. I try to live by that example. Mom, thanks for making me.

1 comment:

  1. Colleen,

    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your stories about tackling the challenges you set forth for yourself. I look forward to your blogs every week.

    Terri Kasel (aka Tesstarosa)


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