When someone says “opera”, a stereotype springs to mind: a snooty, elderly, rich couple peering down from a balcony at a rather large Brünnhilde-esque woman clad in a Viking hat, warbling away. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’m going to prove why there is no excuse for us students not to try opera.
“But I won’t understand what’s going on!” I hear you cry. If you’re managing to read this article then you can understand opera. Most opera houses these days have subtitle machines so audiences can follow a line by line translation throughout. Besides, there are plenty of operas in English or another language you may speak.
A lot of students will claim opera’s boring. Last time I checked, a story with two murders, two suicides and an attempted rape is a tad more interesting than an ’Enders or Corrie plotline. If drama isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of light operas or ‘operettas’. Just check out Offenbach’s hilarious ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ – home of the ‘Can Can’. Opera Soc are doing a production in the summer term right on your doorstep. Opera can be strikingly relevant too- a more recent example is ‘Anna Nicole’, the true story of the playboy model who married an elderly billionaire and died of a drug overdose, which premiered at the Royal Opera House last year.
As a friend said recently “the music isn’t boring either – at least, not if you have a soul”, and it’s true. Just give it a listen. The art form has been around for over four hundred years and is still going strong. Some of the most famous pieces of music of all time are operas and will be have seeped into your subconscious whether you like it or not. The lovely music in the British Airways advert? It’s the ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakmé. That exciting music in ‘Apocalypse Now’? That’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from Wagner’s Ring Cycle – yes, the one with the Viking hat lady. That song that is used in numerous cartoons along with ‘Mrs Doubtfire’? ‘Largo al Factotum’ from Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’. I could go on.
So, maybe you’re tempted but don’t think you can’t afford it on a student budget? Well, you can go to the opera in London for as little as £4 and if you register on the Royal Opera House website, you can get student standby tickets for just a £10. It’s not that much different from going to the cinema and you will have tried something new. Don’t live near London or go there often? With over 50 different opera companies in the UK that’s really not an excuse. Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ – one of the most gorgeous and famous operas around – is coming to York in April next year with tickets starting at £15. So go on, just give it a try!
Oh and don’t pay attention to the stereotypes of fat ladies and Pavarotti. Jonas Kaufmann is beautiful – Google him, ladies, and thank me later.