Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Opera Expectations

Before interning with Boston Lyric Opera, I had no exposure to opera. However, working behind-the-scenes during Macbeth allowed me to learn what opera is really about through I a story I already knew. I broke through many of the preconceived notions I held about the opera.

These are a few of the misconceptions about the opera that I had:

“I won’t be able to understand an opera because I don’t know {insert language here}.”
When I attended the new Broadway production of West Side Story, in which Spanish lyrics were incorporated, I felt concerned about seeing a show in another language. I know everything about West Side Story and I studied Spanish for five years, yet I left feeling confused. How could I appreciate and enjoy an opera I know nothing about, told in a language I don’t understand? However, my fears were assuaged when I learned many opera companies project English translations (called supertitles) on screens during the performance, allowing the audience to follow the story and appreciate the amazing vocal talent. Additionally, there are operas composed in English, like Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, which BLO will produce in February as this season’s Opera Annex.

“Opera is just a bunch of people singing. Only people with intense vocal training can really appreciate it.”
When I first entered the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre for Macbeth, I initially noticed the display of bodies hanging from the ceiling of the stage. The scenery was awe-inspiring. Don’t get me wrong; opera is about the amazing vocal talent. However, it is also a performance, which makes it a theatrical experience.

I have a bit of vocal training, (as much as high-school chorale can provide), enabling me to appreciate how talented and well-trained the singers are. However, even someone who has never sung a note would be impressed.

“Operas are so long!”
Although many operas run longer than a typical movie, musical or play, an opera production tends to have more intermissions. Although the run time of an opera performance may be four hours, the audience isn’t expected to stay seated the entire time. There are two to three intermissions! This provides time for the audience to stretch their legs, visit the restroom, grab a snack and get excited to experience the rest of the show.

“I don’t think opera is my thing.”
If one has never seen an opera, how does one know? Take a chance; Carpe Diem!

Attending the opera is a unique and interesting experience that enriches the individual. While it may be a new and scary experience for many, I encourage everyone to take a chance and try something new, see an opera! I think you’ll figure out for yourself if it really “ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

-- Elyssa Sternberg, Boston University ‘15

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