Monday, 23 November 2009

Opera, And Why It Is All Wrong

Those who know me should be well aware of my, almost pathological, hate of opera (no, not the Opera browser, I've nothing against that excellent piece of engineering).

Asked why, I usually take the easy way out, and say I have, an almost physiological, difficulty enduring high pitched voices and sounds. This, being true enough, is hardly the whole truth. After all, I will happily endure a classical (non-vocal) piece with very high pitched violin parts, indeed.

So, what is the truth behind my hate of opera?

Well, the "hate" bit is, in all honesty, mostly due to the high pitched voices. I do truly shiver when I hear them. But, and this is much more important, in opera they are also pointless (unlike, for example, violins in
Mozart violin concerto, for example Violin Concerto No. 5 (Turkish) -- my favourite; get them all here).

But why pointless, and aren't many other
art forms equally "pointless"?

Not to me, they aren't, and here's why opera is:

I see art in general, and song and dance in particular, as human activity that derives directly from a person's mood, feelings, and desire to either share them with the world, or just express them as a way of relieving them (if bad) or enhancing them (if good). So far so good, but why opera isn't and a piano concerto is?

Well, to be perfectly honest, piano concertos, at least the ones accompanied by an elaborate orchestral arrangement aren't very natural either. But they still tend to sound fairly close to what a person in a certain mood would be able to come up with on their own, or with some help from a bunch of friends. Even if most classical pieces are extremely elaborate and intricate feats of both composing and performance, in vast majority the underlying simplicity of emotion, and original crudeness of a lone attempt of reaching out to the world are still apparent.

Opera, on the other hand, much like a lot of pointless pieces of atonal "modern" classical music is really an abomination. A normal person may well sing when happy or sad, but never ever in such an artificially exaggerated manner so typical of most operas. Not to mention the added pretense of a plot and drama, both rudely and nonsensically interrupted only for the singer to produce something no sane and healthy human, happy or sad, could produce. Choral singing is at least honest in it's detachment from any clear purpose (its origin in religious rites notwithstanding). In terms of honesty, and relevance to a common person, even the worst of the worst rubbish modern music beats opera hands down. People can identify with rubbish much more readily. After all it's probably not far removed from their own attempts in the shower.

I must say here, if you go to opera to admire vocal feats of singers, in much the same way as you would admire an
Olympic athlete you can never equal, then this does not apply to you -- your attendance and enjoyment are fully justified. I, on the other hand, enjoy art only inasmuch as it presents me with something I can identify with, something I might attempt myself as an outlet for my thoughts and feelings. And no, I do not believe for an instant that there's a person who'd strive to equal opera singers in order to sing their joy or grief. What a normal person attempts, and wants to do, really, is very, very far removed. And they know it. And you know it. It's just that you may not want to admit it.

Oh, and there's probably a
masochist, deriving pleasure from the pain of the strain opera imposes on him, and the fact he'd never be able to acquire the skill. But I'm not a masochist.

Are you?