Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shake It Like Brunhilde – The Opera Bloggers

Opera music is a lot like okra to me. it If I know it is heading my way I run in the opposite direction. I don’t like Opera music. Well, most of it anyway. If it is not wrapped in a Warner Brothers cartoon or some form of animation I suffer. Classical music, yes, rack up some Glenn Gould and I will be happy; that dude could rock the 88’s, classically speaking.

Honestly, I gave Opera a fair shot. I watched a performance of Madame Butterfly. Came away thinking she was a Class-A fool. I watched Fosca, not to be confused with Tosca, and again was shaking my head about women who choose to die for love. Can’t count the times I have tried to listen to the Wagner Ring Cycle on the radio and woke up the next morning with the lights still on.

I’m not proud about it but I did get a good night sleep.

So why am I doing a post about Opera music? Because all forms of music need to be supported, encouraged and exposed to a broader audience. I got it figured this way. Some talented person who likes Opera but doesn’t like all the women killing themselves will someday write an opera with no dame off’ing herself in the name of love.

But even if I liked the stuff it would be a challenge to find public access to the music. The popular music industry crowds out anything different or performers that are fully clothed. In America, the Public Broadcasting Service has cut way back on airing theatrical productions. The prices for Opera performances? Yowser! Even the bum rush tickets need a co-signer.

Ok, I exaggerate but not by much.

The fact is Opera music doesn’t lend easily to visual exposure. The few classical radio stations are, well, radio. I rarely turn mine on unless it is time for L.A. Theater Works. Spoken word theater, not Opera. So I’m going to take myself up on a personal challenge and find Opera bloggers.

The Performers

Jessica at A Soprano Steps Out writes about balancing her auditions, the day job and her life in and outside of Opera music. In one of her posts Jessica reflects on an audition:
Saturday, the audition was fine. It really was. I mostly loved it, which is why the couple of questionable notes among dozens of other good ones really piss me off. I felt like I was really present in what I was doing, except that for some odd reason, I could feel my poor little knees shaking, and it seemed impossible that the panel didn't see it.

DivaVixen is a Mezo Soprano at Viva La Diva. There is the day job at the gym, interactions with three-year olds and having to sing “art songs” as opposed to arias.

And a lot of the time, you only get to sing art songs if you are performing for a specific art song competition or are famous enough to be asked to sing a recital for the paying public. I am a LOOOONG way off from holding recitals and have managed to dodge, thus far, the art song competitions.

There are fees for auditions, having to listen to contrary advice and a nerve racking experience of The Mikado that will not be forgotten. I liked reading their stories about the challenges on pursuing their careers in Opera. I have questions about the exercising that is done, I think it is for endurance on stage and not necessarily for shape.

Joyce DiDonato has a performance website and a blog at YankeeDiva.

Hey Opera people, take a hint from Joyce and post video of yourself and a bit of performance on your site. I could see who she is, a bit of her personality and yeah, a bit of music. No seriously, she has a great voice.

Appreciators of Opera Music

Intermezzo is another soprano this time from London who writes about Opera from a devoted fan/critic perspective. There is love but she isn’t afraid to say if a performance was less than stellar.

Garanča is more problematical. Carmen needs a bit of dirt under her fingernails, and no, an elegant smudge of brown greasepaint is not the same thing. Her agile, honeyed voice is elegance personified; there's little to suggest an earthy gypsy heart beating beneath.
The Opera Tattler is similar in style but also writes about Opera news, gossip and what happens on and off the stage. I do think it is a good idea to report the behavior and make up of the audience. Also check out An Unamplified Voice and OperaChic.

So Where Does This Leave Me?

Perhaps I need to be willing to watch short-form Opera videos and performances. Classic Arts Showcase does air those kind of video excerpts but I can’t stay up until 1 a.m., which is when my PBS channel airs the program.

I can continue to check on YouTube for Opera music. This is where I have problems with the current draconian content lockdown. I do believe in right livelihood and, as some of the performers would attest, they need to get paid. Once again the recording industry is busy punishing individuals and not recognizing the need to develop new audiences.

For Opera music that means making a few of artists work available so that we can see what you have. Engagement. A little introduction that could lead to a chic chat?

I’m not asking the Industry to have an open buffet. Tell me why Callas is the bomb diggity of Opera and show the woman in performance. If you don’t want this to be a dying art form then a little more adaptation on your part is required. There should be a better effort to help newbies discover why an artist is important and help me locate new performers.

I am a Contributing Editor at Blogher where this post first appeared.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the honest feedback and perceptive shout-out for opera!! It's true, sometimes it gets a bad wrap (all those divas dying for love), but there are also some radical ladies as well (In my new disc, the last piece is a sorceress who declares that instead of love she will chose vengeance and proceeds to destroy the world!!!!)

    For me, it's not always necessarily about the PLOT (a lot of our material is taken from centuries old plays where societal conventions where quite different - and today might be seen as ridiculous!), but about the EMOTIONS that continue to be universal truths...

    I appreciate your honest assessment that opera might not be for you, but that it should at least be more widely accessible!! We need more beauty in the world today, and music is definitely a potent answer!!