An Ingenious Plan To Cure Opera
16 September 2010
Funny thing opera. On the one hand it's the absolute pinnacle of human artistic achievement. So many different facets of art welded into one, of music and drama and storytelling. Orchestral music, itself, is a wonder, so many varied instruments blended into one perfect whole; add in the story and the drama and the choir and the soloists, and the grand scope of so much opera, and it really is magical. Utterly magical.
And yet, by God it's dull. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. They spend so long writing all the different parts for the orchestra and so many harmonies for the choir and this and that and the costumes and the whatever, that generally they can't really be bothered writing too many tunes, and so you get endless passages where people are just shouting at each other in a European language that one likely doesn't understand, and even if one does, the chances are that you won't be able to make out what they're saying anyway. Worse, of course, is when they translate what they're saying into English on the TV screen, and suddenly all this incredible drama and sophisticated exposition is reduced to plain old dull as dishwater English, and you see that when it looks as though they're discussing world affairs or tragic love or the End of Days, they are in fact saying something along the lines of:
I think I will go to the toilet
Yes I think you should go to the toilet
I am going to the toilet now
Yes, that is wise
That's it, I am leaving, I am heading off now to the toilet
Yes, go! Go! Go to the toilet!
To the toilet I will go and there I will sit in contemplation.
To the toilet! To the toilet!
Many years will I sit on the toilet.
I don't care how long you go for, but obviously you should go now!
I am going now! To the toilet!
To the toilet!
To the toilet!
[together] Toilet! Toilet! Toilet!
Obviously, I didn't write those words myself. I think they're from Carmen.
However, I have an ingenious plan to solve the opera question. Consider, for the moment, light jazz music. (An abomination in itself.) If ever you're watching a light jazz band, you can guarantee that at some point they will throw in The Girl From Ipanema, in the belief that a majority of the audience will know it and will happily forget for a few minutes that they're one step away from sitting in an elevator.
My revolutionary idea would apply the same logic to opera, so that at several points during the course of the four hours - in any given opera - the tenor would burst into a rousing chorus of Nessun Dorma. Everybody likes Nessun Dorma, and by the very notion of this ingenious idea, as an art form it would suddenly embrace a much wider and more culturally and socially diverse audience.
That's my gift to the world of music. Tomorrow: how Nessun Dorma can be used to aid international search and rescue