Is Opera For You?

I’m going to say something radical: I don’t think opera is for everyone. That is right. There are people out there who just do not like opera, and you know what? I totally understand. I, for example, am really am not very into hip-hop. I’ve given it a try (I’ve even sung with a hip-hop band!) but it simply is not the type of music on which I choose to spend my time and money.

However, that being said, I think a lot of people knock opera before they try it. “It is too expensive”, “It is for old people”, “I don’t understand what they are saying”, “It is boring” are all common stereotypes of the artform I hold so dear. And, again, I am going to be radical here and say that yes, opera certainly can be all of those things at times - but I feel those views are the exception and not the rule.

I have taken many friends and family members to experience their first opera and the reactions have always been positive and full of excitement. It is all about choosing the right opera experience to get them hooked, or at the very least more interested.

Here is what I do:

1. Start out light and easy: Please, do not make your friend’s first opera experience Die Göttedämmerung or Parsifal. Now, these are gorgeous pieces but they are LONG not to mention very complex musically as well as dramatically. Even seasoned opera buffs can attest to that. Give them something a little easier to digest...

2. Pick an opera with some familiar tunes. I bet just about everyone with a TV has heard a few opera melodies at some point in their life. Commercials and films are full of them! I think Il barbiere di Siviglia is a fantastic first opera since so many of the melodies have been in commercials or movies (my fav). Gianni Schicci has got one of the most recogniseable arias of all time, plus it is a hilarious show. Other great first operas are Die Zauberflöte, Die lustige Witwe (though technically an operetta). Of course, if your opera virgin prefers something more dramatic, opt for Carmen (the Habanera and Toreador Song are some of the most popular melodies of all time) or even La Traviata (thank you, Pretty Woman ).

3. Watch a “trailer”. Most people watch a movie trailer before they go see a movie. Do the same with opera! Opera companies like the Chicago Lyric and Minnesota Opera often create really great intro videos for the operas they perform, like this one for a (really, really cool) production of Die Zauberflöte. Get a taste of what you will see and hear and I guarantee the excitement to experience it live will go up.

4. Pick the right venue: Some people want the grandeur of a big opera house, while others may be put off by it. Thankfully there are so very many smaller opera companies delivering first-rate productions in more unconventional venues. I have sung Die Fledermaus in a swimming pool, and Don Giovanni in a former factory where audience members were able to drink beer and wine during the show. There is no reason opera must be in an opera house!

5. Tickets are not that expensive. People will gladly pay €10-15 euros to see a film. Opera costs the same!!! Sure, there are seats for hundreds of euros, but even the Vienna State Opera has seats at reasonable prices, not to mention standing room tickets for a mere €3.

So is opera for you? You’ll never know until you try!

Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile Anne Wieben or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!
Author: Anne Wieben
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