A Night at the Opera

opera-viking-ladyMy wife always complains we don’t do enough things to expand our cultural awareness. Somehow she does not consider The Big Bang Theory enough of an expansion – I keep telling her she’d learn some interesting factoids about particle physics if she just listened to a few Sheldon Cooper rants. Her needling me about my lack of cultural curiosity offends me deeply because I’m an extremely sophisticated, erudite person. As proof, I would point out my usage of the word “erudite” in the previous sentence (which I found on a Google search of obscure, smart-sounding words).

Last summer, my wife and I went to one of those fancy pants, highbrow movie theaters where we saw a Danish film with English sub-titles. Not trying to brag, but I made it almost two thirds of the way through. I even went to a snobby, avant-garde modern art gallery opening once for an exhibit that turned out to be a collection of wooden furniture covered in thousands of nails (I’m not making this up, I swear).

I can endure boring, elitist, over-priced entertainment as well as the next beaten down husband. I’ve gone to the ballet. I’ve stayed awake through several Shakespeare plays – and had a vague idea of who the bad guys were in a couple of them. I even survived a modern dance recital my wife roped me into in which each dancer represented a different vegetable. (I’m pretty sure the guy in the green leotards was a zucchini, but he might have been a cucumber.)

So, don’t tell me I’m not willing to expand my artistic horizons. But every man has a line he won’t cross. And for me, that line is OPERA – that is, until last night, when my wife told me, “Turn off CSI Miami. We’re going to the opera tonight.” Fortunately, I was already wearing my dress shorts.

For you fellows out there, if your wife ever tells you she wants to go to the opera, I strongly suggest you quickly whack your thumb with a hammer so hard your nail falls off so you have to go to the ER. Trust me, that will be far more pleasurable than the 3 hours and 45 minutes I endured last night. But if you can’t get out of going, be sure to bring a comfy pillow, a warm blanket, and perhaps a Teddy Bear, because there’s no way you’ll stay awake past ACT I.

opera-bugs-bunnyWe went to see Carmen, an opera about a gypsy woman – I’m guessing named Carmen, but that’s just a guess – with whom all the men fell in love. The entire opera was sung in French, so I had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, they had a screen above the stage which displayed sub-titles. Unfortunately, all the sub-titles were in Italian.

According to the program, here’s the basic plotline:

ACT I: Boy (Don Jose) falls in love with girl (Carmen).

ACT II: Girl falls in love with boy.

ACT III: Girl falls in love with another boy.

ACT IV: First boy gets jealous and kills girl. – THE END.

Total duration of the four-act opera: An eternity.

I tried extremely hard to concentrate and stay awake, using every means at my disposal – sitting upright, setting a wake-up alarm on my phone for every fifteen minutes, downing a six-pack of Red Bull, applying tooth picks to prop my eyelids open. People having trouble sleeping at night should seriously consider season’s tickets to the opera. They’ll be sleeping like a hibernating bear before the end of the second aria.

Despite being as cultured as I am, I just don’t get opera’s appeal. First, you can’t understand a word they’re saying up there. Second, they never stop singing – ever! Even when the translation reads Good morning, Don Jose. Are you hungry?, the players on stage feel a need to sing about it – in loud, boisterous voices.

opera-tv-commercialNow I’m not the suspicious type – although I still think the moon landing was faked – but it seems to me the sub-titles are leaving out part of what they’re saying. For example, in one part Don Jose sang:

Pourquoi tu ne m’aimes plus? Est-il mes vêtements? Est-il sur la façon dont je me peigne les cheveux? Est-il  quelque chose que j’ai dit? As-tu un problème avec les hommes? Quel est ton problème? Tu sais, tu es une femme tout de même. Je te laisse à jamais. À moins que tu me fais le petit déjeuner.

But the sub-titles read, “Why won’t you love me?” I’m not a rocket scientist, but something tells me we’re not getting the whole story here.

Frankly, I was more than a little disappointed by my maiden voyage into the world of opera. I waited for 3 hours and 45 minutes for the fat lady in the Viking helmet to sing, but she never showed up. Such a letdown. I’ve decided that I’m NEVER going to the opera ever again – unless it’s on Bobblehead Night. Then, maybe I’ll give it one more try.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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  • Published On Nov. 14, 2016 by TEJ

    1. Shirley Freitas

      When i went to the opera in the park in NYC about ten years ago, there were no subtitles (usually referred to as the libretto) — fortunately it was La Boheme, so at least I had some idea of the storyline. That’s the good part. The bad: no sets or costumes or any way to identify what was going on. It was on a tiny stage and non-opera buffs who don’t happen to speak Italian could only guess at what was being said.
      We were squeezed on the lawn with thousands of opera lovers, including the friend who brought me. As the opera ended, she was on my right, sobbing. On my left sat a young man I had never met before, also weeping.
      I described this to a friend who responded: “If I had to sit through an opera, I’d be crying too!”

    2. Drew Fisher

      Very disappointed, Tim. Thought this was going to be about a Marx Brothers movie.

    3. Shirley Freitas

      PS, is your wife punishing you for all the times she’s walked into the room while you’re screaming at the TV during Seahawks games? Sneaking a look at your phone to get the score during a social event? Hurrying to get to your car in a heavy rain and coming to an abrupt stop when you the game on a TV in a tavern window?
      Just wondering.

    4. 11/18/16

      Tim, clearly you did not pay as much attention to Elmer Fudd’s performance as you think, since that was actually from Wagner’s Ring Cycle and not Mozart’s Magic Flute. The clue is the pointy horns on his Viking helmet.

      I am sure that pay back for a life time of sports obsessed weekends had something to do with this.

    5. Bob

      Bobblehead night sounds perfect, let me know and I’ll be there.

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