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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Opera, huh, what is it good for?

February 11th, 2011 by Kit

Certainly more than “absolutely nothing, y’all”.

I went, last night, to see Rusalka at the Denver opera house. Allie’s been working on it, and she got me a ticket. It was really good, but it intersected interestingly with my continuing reading of Peter Brook. Opera is almost intrinsically in the category of Deadly Theatre, if theatre it is. And that’s the question. Sure, it has all the inflexibility and Grand Tradition that Brook talks about, but ultimately? I don’t think it’s theater as such.

I don’t mean, by this, to denigrate opera at all. It’s just a different beast. I sat and watched this tragedy (and let me tell you, if opera plots are incoherent, opera-based-on-myth plots are even more incoherent) and felt nothing like catharsis. There was no characterization, in the sense of convincing the audience that the characters were real beings with real minds.

Instead, there was spectacle. There was amazing set and costume design, that interacted perfectly, and played with the lighting design. There was music, there was dance, there was fantastic singing.

So, there, I realized opera is not theatre. But it is great fun, if you stop looking for the fun of a story. (I think I compulsively look for stories. I’m working on non-story fun, ok?)

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  • I instinctively feel that I agree with you, though I want to think about the whole topic a bit more. I saw Rusalka a while back and really liked it but agree that the whole plot-catharsis part was missing.

  • Kit

    It was certainly beautiful. I’m quite keen on Dvořák, and an excuse to hear his music is always welcome. But yeesh, the story.

  • There was a great paper we read for 19th century music history about the experience of going to an opera then – clothes and talking and booing and all. I think it supported your spectacle thought.

  • Kit

    I may remember talking with you about that, and that may have influenced my thoughts on the matter.

  • mair

    You may remember this Kit … I think it’s a great take on the story part of opera. It’s always (and maybe even only) the music.

  • Kit

    Of course I remember it!