Perhaps it’s because I was a Navy brat and a geek, but somehow I missed the memo that there were things I was not to enjoy. So I went, and, like many people from centuries long ago, I laughed and loved the entertainment. Then I grew up, and listened to the excuses people gave not to go, not to try styles of music and fun that have stood the test of time, and in some cases the test of money. Then I met a man. Little did I know that he was not the enthusiast I was when he bought me season tickets to the symphony… but he married me and now he is stuck!
And he has realized something many people do not. Shakespeare and opera are low-brow entertainment. That’s right, low-brow. Much of what is done on stage is like Family Guy set to music or jazzed up in Old English (which was a lot more understandable back then). And the bigger irony, much of our popular entertainment consists of remakes of these classics! Pretty Woman is a modern remake of La Traviata (the opera he takes her to in the movie). The Lion King is Shakespeare’s Hamlet and She’s the Man is The Twelfth Night. There are many, many more, but you get the point. The stories are still entertaining, and the problems they deal with are still problems we can understand today.
So why don’t more people go? Besides the bad press there is a bit of a language barrier, true, but a good production solves that (and there are always subtitles at the opera). And if anything, the added level of difficulty serves to improve your reading comprehension. And the topics addressed make us talk- about how women are treated, even today (yes, men still classify some women as ‘hoes’ and treat them with disdain), about how dysfunctional family dynamics lead to tragedies, including death (typically through suicide and/or drug overdose), about how people have not changed much over the years, and about how we have. And many opera companies and theaters have family or student discounts, as they want to encourage a new generation to love, and support, what they do. So check one out. It may be more fun than you thought it would be, but just remember, like the movies of today, some are PG and some are well…. if your children understand you will be having a discussion on other life events as well today.
And as for classical music, there is so much of it, and in so much variety, that to say you don’t like any of it is to say you have never tried it. And since it has been hiding in the background of your favorite cartoons, TV shows and movies for years, (George Lucas hired the London Symphony to play the music to Star Wars…), you probably do enjoy many classical, and neo-classical (my term) pieces, you were just not aware of it. So enjoy, and broaden your horizons. Why? If for no other reason than to start a conversation- a conversation that is still necessary about how people are to be treated and about how stupid some of the things that we as a society still do. So while Family Guy does much to satirize and bring these topics to light, you look foolish trying to base an intellectual conversation off of something you saw on TV last night, while discussing the plight of the female, through the lens of Taming of the Shrew, or the injustices in politics through Julius Caesar, just sounds so much more credible. (And I am fairly sure Seth MacFarlane has studied both. Don’t be less educated than Seth…)
(Some important points: All the characters in Shakespeare’s plays were played by men, so a few, rare companies use male actors for any given part. (Imagining Juliet being played by a man does increase the hilarity!) And, in opera, eunuchs were called castrati and parts were written for them in a higher range. Women are often used for these parts since we no longer castrate young men to preserve their youthful voices, making it impossible for today’s males to hit the higher notes. And, by the way, a big pet peeve of mine, Romeo and Juliet is not a love story! Romeo is in love with Rosalind at the beginning of the play, and then sees Juliet and his affections quickly shift. Shakespeare is making fun of teen love, not telling us to emulate it…)