As someone who at the age of 18 had never seen or heard an opera I can completely relate to the people who have no idea what opera is. Is it about breaking glass with your voice? About the use of vibrato? Singing ancient music from the past with a bunch of fancy people dressed up for the occasion? Or is it about elderly people listening to something very serious for hours?
Well, just like pop, rock and other music genres have subcategories, so does opera and classical music. I have my favorite operas and composers, however we all have our own taste which is why it’s not black and white about which opera will be the one suited for you. Just because you don’t like a certain song or artist in the pop genre that doesn’t mean that you can’t like other artists’ music within the genre. The same goes for opera.
Unfortunately, sometimes an audience member will only give one opera a chance by a certain composer without realizing that maybe that composer’s music just wasn’t for them.
But first let’s clarify the terms opera and classical music. Classical music is usually used as a broad term for the western music starting from the medieval year 500 BC to present, which is a pretty massive time period with many styles, composers and cultures represented. Today electronically produced instruments exist such as the electric guitar and bass, however before the use of electronic amplification such as speakers, all instruments, including the voice, needed to be able to project enough independently in order to be heard. Today these instruments are the ones we see in orchestras such as violins, flutes, trumpets and bass drum, as well as piano, and are usually the instruments which we think of as part of the classical music category.
For except the use of instruments, opera also uses the unamplified human voice. This means you need to learn to sing in such a way that your voice will be heard without a microphone even when 30-100 musicians are playing in the orchestra. Opera also uses acting, storytelling, stage design and sometimes dance, just like musicals, to take the audience member on a journey.
Classical music and opera can be experienced in different venues, from your local opera house to a church to a small venue – put together by the main opera house or by an indie opera company.
So now you’ve receive all of this information but you’re still not convinced or you still don’t feel like you truly have an idea about what opera is. Well the best way is to experience it and make up your own opinion. Go and see a few different operas by different composers, ask an opera lover for their opinion on what they recommend you to see from your local opera houses.
I highly recommend making the night an event; go out and eat at a local restaurant before the opera, put on some nice clothes (and no you don’t wear a suit or a dress) and let yourself into the world of opera.
Sometimes you will not be moved by the story, artists or music, however when you do, it’s one of the most amazing feelings. So please bear with it and know that it’s a live performance, all bets are off and enjoy the ride.
What is opera to you or how do you describe it to your friends who are not sure if it’s for them?
Please leave a comment and I would love to hear from you.