I’ve long wished that opera spoke to me on more than a purely appreciative, intellectual level. I wish I could say, like Glen Nelson, that
for me opera is serious business. I have always responded to it viscerally.
Of course, he has an advantage, having grown up with opera, whereas I have to learn opera. And the best way would be to attend operas. Which I can do locally, but holy smokes opera is expensive. If opera dies, this will be the reason: that the uninitiated have to spend soooo much money to become initiated. So I suppose the nouveu riche looking for cultural acceptance will join the club, but the poor will stick to novels and Saturday-morning cartoons.
Anyway, speaking of Glen Nelson, he has brought his love of opera and Mormon arts together in the latest greatest project of Mormon Artists Group, Mormons at the Met.
During the 2011-2012 season at the Metropolitan Opera, six LDS singers were engaged to perform principal roles. This is an unparallelled, historic achievement in our culture. Author Glen Nelson follows the performances to provide an intimate chronicle of a year at the opera house. This 450-page book with illustrations by Annie Poon aims to answer a straightforward question: what is it like to be a Mormon in the seats of the Metropolitan audience for a season?
Even with my ambivalent connection to opera, this project feels designed for me. I admire Glen mightily, love Annie Poon‘s cartoony work, and I’m always delighted when successful Mormon artists are highlighted.
Asking Annie to illustrated Mormons at the Met was a sly move on Glen’s part. Opera can be so daunting and highbrow and unwelcoming that having Annie’s utterly accessible and fun and charming and innocent drawings as your in should make any newbie feel more comfortable. They may not shell out the cash for M@M, but if a friends shares it with them, why not? This looks fun!
And although I’ve hardly read the book, I’ve no doubt Glen is a personable and welcoming host. And even if you think opera sounds like hell, mightn’t the journey still be worth it with the proper Virgil?
So no, I haven’t read the book or listened to the music, but I still think this is a project worth checking out.
12 thoughts on “Mormons at the Met”
I have been too the Met for several operas, which are amazing. I suggest that you look into the Met’s HD national broadcasts, while not quite the same as being there, are certainly cheaper.
A friend once gave me a handy-dandy tip for enjoying either opera or ballet (particularly relevant on the first couple of tries): Know the story before you go.
That’s it. A couple of times through a wiki entry and you’ll be set. Used that with my kid a couple of years ago before going to The Nutcracker and it worked like a charm.
My problem with opera is that while I can handle and sometimes even enjoy recitative, I’m not a fan of most arias. They slow things down too much, and I can’t really relate to them on either a technical or emotional level.
My problem is pacing. Opera is really about emotional moments, not the plot. I like my theater to cover the story; opera is just the emotional highlights of the story.
I love opera too. It is fun to live in a town with a legit opera festival. And I spent a somewhat magical summer working in Santa Fe a few years back, where I somehow managed to attend (student discounts, etc.) all five operas the Santa Fe Opera did that year. It was mind-blowingly good.
Moriah is right. Know the story! Don’t get lost needing to read every word of the super-titles.
I would take it a step further: know the music! For me, appreciation of well-crafted, complex classical music increases with familiarity. Some of my favorite pieces of music in the world are things I originally hated, but learned to absolutely love through repeated exposures (e.g., it was music my wife was rehearing in our home).
Seconded. Or at least know the highlights.
This is exactly why Carmen is my favorite opera. I know it so well.
Oh, I’m of the opinion that Carmen is the ideal “gateway drug” opera, because everyone knows at least a couple of songs from it. Also, it ends with the death of the soprano, as an opera should. (Bonus: The plot is compelling and actually makes sense, which is not something you can take for granted in the opera world.)
I’d suggest Il Barbiere di Siviglia as the ideal “gateway drug.” It’s funny. It’s full of beautiful music.
And you’ve heard half the tunes as soundtracks to your favorite cartoons.
I’ve read the book, and it is awesomely entertaining. Granted, I love opera, Glen, and NYC, but still–it’s a great read. Highly recommended.
First of all, Carmen is a mezzo!
Don’t like the arias? Please, that’s what you anticipate and savor! Acquaint yourself with the music and lyrics or, sure, it will be like you’re a five year old at general conference.
Opera is like being Mormon. It’s a lot more work but much more satisfying.
Seriously opera has the best composers, the best voices, fantastic orchestra and you get that with story, costumes and lots of sex and violence! Come on! It’s Total Art!
That’s a pretty good comparison, actually, Mormonism. Requires work.