10 September 2007

Opera for Jaime

In college, the one time I really seriously almost failed a class was music theory. There were two different "intro" music theory classes - one for true novices, and one for everyone who'd go on to be music majors, who already knew the basic basics and were ready to jump in & move on. Because of scheduling quirks and my enslavement to the theatre department, the real beginners class would literally never fit into my schedule, so I took two years of cello and a passing familiarity with black and white keys, and took the fancy people music theory class pass fail. I lived next door to the practice rooms, and promised the professor that even though I barely failed the entrance exam, I'd work hard and catch up. Which was sort of true. I worked hard. And passed out of, I think, benevolence.

I'm glad I took this class. I learned a lot, and my keyboard skills (I can't even call it piano playing) improved enough that, the following semester, I was ballsy enough to sign on to play french horn for a production of Into the Woods. (The french horn part on the keyboard, that is.)

Sometimes I wish I'd eschewed the theory and taken Music 1, "Intro to Western Music." Because the thing is, I'm a total heathen. Like, I've heard of some classical musicians, but I don't know where they fit into any sort of timeline or stylistic progression. College and my first few years in New York have been, if not a crash course, then a starting-from-scratch, as, usually guided by my music major roommate, I've started to cobble together some knowledge. This summer I got a ten-minute history of tonal music. A year or two ago I learned I like Baroque opera when James had me see Platee. I know I like Stravinsky because of the ballets I've seen to his music.

Anyway, this is all a very roundabout way of saying that I went to the opera this weekend. I can count the times I've been to the opera before on one hand (I think - Platee, La Boheme, Rodelinda, Die Walk├╝re), but I pretty much know what I like - good theatre. The productions I've loved - Platee, Rotdelinda - have been good theatre and good music. The productions I haven't loved - City Opera's stale Boheme, por ejemplo - have been good music and crap theatre.

That being said, I'm in absolutely no position to review opera. (I mean, duh, with my sample of five. Ever. In my life.) City Opera's Don Giovanni is not bad theatre. It's not awesome theatre. I think it's good opera. But more exciting is City Opera's Opera-for-All initiative. My visit was at the tail end of the Opera for All festival, a weekend of performances where every seat's sold for $25 (at and which a brass octet serenaded Lincoln Center from the theatre's outdoor balcony), but it kicks off a season where at every performance, there are 50 front orchestra seats being sold, in advance, for $25. Again, front orchestra seats at the opera for $25. All season. That's pretty awesome. Maybe I'll have James guestblog a preview of the season so you know what's worth your money. But even bad opera is still two-plus hours awash in some of the best voices in the world. Take a risk and buy a ticket. Season info's here.

1 comment:

Greg said...

That was the same music theatre class I tried to take (in Fall of 2001) and had to drop, because I was taking 4 other classes and was proposing to PW (Glengarry with women--you may remember it). That class just wore me down. I would've passed at least the practical section. Oh well.

I have only been to two operas in my life--Salome and Don Giovanni (at the Met!) Don Giovanni was fantastic.