A Night at the Opera
Maybe. But that doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t give it a whirl. The experience will not be as inaccessible as you might believe, especially if you go to see one of the big ten (Madame Butterfly, Carmen, Rigoletto, The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, La Boheme, Tosca, La Traviata, Aida or The Marriage of Figaro). The stories are ridiculously simple (and in some cases simply ridiculous) and the music is wonderfully, spookily familiar as the following link will testify if you don’t believe me –
And we all know that opera classic, ‘Just one Cornetto’ .
As for ‘Everyone’s a fruit and nut case’ –
I know! I know! Just testing! Not from an opera but from a ballet, but you get my point.
As for the choice of choc advert I am really showing my age. Which brings me very neatly on to the demographic for opera. Mature and reasonably well-off. And you would need to be, given the price of some opera tickets.
However, it doesn’t have to be (nor is it always) this way. Many opera houses are trying hard to lure in a younger audience ( although when I looked around the theatre on Saturday night I can safely say they haven’t quite managed it yet).
The English National Opera, for example, has the wittily phrased ‘Access all Arias’ membership scheme aimed at 16-30 year olds (and full-time students) where they can see opera productions at significantly reduced prices. And as for the Welsh National Opera, a trip to the opera at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff,
really is a bargain as well as a treat –(Level 6, Upper Circle? Worry not! Testament to the design of the Millennium Centre, seats are comfortable, views are very good and the acoustics are excellent)
So, it can be affordable but why go?
“Cliché, camp and sentimentality are cornerstones of the form and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that’ (Rufus Wainwright). In other words, it’s fun. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic. The story always predictable. And the music wonderful. To listen to an orchestra play as you watch a spectacle and listen to human voices singing to their full potential is a privilege that we can all experience.
If still unsure, The Welsh National Opera is currently touring with ‘The Magic Flute’ and this is an excellent opera on which to cut new operatic teeth.
Originally described as a ‘Singspiel’ (sing-speak), ‘The Magic Flute’ is an easy mixture of spoken dialogue and song, thus enabling you to follow the narrative with ease. As for the plot itself, it has many fairytale elements – a prince (Tamino) who falls in love with a princess (Pamina), a wicked queen (The Queen of the Night), a magic flute, obstacles to overcome, a happy ending. It also has much in common with pantomime in the amusing sub-plot provided by Papageno and his own slap-stick quest for a love of his own. There are undoubtedly more twists and meanings to the opera, with references to freemasonry, philosophy and religion. And you can enjoy these in their broadest application as a struggle between good and evil. There are even, apparently, references to 18th century political and social issues. However, an unawareness of these should not exclude you from enjoying what is a lavishly wonderful operatic experience.
As for Dominic Cooke’s staging, it is crammed with cultural references which engage and stimulate – from the Magritte-inspired blue-sky-white-clouds backdrop and Sorastra’s (orange) suited and bowler-hatted brotherhood to the Dali-esque lobster claws which threaten at the beginning. The cheeky red petticoats worn by the Three Ladies also make a mark… Some critics haven’t liked Cooke’s set as it has been done before. But if, like me, this is your first time, then, you’re in for a visual feast.
Then there is Mozart’s music which carries you magically through the narrative – expressing light, dark, humour and a myriad of nuanced emotions in between. And you will recognise it.
And be amazed by it. Samantha Hay as the Queen of the Night deserves a special mention. When she delivered ‘the’ aria, her vocal acrobatics transfixed me, transporting me to another level of being. I couldn’t believe it – I felt myself in the presence of something truly,breathtakingly, perfect. Samantha Hay! Thank you.
The Magic Flute has now finished at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff (029-2063 6464) and is touring until 10 April.
For further details on dates and venues click on the following link – http://www.wno.org.uk/event/magic-flute?gclid=Cj0KEQjwlYqoBRDajuaTvsyq1PQBEiQAEhSjnJY4uxIlTrFu7tePakCyYtGwRxBvOPIMgyRAVQQ91iIaAhQY8P8HAQ
WNO, The Millennium Centre, Cardiff 029 2063 6464 www.wno.org.uk/ £ (£6.50 – £41.50)
ENO, London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N4ES 0333 272 7071 http://www.eno.org £ ( £16 – £125 )
The Royal Opera House, Bow St, London WC2E 9DD
020 7240 1200 http://www.roh.org.uk ££ (£7 standing – £200 based on summer season 2015)
Glyndebourne Festival, 01273 812321 http://www.glyndebourne.com/ £££ (£85 – £160 rising to £225 on the weekend)
Price ranges are approximate but give an idea of the price bands available.