Last Thursday evening, my stepfather serenely asked me “Do you want to see a Mozart opera?” My answer was a very enthusiastic “Yes!” This would not be my first opera; I have seen about half a dozen, mostly performed by the Dallas Opera. Going to the opera is one of my favorite things; it is a bit odd, however, as opera enthusiasm is rare in one my age (well, it’s uncommon overall but trust me, I was one of the youngest members of the audience last night).
So, why do I enjoy the opera? First off, it’s a chance to dress very elegantly (in other words, pull out the fancy dress that has been languishing in the back of the closet since one’s prom/homecoming/graduation night). If that “one” is myself, this is a rare treat, and it’s pretty hard to overdress for this type of venue. One can revel in, as my mother would say, being young and beautiful. This feeling is facilitated even more if one is on a date, but accompanying one’s stepfather as he reviews the show is fine too.
I also happen to enjoy the music very much. The overture is my favorite part, usually; listening to the overture of Die Zauberflote at the Dallas Opera a few years back was one of the finest moments of my life. The singing is exquisite, the plots…well, usually overblown and far too emotional, but oh well.
Another reason is the visual treat that the opera can offer. The Dallas Opera especially has sets and costumes that are like ambrosia for the eyes; “good enough to eat” is a great way of putting it. Seen in an attractive venue such as the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas complements this very nicely.
Speaking of which, the new Winspear opera house, which opened with its debut opera last fall, is very beautiful. The outside – glowing red panels, huge glass windows, the name blazing above the door, is quite ostentatious; the inside, with a great view of the surrounding cultural district and downtown, is equally compelling. The hall itself has very good acoustics; the curved shape gives one the feeling of being surrounded by the music. It is not as breathtaking as Bass Hall; it goes for more muted tones (after all, it doesn’t have larger-than-life angels with trumpets). My stepfather noted that the inside of the Bass is white, and has a fresco of daytime; the Winspear is dark inside, and has a more night-like ceiling (large curved metal panels above surround the retracting chandeliers; they look like a massive snail-shell and are quite neat). Overall, the experience of the hall is quite nice.
The actual opera I saw, Cosi fan tutte (“All Women are Like That”) was very nice. The singers were excellent, and the relatively small orchestra capable. The plot – two men are sure of the fidelity of their fiances; an older friend challenges this and has them fake “going off to war” and then come back in disguise, switch places, and try to woo each other’s girl – is a “comedy,” but feels less and less so towards the end. The theme appears to be the fickle nature of love, on the side of both genders. One does not leave with overarching faith in the hearts of humanity. However, the aesthetics of the sets and the beauty of the singers voices made up for this in part.
I grew up listening to opera; right now I have La Boheme, composed by Puccini, on; I have been listening to it since I was in pre-school. I suppose the things one grows up with always have special significance; a soft spot, if you will, for each of us. I do suggest the experience of the opera, though, even if one has not always been familiar with it. My personal favorites are The Magic Flute, by Mozart, La Boheme, and Das Reingold, the first part of Wagner’s four-part ring cycle.
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