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Can We Talk?

Culture – And I Don’t Mean Yoghurt

I wouldn’t call myself a complete cultural idiot.  After all, I did take music and art as a youngster.  Still, there are genres of both that appeal and those that repel.

I’ve never been a lover of opera.  First of all, I don’t like high-pitched voices.  They irritate me, although I do appreciate that they are rare and lots of work has gone into fine-tuning them.  That said, I just don’t enjoy listening to them. I prefer baritones and altos. They’re just kinder to my eardrums.  So how does that explain my annoyance with country and western music? And I use the term (music) loosely.  No tenors or sopranos there.  I guess I just don’t want to hear about the little lady doing dishes while her man is at some honky-tonk and cheatin’ on her. 


One year, my husband and I decided to buy season’s tickets to the Toronto Opera company.  We really wanted to immerse ourselves in opera and develop an appreciation for it. 

We certainly liked all the fanfare.  We loved dressing up and moving among the artsy fartsy crowd, giving our two cents worth while sipping on white wine.  Oh yes.  Very hoity, toity.  Don’t ask me what we saw.  After a time they all sounded and looked pretty much the same.  Thankfully, they had the English lyrics displayed above the stage so as to help the uninitiated.  Like sitting through Mass, perhaps I would have found it to be more mystical or something, had I not understood the words.  I mean, the plot was always the same.  Always.  There are parties and every man there is a count or a prince, or something.  There are always beautiful women who are their courtesans.  There is always one young woman who falls in love with said prince or count or something.  He leaves her for another, for one reason or another.  She falls ill and dies.  End of story. 

The story lines are boring.  The arias are few and far between – and then very short.  On top of which, you have all those voices singing in unison but making no sense.  All of them screaming away.  Oh boy.

On the plus side, the costumes are beautiful.  The sets are beautiful. The audience is beautiful.

One day, we were driving along the QEW, late as ever, trying to make curtain call.  There was a weaver – we all know who they are – who was whipping along, weaving in and out of traffic.  He wove past us and – somewhere up ahead – he clipped a car on the left, rear bumper.  The said car spun around with the driver pointing to the oncoming cars.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as we whizzed by him without slowing down.  Like a deer in the headlights.  Like his fate was sealed.  We didn’t hear a crash so we figured everyone stopped in time and that he was safe.

Once we got to the O’Keefe, we reflected on what could have happened and let out a sigh of relief.  We then proceeded to our seats and pretty soon, the orchestra struck up and the story began – opening with a party, what else?  Having seen that very same plot several times over, I began to lose interest and fell blissfully asleep.  I later learned that my husband did as well.

I woke up to loud cheers of “Bravo! Bravo!” I opened my eyes, confused for a moment.   Where am I and what’s with all the shouting?  The audience was on its feet clapping and cheering loudly.  It was Intermission.  We got up – a little annoyed at having been woken up – and filed out, stood in line for our glass of wine.  No use lining up for the ladies room.  That lineup snaked around the corner and down the stairs.  No sooner had we finished sipping our wine than the tones sounded requesting our return.

Back in our seats and settled in, it wasn’t long before we drifted off once again.  We woke just in time for the prince or count or whatever, to be kneeling beside the poor girl’s bed as she drew her last breath.  I mean, it is clear she gave into the cravings of the flesh, sinned and therefore had to die.  Clearly the count or prince or something, suffered no such repercussions.

Again with the “Bravo!”  Well, at least we had some good sleeps.  It had been, after all, a long day.

We stopped buying season’s tickets after the third year.  We figured we had given it a fair chance but it was just too expensive to be used as nap-time.

This brings me to wondering what it is that entertains us.  Clearly it is different things to different people.  Where opera hurts my ears and puts me to sleep, jazz perks me up and makes me happy.  Watching anything and everything Bob Fossy had a hand in choreographing has me mesmerized and always wanting more.  I have watched Cabaret, Chicago and All That Jazz, about 27 times each.  I own every movie Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock ever made.  What is it about some types of entertainment that puts you in that other place?  What strings does it pull?  What buttons does it push?

Does it matter?  I think not.  The only thing that matters is that it brought joy into our lives.  When all is said and done we owe it to ourselves to be joyful as much as and as often as possible.

My husband and I still go to theatre.  Only now it’s to experience what we both enjoy.  Hey, we want our money’s worth.  We want to be awake during the entire performance.

So, the next time you’re at the opera and hear unusual night-time sounds coming from those around you, have a look.  Those next to you or behind you may be fast asleep, blissfully unaware that the death of a young maiden is about to occur.  Be sad for them for they will never understand what you find so infinitely engaging. 

January 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Musings, Personal Opinions | no comments

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