I’d always seen opera as elitist nonsense; at best musicals for rich knob heads and at worst the equivalent to the emperor’s new clothes. Arrogance fuelled stupidity on my part I kind of think. But I’m trying to open up my mind and take it to places that it’s not previously been. In April during my sojourn to Sheffield I went to a modern dance production of Kes. I enjoyed it immensely. Buoyed by this new found enthusiasm for cultural adventure I notice as I walked past Norwich’s Theatre Royal a week or so ago that they were having a mini Wagner fest. Funny I fought, funny. And then as I wended my way home I mulled over the concept of going to an opera.
I felt that I was on pretty safe territory when back home I went on line to check ticket availability. Surely it must have sold out. But no. There were tickets available. So yesterday I found myself watching Tannhäuser performed by Theater Freiburg, and bloody good it was too. Right from my early teens I’ve been a fan of the music of Richard Wagner. Like the works of Elgar I like to bath in its stirring majesty. And like Elgar I care not for the jingoistic/nationalistic wasters that have attempted to use the music for their own evil purposes. The music stands on its own and mindless baggage that sometimes surrounds it isn’t even worth getting irritated over. Ignoring it is best. So right from the start I thought, ‘wow this is wonderful stuff’. The first act, and certainly the opening scene, before the signing started, reminded me a bit of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It was the Teutonic mime and jerky movements that did I guess. And as so as the singing started I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t painful in any way. The plot is a bit lame. Singing competitions, seduction by Venus and going to Rome on penitence. Oh and a death of course. But it was lively and colourful. I love live entertainment and I certainly loved this. Speaking to some opera purists during the second interval I was surprised to learn that it was a bit too modern and ‘impure’ for their liking, so being the perverse bugger I am this made it all the more endearing to me. I can well put up with a bit of modernism. In my humble opinion cultural conservatives are mentally moribund.
No fat ladies appeared to be harmed in the performance of this opera. In fact there were no fat ladies to be seen on stage. So technically, presumably, it ain’t over yet!