Just a reminder to everyone: in the Bay Area we are blessed to have one of the finest opera companies in the US. Actually, the San Francisco Opera is regarded second only to The Metropolitan in New York City. Now I am excited to learn that one of my favorite operas of all time, Mozart's “The Magic Flute,” will be performed in June and July. And tickets are still available.
For some, opera brings to mind uncomfortable images of women in metal brassieres and overweight baritones stabbing each other. Those are stereotypical images that have some basis in truth, but mainly in the Wagnerian opera cycles. I recommend that everyone go to see at least one opera in their lifetime, and it is an event that must be experienced live. As great opera involves not just the sense of hearing, but sight. As most operas that I have seen on television loose their impact on the flat screen. The only opera singer to successfully make the jump to motion pictures and convey some of the passion of the music was Mario Lanza. Today, film musical have disappeared (not for lack of interest) but because there are no great talents in existence that can pull one off. The subtly is gone from film. And opera is about the power of the big note, but also the slight gesture and the small wink.
Merely listening to opera music on a record or disk, for example, can be tiresome. Opera is about reaching for the transcendent. Bringing Art to life. Opera thrives in the three dimensional world of the stage. In contrast, modern popular music can not escape the two-dimensional. Only the truly great pop performers, such as Elvis Presley, Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand can soar on stage; or transfer their greatness to the large screen. The rest of them shrink. As a twenty-something I loved Madonna, but when I saw her live she vanished. On the small television screen, in her music videos, her thin talent is magnified to appear larger than it is. Her attempts to go to the big-screen have failed. The same goes for her modern equivalents: Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. On their concert tours, they relay solely on costumes, dancers and pyrotechnics as their voices can not carry. Contemporary actors require the same crutch.
As I like to think, modern music is often akin to pornography. It is trapped by its conventions and baseness. Pop music does not try to elevate the soul, but make its aspirations entirely earth-bound. It also can not break the two-dimensional barrier. As with pornography it must be admired on a flat surface. Hence the popularity of YouTube and music videos released directly to the internet. Also, the artist is gone, today's music is entirely producer driven; Kesha is a prime example of this trend. Even at friendly venues during the various music industry awards, performers always resort to shock for recognition; here I am remembering Lady Gaga from a few years ago spattering herself with blood, andthis year Nicki Minag staging a mock exorcism. Over two-hundred years ago, Mozart wrote “The Magic Flute.” Will anyone remember “Last Friday Night” by Perry? In ten years it will be forgotten. You can toss their songs out like last months Playboy. There will always be something “new” right around the corner.