Singing the praises of opera

I am no opera aficionado.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 4:12pm
  • Life

I am no opera aficionado.

If I could write a review about the Seattle Opera Young Artists performance I went and saw Sunday at the Meydenbauer Center, it would read something like: An enjoyable experience.

But that was my first opera I have attended – ever – so I’ll skip the “arias” and “coloraturas.”

With a slight prod from my editor, I decided to see the Young Artist’s performances of “Enchanted Child” and “Gianni Schicchi” – two classic one-act operas.

My first dilemma before even getting there: what to wear. Groan.

Patronized by royalty as far back as the late 1500s, opera nowadays isn’t just for the elite. Lucky for novices like me, the Seattle Opera Web site has an opera 101 section that outlines opera etiquette, including what to wear. Almost anything, but the most casual wear (jeans, sweats) is considered appropriate.

Also in the first-timer’s guide: don’t be late, be quiet during the performance and show your appreciation. After a well-executed aria (a song for a single voice) for example, it is appropriate to shout “Bravo!”

So with my brief lesson on how to behave, my black slacks on and a button down blouse, I was ready to fit right in with the opera buffs.

Or so I thought.

When I got to the matinee performance, I was surrounded by families and the over-40 crowd, but where were my peers? Upon scouring the auditorium for people in their twenties and thirties, it seemed they were very few. In fact, they were such a minority that I had the opportunity to speak with them before the show – all four of them that I could find.

Woodinville resident Daniel Cummings, age 20, came to the performance for a requirement. He’s taking a humanities class at Cascadia Community College and needs to attend an opera to complete his course requirements.

Mike Gawrysiak, 25, was there to support his sister, Margaret, who was part of the cast. Seated next to him were Jake Willet, 24 and Kristy Getz, 25.

Getz said she’s seen operas before.

“I like them,” she said of the handful of operas she’s attended in her lifetime, but, “I was a music student, so it translated, I guess.”

Like myself, this was Willet’s first performance. He seemed indifferent about being there.

This phenomenon is no coincidence. The Seattle Opera has noticed it and that is why it has developed programs like the BRAVO! Club, which has promoted opera to young people between the ages of 21 and 39. The organization’s mission is to develop new generations of opera lovers and it provides members with a variety of social and educational events and discounted performance tickets.

The club has grown into a 500-member group of people in their twenties and thirties who share a desire to explore and get excited about opera. Members can attend BRAVO! nights once a month and enjoy complimentary wine and coffee in the lounge during intermission. They also receive invitations to parties and educational events all season.

Why opera does not appeal to people in this age range, I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I went. “Enchanted Child” takes place in an urban setting of a subway and is about a child that is confronted by her victims she has tormented.

I was surprised to see a small screen above the curtains that displayed English captions, so I could easily understand the sung words.

“Gianni Schicchi,” a story about a rich aristocratic Florentine citizen who dies and whose greedy relatives fight over who will get his possessions, had me laughing all the way through.

By the end of the performance, I looked over at a woman, about in her fifties, looking through a pair of opera glasses and began to understand what she saw through the lens: Opera is a true art.

To my peers, I would recommend attending an opera. Even if not once a month, try to catch one a couple times a year at least. The next Seattle Opera Young Artists showings at the Meydenbauer Center are April 4 and 5. Tickets are $35 for adults and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 206-389-7676 or 800-426-1619.

To the Seattle Opera, I applaud the organization for its efforts to attract people in their twenties and thirties – the future generation of aficionados.


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