Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Opera Is Rubbish


I want to admit to being a failure, dear reader; not a total failure but a failure nonetheless.

I have tried to like opera and I have failed - spectacularly.

Why?

Because, in my opinion, opera is rubbish.

There – I’ve said it.

A few years ago, my workplace organised an evening at the opera.

“Shall we go?” said Mrs PM.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “Opera is rubbish!”

“How do you know? You’ve never been,” she replied. “Go on – you might like it.”

Deep down in my brain somewhere there is a rebellious troll that sometimes catches me unawares. Now was one such occasion:

“OK – I’ll give it a go,” said the troll, taking over my brain for a brief second.

Before I knew it, the troll was laughing as I held in my hand two tickets to see Carmen at the Manchester Palace Theatre.

“What have I done?” I yelled.

“Hee Hee Hee,” sniggered the troll, returning back to his little cave in my mind, satisfied at having stitched me up again.

Nevertheless, I decided against selling the tickets. I opted to try to broaden my horizons and embrace something that goes against my taste – I was willing to give opera a chance by seeing arguably the most famous opera of them all.

I hated every tedious second of it.

And I hated one thing more than anything else – the singing.

I have experienced opera in the past on TV, on radio and, bizarrely, on my mp3 player.

I know what you’re thinking:

“You are a hypocrite! How come you have opera on your mp3 player?”

I can answer that. I have several classical CDs, some of which are compilations. Regrettably, I am too lazy to filter out the opera and one or two other dreadful songs have somehow found their way onto my music machine. There is some utter bilge on that device and by far and away the worst of that bilge is the opera.

I appreciate that there may be some people out there who genuinely love opera and marvel at its apparent audible beauty and can't understand why I have opera in my sights, ready to squeeze the trigger. I would be tempted, dear reader, if I had the power, to remove opera from the planet. Sadly, I don't have that power.

I actually like classical music – just so long as opera singers don’t destroy it with their monstrous vocal sledgehammers.

There may be those of you out there who want to scream:

“You like heavy metal; how can you possibly write bad things about opera singers when there are far worse heavy metal vocalists out there?”

The truth is I like heavy metal and rock music as long as I can understand the lyrics and the vocalists aren’t grunting and roaring; some heavy metal bands are just dreadful and the vocalists (if you can call them that) don’t deserve be called such.

I don't like that style of rock music.

I much prefer my vocalists to have good powerful voices. You might argue that opera singers have good powerful voices too – the truth is that some of them do. However, most of them, the women in particular, have voices that make my brain shriek in anguish.

Take this, for example:



I love Freddy Mercury’s voice but Montserrat CaballĂ©’s voice shreds my brain like a cheese grater ripping through cheddar.

Am I alone or am I a heathen?

A pseudo-intellectual might say that I’m a heathen and quote Aristotle at me but to be honest, I would genuinely like a true opera buff to tell me what is so fascinating about opera.

Why ruin a perfectly good piece of classical music with unintelligible, over-rated and ostentatious vocals from somebody who could shatter glass with a high note?

When the three tenors (Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti) sang Nessun Dorma I heard that people were crying in ecstasy.

I found it tedious. I wouldn’t have paid three tenners to see it.

Am I weird?

Just because it is classical and sung by three operatic maestros, is there any reason why I should lie and say “very moving"?

When people tell me that rock music is awful by default, I get really annoyed. To me, a progressive rock masterpiece is far better than an opera but because it contains guitars, keyboards and a rock singer it doesn’t fit the pseudo-intellectual vision of musical culture.

I appreciate that people like opera but I don’t. And that doesn’t make me a heathen, a cultural Philistine or any less intellectual than somebody who thinks Carmen is a masterpiece.

I have to say that although I have been pretty scathing about opera, I do love classical music.

Here is my favourite ever classical piece:



Mars - The Bringer of War from Holst’s The Planets is a piece of classical music that enthralls me, bringing tears of joy to my eyes every time I hear it. I would love to resurrect my trombone and be part of the orchestra to play it.

And there are lots more classical pieces that have the same effect on me.

Opera would ruin such music.

What about you, dear reader? Do you think I’m a Philistine? Or a heathen?

I would be particularly interested to hear from opera lovers. I am always willing to discuss such things – or gain an insight into other people’s views.

At the end of the day it is just a question of taste; and I believe I have excellent taste – or maybe not.

17 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

Sorry you get no arguements from me - though my smaller portion says I am ignorant. I really, really like his CDs of gregorian chants but just can't come at opera.
And some of the voices would shatter a paper cup not a wine glass.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Opera lovers have called me ingorant too. Yet to me it is a matter of taste - and the music I like is, I believe, much better than boring old opera.

Just because it is really old doesn't mean that it is good.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Miss Fidget said...

Dear PM,

Of course you're not ignorant, same as opera fans do not (necessarily) have bad taste. I may have commented once or twice in your blog, please let me do it now from my "opera lover status" :D.

First, yes, there are people who genuinely like opera, as difficult as it may seem to believe it. We exist! Second, bad singers and/or singer past their good times can ruin a whole performance. And no, the three tenors do not sing opera. It was just a commercial arrangement to sell discs. Third, opera is not always that old: for example, Nixon in China (1987) was quite successful this season at the Met (NY). Anyway, being old does not mean being bad (compare Freddy Mercury with Rebecca Black and tell me who's better). And fourth, it may be surprising that many opera fans do not like Carmen that much. Carmen is the sort of opera my mum likes.

I'm sorry I can't explain how one comes to like opera voices. It's probably a matter of getting used to it, it is so unnatural... I imagine you dislike those voices as much as I hate chinese opera. In that case, there's not much you (we) can do.

Best regards,
MF

P.S. I agree with you about pseudo-intelectuals who pretend to like opera. Can't stand them...

A Blog In The Rough said...

Dearest PM -

I don't enjoy opera either, especially when they force you to listen to some supposed great piece in another language, yech! How can that be moving when you've got no idea what they're yapping on about?

Good news for you though, you're British, so by default you're more cultured than us boorish Americans, especially those who think that any type of Country music is award worthy.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi MF,

Thanks for offering another perspective and thanks for agreeing with me about pseudo intellectuals.

:0)

I never doubted that there were people who genuinely love opera and equally a bad vocal performance in any musical genre can ruin a good show. I just think that the operatic style itself is awful and that ruins everything for me.

I'm surprised by what you say about Carmen; I was given the impression that it was a good introduction (which is why I said yes).

Chinese opera is even worse - I've seen it performed first hand and my brain has only just recovered.
I always say "each to their own" - if you like opera then that is absolutely okay with me. Just don't expect me to go with you to a concert.

;0)

Cheers

PM

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Lady from Delaware,

It's not that the vocals are in another language; I like Rammstein and they sing in German. The problem is that I struggle to understand it even when it is sung in English.

Actually - now you mention Country music - its a toss up between which is worse. My dad loved Country and I loathed it.

Personally, The USA is absolutely okay with me because so many of my favourite bands have come from there; Dream Theater, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters to name just three.

:0)

Cheers

PM

River said...

I don't like opera either, but I did enjoy the comedy versions of The Mikado, Th Pirates of Penzance and HMAS Pinafore, as done by the Jon English-Simon Gallagher team.
I've tried to watch The Phantom Of The Opera, but never seem to make it even halfway before switching it off. I know that opera singers have powerful lungs and voices and as an asthma sufferer I envy thm that, but I really do prefer my music shorter and snappier. Holding a note for an extraordinary length of time does nothing for me. If something makes me want to get up and dance, that's for me!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

No a fan of Phantom or Pirates. I agree with your view about dancing but not all of the music I like is "funky" enough to dance too - especially at my age.

:0)

Cheers

PM

drb said...

Hi Mr PM,
I enjoyed chinese opera immersely when I was a kid, and I was the only one in the family who liked it. Now, I can't sit through an opera without yawning as I don't necessary like all the songs and I certainly am prejudiced against overweight people. Nonetheless, I do enjoy the tenor type of singing.
Watch this:
http://www.clarrissegill.com/videoclips/amazing_grace.php
They are my favourite group now. The good looks definitely help.

I don't like heavy metal, it hurts my ears, so I can certaintly understand the female opera singers will hurt your ears.

You tried to watch a ballet yet?
My hubby actually requested ballet tickets for his b-day pressie this year. We usually go once a year but for the last 2 years, I didn't bother thinking that he was just humoring me.
Give a ballet a go, maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

I have to admit that I haven't tried seeing a ballet yet. I think I might be willing to give that a go; the music doesn't sound too inoffensive.

It does seem that opera fans and heavy metal fans are mutually exclusive - I've not met an opera fan who likes metal or vice versa.

:0)

Cheers

PM

drb said...

It is quite coincidental that Carmen ballet is showing in London!
You can watch 6 min of it on:
http://www.ballet.org.uk/what-s-on/roland-petit.html

But I think you should NOT watch something that try to tell a story, eg Nutcracker, Carmen. Instead, watch something that just depict the grace and beauty of movements.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

Sounds like it will be better than opera for sure.

:0)

Cheers

PM

I Love-Hate America by Bing said...

My husband who has total appreciation of most musical genres also find opera very hard to appreciate. He said it sucks. He taught it in school and listened to it, but still he doesn't like it. He can play the classics on piano though, and admires a lot of classic musicians . He esp. digs into Beethoven-his favorite.

(hey , you can delete this comment in parenthesis if you want to---I have a reply to you in my blog --to your comment about religion. I just want to tell you religion is not what God wants from people. In fact Jesus condemned religion. God is not about euphoria, it's deeper--an acknowledgment that there is someone higher than us...there's a little more explanation in my reply.)

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Bingkee,

I think classic music is okay too and I'm glad its not just me who dislikes opera singers ruining it.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Myles said...

I have tried many times over my 65 years to "get" opera, and have been to the top gigs such as Covent Garden and ENO.

I'm an in Milan at present and only last night made my latest attempt at enjoying opera. By a strange cloak-and-dagger process I got a ticket for La Scala.

The experience was fantastic because the theatre is opulent and beautiful with an amazing history - they've got Lizt's piano there! - and it was such an Italian experience with everybody dressed up and showing off.

It was also a great opportunity to improve my Italian. The show was in Russian and a little machine on the back of the seat in front translates it in to Italian. THe lyrics of an opera are so basic I could follow fairly easily. (by the way they also translate into English, if you want)

the staging was in modern dress to try to make the 19th century piece "relavant". The whole presentation was very high tech and visually impressive and must have cost a fortune to put on.

The conductor was the maestro Daniel Barenboim, so everything was top-notch.

But was the actual main course rubbish? It certainly was.

Believe me I've tried. Time, effort and money has gone into my effort has gone into my attempts to "get" opera. Still no success!

Actually I have enjoyed to very good opera films - one of Carme and the other of Madame Butterfly.

They both have lively music and tunes and tell a believable story.

But the exception proves the rule. Opera is bunk!

Myles said...

I have tried many times over my 65 years to "get" opera, and have been to the top gigs such as Covent Garden and ENO.

I'm an in Milan at present and only last night made my latest attempt at enjoying opera. By a strange cloak-and-dagger process I got a ticket for La Scala.

The experience was fantastic because the theatre is opulent and beautiful with an amazing history - they've got Lizt's piano there! - and it was such an Italian experience with everybody dressed up and showing off.

It was also a great opportunity to improve my Italian. The show was in Russian and a little machine on the back of the seat in front translates it in to Italian. THe lyrics of an opera are so basic I could follow fairly easily. (by the way they also translate into English, if you want)

the staging was in modern dress to try to make the 19th century piece "relavant". The whole presentation was very high tech and visually impressive and must have cost a fortune to put on.

The conductor was the maestro Daniel Barenboim, so everything was top-notch.

But was the actual main course rubbish? It certainly was.

Believe me I've tried. Time, effort and money has gone into my effort has gone into my attempts to "get" opera. Still no success!

Actually I have enjoyed to very good opera films - one of Carme and the other of Madame Butterfly.

They both have lively music and tunes and tell a believable story.

But the exception proves the rule. Opera is bunk!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Myles,

Yes indeed. I have also given opera a chance (well more than that) but not in quite the way you have.

Thanks for convincing me - opera really is rubbish!

:-)

Cheers

PM