Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Das Oper

I never really wrote out a proper response to sitting in splendor and enjoying the rich Germanic tones of Parsifal a few weeks ago. My favorite part, I think, was when I took a walk outside during second intermission and looked out over the Potomac in the chilly blue evening light, which was in a way the most operatic few seconds of the whole day. The rest was full of costumes and fake hair, which somehow detracted from the experience. That and the incessant Jesus motifs, especially when the madwoman washes Parsifal's feet and dries them with her hair. No amount of singing made that feel any less like an evil Sunday school.

I suspect Wagner isn't the best place to start when you're going to your first live opera, since (for one thing) he runs long -- about five hours, by my math, which is accurate in this case. There aren't many arias in German opera; they prefer to berate and extol, all very melodically, but without breaking into song per se. There's just too much elaborate storytelling to do and not nearly enough time in which to do it, which is why even at five hours the storyline felt cramped and evasive. Not really. It started to drag. You haven't lived until you've seen thirty Russian performers dressed like knights walking sloooooowly around a stage performing the Grail ritual in complete silence. I thought my head was going to fall off.

None of this is to say I'm sorry I went -- confronting the hard stuff first can be a good way to see the fluff for what it is. The performances were still exciting, especially Kundry, who received the best ovation. (Look up her character. Trust me, she earned it by doing a lot with a little.) And I sat next to a seasoned pro, an older woman who felt like buying the same affordable ticket I bought, who helped me through the operatic canon and suggested some further viewing. (Favorite composer: Verdi). She didn't have any binoculars and probably wanted some, based on some things she said. I was sorry I couldn't help her. I was also almost late because my roommate promised to give me a ride only to crap out and dump me like a dirty rug at the Crystal City metro, making me run like a jackass all the way up the Foggy Bottom escalator (which is long) in my nice clothes (which came a little untucked) just to make the last shuttle to the Kennedy Center (which stank and was full of people with nose injuries. I am not kidding).

Well, enough about that. If you want to see Parsifal I can't stop you. And if you're mikeswanson and want to say something mean about Wagner just because he was a raging anti-Semite and you regard opera as a bourgeois crime against humanity, I ask you to consider that the music was elegantly composed and that I am deadly with the Japanese farming tool called the nunchaku.


Blogger Bently said...

"None of this is to say I'm sorry I went"

We should never be sorry we went. You are a lovely writer. You went outside and saw the night. What could be finer?

It is my birthday. I am seldom kind to strangers.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Lapp said...

Happy birthday and a tip of the hat to Bently, whom I've met in person and whose character is unimpeachable. I am not sorry I went, I AM a lovely writer, and Bently IS seldom kind to strangers. In other words, she speaks the truth.

12:25 PM  

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