Thursday, November 19, 2009

Discovering Opera

I'm an opera newbie.  Irene has introduced me to the Met's HD movie presentations and I often struggle to stay awake.  During the first two acts of Turandot, I kept drifting, unable to keep my eyes open.  But, I didn't ever quite fall asleep, so the music washed over me rather weirdly.  What came across more strongly than anything is that the music in Turandot seemed all elegiac to me.  Whereas Tosca was full of conflict, Turandot was more one long ritual.  This made the music sound very even to my ear.


But, even as I was half asleep, Turandot worked on me.  I could feel something very true coming through.  In an interview during an intermission, the conductor said that Puccini "is a dramaturge of the emotions," and I know what that means, now.  Turandot felt like an exploded diagram of the moment in which two young people move from adolescence into adulthood, a moment in which the brittle truths of youth give away to the impossible-to-understand longings of adulthood.  The youthful bulwarks of certainty and knowingness crumble, as the young prince makes his stand, acting on a vision with emotional grab but no justification....  This puts my thoughts very badly, but that's probably because Turandot got to its subject very economically and incisively.  This was the first opera I've seen, so far, in which I felt Shakespearean subtlety.  


I'm beginning to get it.  If Shakespeare is at least 51% intellectual at all times, then opera is 99% emotional.  Turandot drills straight down.

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