Learning to love the opera

The following article was published in the Arts and Entertainment section of the McMaster Silhouette in June of 2009

Opera, just the word conjures up memories of Looney Tune cartoons with a fat lady singing and a bunch of old men with bad toupees; a false childhood stereotype which I partially held.

I’m a typical working-class male; my idea of musical entertainment is the cheerleaders dancing at a football game and rock concerts. The opera is at the far end of the culture spectrum from where I place myself, to discover that I enjoyed the opera was a shock to me. Even more shocking, it was affordable.

For $20 each, my friend and I were able to get tickets to the COC performance of La Bohème at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre as part of the COC’s “Opera for a New Age” promotion. The promotion offers significantly discounted tickets for patrons under the age of 30.

My initial impression of the opera was what I expected; after the First Act, I was looking at my watch lamenting that I had another two hours before the end of the remaining acts. My female friend, on the other hand, was enjoying herself. I was feeling reassured that my belief that opera is boring was being confirmed.

Finally, after 15 long minutes, the Second Act began and I was getting closer to freedom. Then, it happened, I began to enjoy the performance. The scene was a market in Paris’ Latin Quarter. The stage was abuzz with action. Dozens of opera singers were performing, two performers were engaged in acrobatic dancing, and actors were bringing a full market to life. The main characters were in the middle of this mix acting their part fabulously. It is the kind of entertainment one cannot get from a LCD screen.

La Bohème is a traditional story of love found and lost set in Paris of the 1830s. Rodolfo, a struggling poet, meets Mimi, a seamstress. They fall in love. Rodolfo learns that Mimi is very ill and says he must leave her – for what he sees as her own good. However, when he sees her again, their love overcomes and the relationship continues. In the final act, they reminisce of their days together and Mimi dies leaving Rodolfo devastated. The end.

I arrived at the opera with the goal of being able to say “been there, done it, didn’t like it, don’t ask me again.” I left hooked to the opera and I’m now a season ticket subscriber to the COC.

For $20, I cannot think of a better way to spend a night out in Toronto. With affordable, easy, and frequent GO Transit service from McMaster; there is no excuse to not attend the opera. More information about Opera for a New Age can be found on the COC website at: www.coc.ca