Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. Opera

Tired of talking about awkward? Let's try singing about it!

So, Awkward Dad and I like opera. I know. I know. I'll give you a minute to pick your collective jaw up off the floor. And no, I am not talking about the soap variety, either. We are into full-on, dressed-up, divas flinging themselves from the ramparts opera. Not that we know a whole lot about it. I know less then beans about vibrato, legato, and tone color. Awkward Dad knows slightly more, but he is a heck of a lot smarter than I am. Frankly, I couldn't tell you a bel canto from a del taco, although I do know that I really need to start making donations to Wikipedia... Anywho, there is one other thing I do know: I like spectacle; the bigger, the better. And they don't get much bigger than opera. Except maybe the circus, but we all know that my coulrophobia keeps me well away from the big top. So, opera it is!

Now, we don't live near the MET, the Sydney Opera House, or the Santa Fe Opera . (Oh! Click on it, it is gorgeous!) Plus, I believe I have mentioned our lack of Tony-Stark-level money around here. This left us with the library's collection of operas or Youtube, which was fine for awhile. But then, dear Readers, we discovered MET at the Movies (which is actually called Live in HD, but you all know I prefer alliteration, always).

Now, before some true opera fan stumbles in here and tells me about how I should be rocking out to old records of Maria Callas or listening to the MET broadcasts on NPR to truly embrace the richness of tone and enjoy the true artistry of pure music, I will let you know that my father has beat you to it. I sat through that lecture quite patiently, and it wasn't pretty. But here is my ugly, little secret: it all sounds the same to me. (AH! Did she really say that?! Yes, I did. Pretty sure my father fainted when I said it to him. Or I actually killed him...I really should call him back...) The point is, it is all beautiful to me, and their voices sound perfect no matter what. If this is because I just have a very forgiving ear or am completely tone deaf, so be it. Auditory awesomeness is not in my arsenal of superpowers.

But appreciation of the pomp and pageantry of an opera? Yes, I am all over that. So, now we go to the movies and get to see live opera about once a month. The season runs like a school year, so we just went to the last one of the season, La Traviata, last weekend. It is not my favorite, but if you wanna watch someone die of consumption for 3 hours, run right out and rent it! (PS...the song you know from it is the fun drinking song from the first act. Things get rather more serious from there.) There will be some encores through out the summer, including the entire Ring Cycle. Oh, Readers, if I make it to that, it will be a post unto itself. But for the most part, we are in an opera drought until September. Of course, there is the library, the MET web page even lets you rent operas streaming and, naturally, my father has offered to loan me some opera records, but let's be real about my interest here. I enjoy watching the operas themselves, but I really really enjoy watching the people who are watching the operas.

I don't know how people behave at the MET. Well, that isn't true. I get to see them for about 5 minutes before the curtain goes up, as the camera pans the audience. Apparently, well dressed couples and a smattering of adorable children in suits and party dresses go to the opera...that, or the MET is wee bit concerned about the aging of its core audience and wants to reassure us that young opera fans do exist. The fact that they show the same 3 kids from different angles is rather telling, but I'll let you make up your own mind there. The point is, the people there are well-dressed, well-behaved, and, well, look exactly like the opera scene from Moonstruck. Without the 1980s Cher, that is.

Which is disappointing, really. Because the opera fans at my movie theater are all about the 80s and I think Cher was there a couple months ago. Or it was a drag queen. But either way, MET at the Movies is a veritable goldmine for people watching. Real play within a play stuff and super fun, especially if you are nosy and catty like me.

Now, among opera fans, there are many camps. And have no illusions, my Friends, these camps are at war. You have your Wagnerians and your Verdi-heads. People who like modern opera and people who think it is scandalizing. The divide between those who love Anna Netrebko and those who hate her is particularly vicious and, interestingly, seems to fall along gender lines. (Awkward Dad is a big fan...wonder why.) No one is blase here; each and every aspect of the production is an opportunity to disagree and pick apart and show off knowledge. (Is our opera love starting to make more sense to you? The Awkwards are comic nerds after all...) Think about the last time you discussed politics with your whole family. That is what an intermission at an opera feels like.

If you think the opera fan camps sound fun, you will adore the MET at the Movies camps:

There is the "let's pretend we are really at the MET" camp. They can be identified by their love of sequins and their tendency to applaud after every aria and set change. Locally, the gentleman in the Russian fur hat and raccoon overcoat appears to be their leader. I think this camp is pretty elite, but if you show up in your finery enough, you just might get an invite.

There is the "I am not paying for movie theater food" camp. Now, you may think you already know these folks from regular movie trips. You might know their children. These people would have survived the Great Depression, the Great Potato Famine, and Great Awkward Thanksgiving Stove Fire of '09, and they would still have had leftovers. Now, I know that operas are long, but these people are packing for more than a 3 hour tour. We are talking about sandwiches, thermoses of soup, styrofoam containers of orange chicken with rice, rotisserie chickens, slices of pie. About Act III, picnics start appearing all over the theater, and it isn't just the ladies with the big purses. In fact, most of the "I am not paying for movie theater food" camp is male, which leaves one with a host of uncomfortable questions about storage, but let's move on.

Book clubs or Dining clubs out on a field trip are always worth sitting near. They will be chatty and not shush you (the shushers are coming), and they have almost always done research. Listen in for tons of fun information about the opera or, even better, juicy gossip about the opera singers.

Thankfully, Singers themselves rarely attend the opera, and by that I mean people who sing from the audience during the opera. Do NOT sit by this camp. There is usually a reason they are not on stage.

Another rare sighting is the college student who is clearly in an intro to music class. Members of this camp are almost always alone, have an enormous (movie theater bought) soda, and a laptop. They will vacillate between looks of confusion and horror as they gaze out from their center seat. Lacking knowledge, they will sit by a Hypnotized (more on them later), and I assume this experience alone prevents their further study into classical music.

Those in the Sleeper camp have usually been brought by someone else. That person will usually deal with any snoring issues that come up, so don't worry too much about it. Unless it makes you tired yourself, then you might want to move.

Finally, there is the "Shush" camp. They are the largest of the MET at the Movies camps and have several sub camps. The "I am trying to listen for the timbre" people can best be found by their closed eyes and occasional nodding. I really don't know why they aren't at my Dad's place, listening to NPR, but whatever. There is an entire group of people who seem only to be bothered by the opening of a cough drop. Do NOT sit near them if you have a cold, it will ruin your entire opera. Then there are "the Hypnotized"; they are noted for their staring eyes and bodies pitched forward toward the screen. They sway slightly in time to the conductor's baton, and they will never, ever, let you back into your row if you go to the bathroom during the opera, which is annoying because they always, inexplicably, sit on the end. Awkward Dad learned this the hard way and had to watch the whole first act of The Enchanted Island from the front row, as a result. No, the "Hypnotized" are not to be trifled with. Nor are "the Hypocrites," who are best known by the way they talk and talk at the top of their lungs about vibrato, but glare at you if you so much as sneeze. They also tend to be the ones who bemoan that no one listens to opera anymore in the same breath that they condemn the young people who "tart up the operas." (Actual quote, Readers.)

Awkward Dad and I are not quite sure which camp we belong to. We are definitely not classy enough to be in the "let's pretend we are really at the MET" camp and we don't bring enough food to be in the "I am not paying for movie theater food" camp. We are way too young and not serious enough to hang with the Shushers, not weird enough for the Singers, and we aren't with the Sleepers. Maybe we are our own camp! I should invite the MET people to point their cameras at us to encourage more snarky young adults who tart up the place with their whispers and lack of sequins and furs, while they sneak in a few sodas and some Raisinets! If that sounds like you, join us; the Ring Cycle starts in mid-May!

Maybe you are wondering what camp the Supers fall into. Alas, they are not little New Yorkers with party dresses and suits, so they get left at home with the new babysitter. Yes indeed, Awkward Mom has found herself a babysitter! Tune in next time to hear about that awkward hiring...we are surprised the woman came back after Super Baby threw up on her and Super P. explained how to play Plants vs. Zombies, but angels really do walk among us. Love ya, Readers, you are all angels in our book!

How we think we look at the opera:

How we really look at the opera:


  1. I'm afraid I would be in a Sleeper's camp at the opera:(...But I'm more of a U2 type gal...But at least, you can "bring" your kids to your "opera":) By the way, I gave you the Sunshine reward on my blog:)

    1. Sleeper are more than welcome at the opera, there seem to be a bunch of them anyway.... :)

      Thank you so much for the award, that was very sweet of you. I would have given it right back, but I suppose that isn't done. :) Thanks so much!