Full on dead cow, lobster, and The Stash; I was ready to fade in-and-out of power naps for the remainder of the evening. The nap, so powerful with its ability to bend time, turning three hours into mere minutes. Slouched, in the best possible position for nodding off while preventing any chance of chicken-head bobbing I was more than prepared to take full advantage of my surroundings.
Fifteen minutes later I awoke, fully, and there before me, on stage, were fluorescent monkeys dancing around a man with a feather on his head, a flute in hand, and everyone was singing in German. I sat up, adjusted the sport coat, and muttered aloud, “Aw crap.”
I’m wide awake and there’s still two-hours and forty-five minutes left of this season’s The Magic Flute.
Now I’m a fan of the arts, especially live productions. I have no idea of the amount of work and dedication it takes to successfully pull-off a performance on stage. That said, opera always sounds better than it turns out to be and I keep forgetting that every time She Who Loves Opera asks if I’ll take her to a show.
“You’ll like this one,” she’ll say, “it’s about the battle of good versus evil.” Little have I learned over the years that all opera is about good versus evil and that no matter how much the plot sounds like a cool lyrical version of The Terminator 2, it’s going to be exactly the opposite.
My operatic finger-nails-on-the-chalkboard is how long it takes for the story to move along, never mind that it’s either in German or Italian. Take for instance Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a “cycle” of four operas that takes fifteen hours to perform over the course of four days. Four. Days.
Here’s a common synopsis:
The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich from gold stolen from the river Rhine. Several mythic figures struggle for possession of the Ring, including Wotan (Odin), the chief of the Gods. Wotan’s scheme, spanning generations, to overcome his limitations, drives much of the action in the story. The hero Siegfried wins the Ring, as Wotan intended, but is eventually betrayed and slain. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Siegfried’s lover and Wotan’s estranged daughter, returns the Ring to the Rhine. In the process, the Gods are destroyed.
Let’s see here: Magic ring, awesome, check. Several mythic figures, even more cool, check. Dwarf, hero, betrayal, Valkyries, destroyed Gods? Check, check, check, check, and hell yes—we are so going to see that!
Last year, the Rocket Scientist and I went to go see the second opera of the Der Ring des Nibelungen (featuring Plácido Domingo as the lead no less) assuming that by going on the second night we’d hit the story right in the middle of the action. Now, I wasn’t expecting to see Lord of the Rings brought to stage but after four hours of mind-numbing sing-song the opera I saw did not provide the TNT-esque action as advertised.
Based off that experience here’s how I would have written the synopsis:
The plot (if you can call it that, it’s more of a long, drawn out conversation) revolves around a wounded man who asks a strange woman for food, water, and lodging. Everyone in the performance wears burlap like it’s 1999 and for some reason it takes eight minutes for one character to ask “can I have some water?” and the other to reply, “yes.” Oh, and bring a Snickers bar because they charge ten dollars for store-bought cookies and four ounces of soda.
I am under no illusion that opera needs to change its ways to appease my short-attention span. Lord knows they’re doing something right if they can continue performing the same show that debuted in the late 18th century. I am happy to support the art scene, but dammit, I have got to remember this next year because Mrs. La bohème is going to want to go to the opera again. And no matter how fantastic the plot will sound; it’s going to turn out to be a group of people singing and prancing on the stage with day-glow forest animals in an epic, albeit snails-pace struggle to ask for a glass of water from mildly angry Greek-style gods.