(Don’t forget, I’m on the Twitters: @andrewnford ! Also, free free to ignore the little rant about musicals at the beginning.)
It’s no secret that I loves me some opera. Even though I’m not an anti-Semite or crypto-Nazi, I do love the epic works of Richard Wagner, especially Tristan und Isolde. However, one delightful idiosyncrasy of mine is that, as a rule, I hate musicals. Yes, there are some glorious exceptions (I’m looking at you, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Next to Normal”), but, as a rule, they annoy me for several reasons:
- Either speak or sing it all. Pick one: I can only suspend disbelief for so long. Anytime a song starts, I keep thinking of that “But, Daddy! I want to sing!” scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
- I can’t stand the way most singers who are trained in musical theater sing. It’s like an unholy, untrained union between Pop and Opera. They usually sound in pain and nasally. It hurts me to hear them killing their voices.
- I don’t mind musicals that are intentionally campy (“Hairspray”), but to me, the dramatic ones come off as camp (“Rent”, “Phantom of the Opera”, etc). Most don’t have enough gravitas for me.
Wait. Where was I? Oh yes: I love opera.
So, I wanted to share with you a wonderful list. Nonpiudifiori wrote a great piece, “Opera and Teenagers: What can opera companies do?”: a list of ten suggestions for getting teenagers interested in opera.
After all, it seems more and more people aren’t really interested in an archaic, expensive and unpopular art form that seems terribly out of touch with today’s world. I mean, how are teenagers going to sit through hours of that “boring” stuff, when there is the Facebook, the Twitters and the sexting? How do you keep them engaged? And, shockingly enough, it was even written by a teen!
Huh. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Sounds like what the Church has been bemoaning for . . . oh, I don’t know . . . ever. Maybe the Church can learn some things from how an opera company engages teenagers. Maybe we should sit up and read that great list.
Yes, I realize that it is apples and oranges to imply that the Church and an opera company are similar. But, I think the Church has more in common with an arcane artform than all those corporations combined. Perhaps, after a monastery, we’re closest to an opera company. After all, we practice an increasingly unpopular artform that is terribly out of touch with today’s world.
After all, I remember sitting though a chapel service at my Alma Mater, where the preacher said that going to church is like going to the opera. You’ve got to get dressed up. You’re going to be bored. It’ll be a bunch of stuff you don’t understand. They’ll be wearing funny costumes. The stories are stupid. And, surprise! His thesis was that the church needed to be more interesting if it was going to keep people attending. We should probably dumb a few things down.
Yet, here’s Nonpiudifiori’s second suggestion:
We’re not 6 years old. Teenagers hate being talked down to. In fact, we tend to have an inflated sense of our own knowledge. Instead of explaining that “sopranos sound like little squeaky mice when they warm up”, just tell us that they’re the highest voice type in opera. If there’s something we don’t know, we’ll ask, or more likely, nod in agreement and google it later.
I agree completely, especially in the Church. Whenever I read some pedantic liturgies or hear a pandering, weak sermon, I always want to scream: people aren’t as dumb as you clearly think they are.
Read that list. Consider it.