The first opera I ever went to was in the Czech Republic. I wanted to see a French or Italian opera, Carmen maybe, but instead I purchased tickets for the one that was at the most convenient time and was the cheapest price. Turns out it was a German opera. Turns out there were a lot of what seemed like Czech Mennonites there. I should have seen the foreshadowing, but I ignored it.
The play, I knew from scanning a Wikipedia article, was about a “man’s quest for the Holy Grail.” Oh, alright, I thought. This will be like Monty Python, but less funny.
How wrong I was! Everything about this opera was the opposite of what I had always imagined an opera to be. First, it was still daylight outside when it started (and it was a beautiful day). Second, people were wearing jeans (and full-length black dresses and bonnets). Third, the opera was just plain weird. If only I could remember every little detail about it. The male leads seemed to have cornrows as hairstyles. There was a lot of sand on the stage. There was a “dark woman.” Suddenly, the character who was supposed to be holy and God-like was being tempted by, like, 50 women at once and he was repeating in his German baritone something like, “I can’t play with all of your flowers at once.”
After the first act, I was disappointed to realize that the opera wasn’t over. People clapped and then filed out to get another champagne or open-faced cheese sandwich and smoke on the patio. We filed in for act 2. The final act (please God, let this be the final act). This time I scanned the program to find out just what was going on in this disappointment of an opera. I learned a little more about it, but it didn’t help me to catch up with the events of act 2. Still so lost. Still trying not to fall asleep.
Act 2 ended and, luckily the people I was with were on the same page as I was. My stomach was growling and I couldn’t fathom sitting through act 3, so we headed out.
Yeah, I didn’t finish my first opera.
Lesson learned: know what you’re seeing first and pick a language that’s enjoyable to listen to.
And for a funnier account of the German opera and some damn good writing, visit my dear friend Anna’s site.