In our current age of streaming Avengers movies on Netflix, listening to Taylor Swift on Spotify and playing incredibly complex, flashy video games that can totally take over your life, people are not as interested in the performing arts as they once were. Of course, after a long day of work, often all you want to do is order some pizzas and chill out to some mindless TV. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, if you haven’t been out to see any live theater or music in a long time, this may be your moment to seize the opportunity. In most major cities, and definitely in the bustling cultural mecca of Toronto, there are plenty of opportunities to catch live bands, plays, ballets and the focus of this post: opera.
Most people think of opera as a stuffy, old, outdated art-form that no one cares about anymore. Well, to be honest, a lot fewer people care about opera in the 21st century than the 20th century and much, much less than in the 19th century, when opera flourished. In an era of affordable, flashy entertainment it’s easy to see why some people would skip the Wagner. A lot of really heavy, intense opera – especially German opera – can be very inaccessible to someone who is trying to get a feel for the music. Most connoisseurs treat opera as if it were a hobby, and so it’s worth noting that there is a broad range of operatic styles, some of which are much better suited to a beginner.
Some of the more fun operas, Opera Buffa as it is sometimes called, have very catchy melodies and cartoonish, slapstick plots that would even appeal to children. Mozart’s The Magic Flute, for instance, is a hilarious buddy comedy about two young men journeying through a magical land in search of love and enlightenment. Rossini’s Barber of Seville is more or less a rom-com set in Spain with lots of catchy tunes and laugh-out-loud moments. Igor Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables is fun, tuneful opera that’s suitable for the whole family. In fact, your kids may love it so much that they march you down to the local Long & McQuade and demand that you rent them a cello and sign them up for music lessons immediately; if you brought your child to Wagner’s Parsifal, chances are they’d start crying and develop a hatred for operatic music.
The Nightingale and Other Short Fables have been produced recently in Toronto by the COC, in a celebrated version directed by Canadian legend Robert Lepage (of Cirque De Soleil fame). If you missed out the first time around, grab tickets while it’s still on!
If you are worried that it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg to see live opera, think again. There’s a program for affordable tickets if you’re under thirty, and the day of the show there are always tickets available for as low as $25, or $10 if you’re okay with standing room.
The opera is always a good idea for a classy date, and the object of your affection doesn’t have to know that the tickets were cheap. So if you live in a major city, give opera a chance, just make sure you start with something fun!