Certain types of music are acquired taste. Opera falls into that category. I have been listening and watching Operas for a while now and I have falling in love with that form of music. Apart from music the sheer visual presence of performers along with the orchestra is breathtaking.
As a rookie Opera fan, I was excited at the possibility of witnessing an Opera performance in Bangalore. I was overly excited that I booked my seats in advance. However there was one little thing that slipped my mind which caused enough embarrassment later on.
Opera has always been the music of the elite. From the birth of Renaissance music to the Romantic era, Vienna was the capital of classical music. I remember reading about composers rushing to Vienna to seek fame and glory. I also recollect reading an article about the opera crowds of today. In spite of all this, how this important factor slipped my mind is beyond me. A thumb rule to attend Opera performance is dress code. People are expected to appear formal.
Imagine my embarrassment as I stepped into the ballroom wearing my usual jeans and tee shirt. I was the only person in the hall sporting an informal uncouth look. Few stares of disapproval were enough to retrace my way to a chair in the corner of the room. To make matters worse, a group of well dressed elderly women made their way towards me. Noticing the advancement of the old-bags in fine clothes and jewels, I made a quick attempt to “phone a friend”. Before I could get that stupid phone from the pouch, I felt a gentle pat on my shoulders. I turned to notice middle aged women perhaps in her 40s smiling at me. Before I could utter a word, she offered me a glass of champagne. I thanked her and tried to pretend that I was on a call. She said “Good evening young man, Are you the photographer for the evening? I was hoping you would take a picture of me and my friends”. Sometimes in life you get such moments where you feel like putting your head in the toilet and flush it out? Well, I felt exactly that. I turned around and explained to her that I was not a photographer. I went on explain her that it slipped my mind about the dress code needed for this event. She smiled and reassured me that it was not my clothes that made her think I was the photographer but the bag I was carrying had “Nikon” written on it. She invited me to join her friends and introduced me around. It turned out that she was chairman of BYC.
My initial shyness gave way when I realized that I knew a lot more about Opera than these well dressed people. It was matter of time before I started a crash course on History of Opera and famous arias. By the time we stepped into the ballroom for the show, I had few friends amongst these people. The elderly lady who I had met earlier had saved a seat for me. She requested me to explain her about the performance as it would be in Italian and German.
The European Chamber Opera is a well known Opera company promoting operas around the world. I would expect them to be aware of what Operas to play, especially when the crowd is relatively new to this kind of music. To my surprise they performed a shorter version of La Traviata, a tragic love story by Alexander Dumas Verdi. I would have voted for something more upbeat from Puccini or Mozart. Nonetheless it was outstanding but did not impress the crowd. After a brief interval of wine and dessert gulping session, the performers were back on stage to perform some of famous arias from various operas. I could not recognize a few but loved then ones I did. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was splendid performance of “Papagena, papagena, papagena! Weibchen, Taubchen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (The Magic flute). Other performances included Scarlet Pimpernell by Frank Wildhorn, Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan, Lakme by Delibes.
It was a fantastic show with great food. As I drove back home, I couldn’t help thinking why they never sang Nessun Dorma!, the world famous aria everyone would be aware of. Before I knew it my mp3 player started off with Pavarotti’s voice singing “Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o, Principessa“.