As a professional opera singer in the Chicago area, Edward E. Reicin has performed in many well-known operas such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The accomplished bass received classical music training and demonstrates a passion for the medium. In recent times, opera has earned a reputation for being highbrow and difficult to follow. This precursor to today’s musical theater still provides an enjoyable pastime, and Edward E. Reicin offers the following tips for people new to the experience of opera.
1. You do not have to speak Italian, German, or French to understand opera. Many opera companies now offer supertitles of the libretto (words to the opera) on displays above the stage. Reading the supertitles throughout the performance may help you better follow the story.
2. Before going to your first opera, familiarize yourself with the story. Many websites offer synopses of well-known operas. If you know the plot before going, you will be better able to follow the action.
3. Although the lyrics contribute to the story, the music and staging tell the whole tale. Try not to get so caught up in listening for words that you ignore the spectacle of music, action, and set design. Often, composers use music out of character with lyrics to communicate something about that character, such as inner conflict or deceit.
4. Operas vary based on composer, period, and subject matter. Just because you do not enjoy one opera does not mean you will not enjoy others. You can find comedy, tragedy, love stories, lightheartedness, and heavy-handedness, depending on which opera you attend. Try several performances before deciding how you feel about the genre as a whole.
5. Mozart operas are often quite accessible and enjoyable. Since many people enjoy and recognize Mozart’s music, his operas make good starters. You might also enjoy 20th century opera, such as George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, or Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.