The opera was not that bad. The hamvatans were.
By Houman Younessi
October 17, 2003
Why are some of us such
pompous asses, and at the same time such vulgar cretins? OK,
OK, I know that as soon as I have said it, many of you would
me in exactly the same category of people that this article is
aiming to refute; but I like Opera.
I don't know what it is about the genre, but I enjoy it.
It could be the simplicity of the story line, performance unadulterated
by needless and graphic violence, vulgar display of human anatomy
in the name of sensuality, or a pace that tires rather than pacifies.
It could also be that in opera I see an innocence we have lost,
of an age gone by. It could be the appeal of the simplistic yet
universal moralizations that evokes in me the feeling of the
unity of humanity.
It could be that opera reminds me of my younger
years, may be it helps me to hold on to the remnants of my
dissipating youth, by casting me -- well, at least my mind --
to my college years when opera was a treat I would give myself
whenever I had been good. It could be the elaborate costumes,
the color and the pageantry. I must love that or else why would
an otherwise (hopefully) sane person deck himself up like
a peacock in caps, gowns, colors and what not and parade in front
of thousands -- every
year -- in a ceremony called "Graduation"? Or
it could simply be the music, the chants, o, those heavenly
For whatever reason it might be, I like to go to
the opera. And at
the risk of being labeled anachronistic and pretentious,
I do so when opportunity permits.
It was a mild early autumn day in New England.
Our regional opera company had one of my favorite operas staged.
was a must,
we had to go, and go we did.
As we arrived in time for the performance -- having
parked in the "mortals" car park and strolled to the entrance
at which we now were standing, I noticed a late model
Mercedes S500 pull up right in front. The curb-side
and out walked a maturing lady in a glittering long
and a ... wait for it .... a heavy, hirsute, knee high
The issue here is not one's moral objection
to wearing fur. I wear leather shoes and belts myself.
issue is that it was over 65 degrees! I was already
in my tee-shirt and sports coat, ... fur? The combination
the way-out-of-place glitzy dress, the Merc. pulling
up at the curb to unload the lady and the fur coat
that I noticed just about everyone's attention being
diverted to this spectacle. A few sarcastic comments
here and there
also be heard.
Being the nosy creature that I am
-- and despite the advice of my very socially wise spouse
-- I went closer to investigate. Sure enough she was
accompanied by three middle-aged pot-bellied, inappropriately
(business suit, striped business shirt, no tie)
balding, short gentlemen
and an olive-skinned younger man of about twentysomething
(This one was impeccably dressed; for a wedding or
a funeral that is). As I got close enough, the discovery was
Well, who am I to judge people?
Maybe she is anemic and feels the cold more than you and
I do. Maybe tonight was
night and the Milky Way was the only dress
left on the rack for her
to wear. It could be that the gentlemen's tie
racks had simultaneously been transported to
dimension. Socks get lost, why not ties? It
could be that the
had been at
a funeral before arriving for the evening's
entertainment. A wedding would have been less likely as very
few have them on Thursday afternoons.
The performance (I mean of the opera) was not
bad. It was in fact quite good for a regional
During the intermission however, my wife
and I happened to be standing close to
this was NOT by design). I could not help
It revolved around the performance. The
young man was saying that he was enjoying the program
that opera could also be entertaining.
One of the older gentlemen
by saying that be that as it may, the performances
were, however, abysmal. She agreed. Showing
her agreement by
at such and such stage the leading lady
"defecated instead of vocalize" ("be jaaye khoundan, reed").
Derogatory comments were also made
physical size of
prima donna -- the one on the stage that
is. OK, she was a rather
large woman portraying a young, Italian
damsel who is envisaged to be better proportioned,
is no reason
the person. Others in the party joined
in to dispense equally vulgar
descriptions of her anatomy, each comment
followed by a barrage of loud laughter.
Now I am no musicologist. But I know
enough to recognize that a) the performance
bad; in fact
it was quite good
and that b) the total lack of employment
of proper terminology on the part of
was only an indication
of their lack of adequate previous
exposure to the genre; certainly not enough to
sweeping judgments. Besides, if they
were so discerning in their operatic
taste, why not
the effort of attending performances
at national level venues? They
could have gone to the MET; New York
City is not all that far
At any rate, why is it that some of
us are such pompous assess? Why is
of us can
not learn how
to act (or even
dress) in a socially acceptable fashion?
Why do we have to pretend to
be experts in absolutely everything,
even things we know nothing about?
importantly, why do we
be so vulgar?
Younessi teaches at a university
in New England.
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