So I’ve been a card-carrying (Metropolitan Opera Guild card) opera fan for about 15 years. I’ve probably spent way too much time and money on this interest, but it has been worth it. Opera is a fabulous art form—singing, music, drama, and sometimes dance, all rolled into one (although anti-opera-ists say those things are all done poorly. Somethimes that’s true, but when all elements are working, nothing beats it, in my opinion).
Also, did you know you can get into the Metropolitan Opera for a perfomance from Monday thru Thursday for $15? I sit there frequently, and while you are far away from the stage (if you sit there, beg, borrow, or steal someone’s opera glasses!) the sound up there is spectacular–it probably is the best place to “hear” the opera. An English translation is provided by “Met Titles”, which are projected above the back of the seat in front of you.
A brief bibliography of introductory materials about opera (All are available for checkout from various NYPL locations). They are all good for the beginner:
The Joy of Opera by Nigel Douglas
The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Opera by William Berger
Opera for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck
Opera: the Basics by Denise P. Gallo
The Penguin Concise Guide to Opera (no author)
Here is a great resource, which is a series of lectures with musical examples, available in 32 CDs or 8 DVDs:
How to Listen to and Understand Opera by Robert Greenberg
Two interesting movies that feature opera (although they are about a lot of other things, also) are Farinelli, il Castrato and Diva, both available from NYPL in DVD.
When I became interested in opera, I learned a lot by going to the NYPL Perfoming Arts Library in Lincoln Center and just browsing through reference books. I did borrow some CDs, but I usually tried to buy opera CDs when they were on sale at Tower Records which is now out of business. If I were starting a collection today, I would probably buy them from Amazon or some other online source for the cheapest prices.
And who said “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings?" Most current opera stars have become very conscious of their looks. Some photos from the web of current, popular opera singers:
Renee Fleming. I love this picture. And she sings even better than she looks! Marcello Giordani and Aprille Milo in a concert version of the opera La Gioconda. (Yes, that is a knife in his hand!) The Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez.
Karita Matilla, from Finland. When she is on the top of her game, she is absolutely fantastic! A great actress, too!Deborah Voigt, who is starting to take on more Wagnerian roles.
Salvatore Licitra, sometimes billed as the next Pavarotti. He has a pleasant, often passionate voice. And who knows how his voice will develop in a few years.Cecilia Bartoli. One of my absolute favorites. She doesn’t sing in NY anywhere often enough to suit my tastes!Anna NetrebkoAngela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (they are married to each other)Rolando VillazonNatalie Dessay
One of the world’s greatest opera houses! And one of NYC’s great public places. The current season just ended on May 17, and the new one starts September 22. Try going to a performance; maybe you’ll like it!