My Dad is a huge fan of opera. He listens to it while he plays Civilization V on the PC or he’s painting, when he gets to paint. My Dad has influenced my musical tastes for the longest time. I got into folk music because of him; growing up with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, and a whole host of other singers playing in the background when I used to go and play in his room. Later on, when he saw how much I loved to dance, he made me listen to musicals, introducing me to Les Miserables, Candide, Chorus Line, and Chess. When he saw that I had grown a certain liking for it, he got me into the deeper, tougher stuff; he got me listening to Nine from Maury Yeston and the Stephen Sondheim musicals like Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd. When I was much older, he would play the more eclectic stuff like Klaus Nomi, Kate Bush (who later became my favourite singer songwriter of all time), David Knopfler, and David Byrne.
But from his music, I never got into opera. When I got older and saw how moved so many characters in movies were when they watched opera, I thought that I should get into it, and then I asked him what was a good opera for me to start with and I don’t exactly remember which one he gave me to listen to. It might have been Rigolleto. But I’m not sure. I used to help him fix his music library so I became very familiar with the titles but no matter what I tried, I never could get into it.
Deep down inside, I still feel like I’m not cultured enough. Opera is still something I have to be able to sit down to and listen to be able to consider myself as cultured.
From movies and concerts and the like, I have gotten to like certain arias and duets, though. I just can’t listen to the whole thing from start to finish. I don’t have the capacity for it yet.
One particular song that I love is The Flower Duet from Delibes’ Lakme. It’s my favourite, especially after I heard a remix, modern version that was used in a 1980s airline commercial. It was a fabulous commercial, for the 80s, set against a remix of The Flower Duet. When my Dad told me that it was from Lakme, I went to listen to it and fell in love with it. I tried to listen to the whole opera but couldn’t get into it. I still couldn’t. Even until now.
The other day, I was writing and my door was wide open, as it always is, and my Dad had his door open as well, and instead of my usual songs from my iTunes, I decided to go online and play arias and duets from operas on YouTube. I really wanted to listen to Song to the Moon from Rusalka by Dvorak.I needed it in particular for a scene I was writing and I had to get into that mode. So I started playing it and then, for the hell of it, just jumped from one aria to another. That afternoon, these beautiful arias just floated through the whole house. It was gorgeous.
As arias, as individual songs, it was gorgeous and it really helped my writing. So much so, I went and downloaded The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly off of iTunes because it was so gorgeous.
Maybe I have to grow up just a little bit more before I could start really getting into opera like my Dad does. But five years ago, I wouldn’t even go out of my way to spend a whole afternoon listening to arias and duets from operas. I’m growing up and my tastes are maturing. It is something to look forward to, really.
I’m happy that it is getting there. How awful it would be just to listen to the same kind of music for the rest of my life. I think it showed a great deal of maturity to have gone ahead and start buying songs that weren’t in English. I bought some CDs and mp3s from musical acts from Iceland and Latin America and France. The world is too large to live in such contained spaces.
I’m growing up. I’m finally growing up.