Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Star Wars Opera

An opera set in space, it was a traditional hero story about good versus evil, human relationships and the choices we make that alter the fate of the universe. You don’t need to be in a land far, far away to rehash these elemental themes that have endured on this planet.

Beyond the special effects and the puppets, the technology and Princess Leia’s anti-gravitational braids, these are the reasons George Lucas, creator of “Star Wars,” was able to connect with the audience. He patterned his movies on an operatic structure. The emotions and basic, yet powerful, relationships which are present in “Star Wars” are based on themes that opera has been exploring and perfecting for centuries, sanctified in the “color” of an artists’ voice. Even the score by composer John Williams, whom Lucas worked with, was heavily influenced by arguably the greatest opera composer the world has seen: Richard Wagner. However, instead of a libretto with spectacular vocal performances, Lucas’ focus was spectacular special effects. An opera very often involves a simple story line - relationships that center around basic emotions like love, hate, fidelity and jealousy. Choices are made - for better or worse - and someone inevitably ends up fighting for a cause when all certainty has failed and the odds are against any chance of victory. Because these stories reflect the basic human conditions we all struggle with, the audience latches on immediately.

Then comes the performance. Belted out at top form, these same emotions resonate with any audience. While special effects on a screen certainly carries a “wow” effect, the air around an opera singer buzzes with a kinetic power that affects the audience in a way that is unique, and touches the soul in the way no other art form can. Not even the surround sound in the most high-tech movie theatre can match that. The power of the opera experience will stay with the audience long after the lights come up. However, we all know the average person would rather sit through Star Wars for the 30th time than go to an opera.

So why “Star Wars” and not opera? Well, Star Wars is cool. It is easy to watch, take in and it is very entertaining. I am not going to try and tell you that watching an opera is easy. They don’t even allow popcorn in most concert halls. A good friend told me this week that it isn’t so much that she is against going to an opera. She isn’t afraid of the opera experience. The fact is, she says, she is too impatient to sit through one. I appreciate her honesty. These days most of us are either too impatient or too tired to endure much of anything over 120 minutes long.

At Fresco, we realize that many people who are interested in opera lead hectic lives, with hellish job schedules, kid schedules, pet schedules, etc. We live in complex times and because of that we need quality down-time now more than ever. Movies are good. We feel opera is better. We are planning productions designed to give the audience a little window into the awesomeness of opera without taking up your entire afternoon. We also want to be able to produce a performance that stays with you long after the lights come up, dare we say, a performance that can connect with the audience more than mere celluloid. We won’t compromise the music or the art form. On the other hand, you won’t be required to have advanced proficiency in five languages just to enjoy a Fresco production.

If you have never experienced live opera, I would encourage you to mark March 5th on your
calendar. “Dueling Divas” will be an experience for seasoned pros and music novices alike. It’s going to be at the Overture Center, with the best regional opera talent squaring off in a contest unlike anything you have seen - perhaps similar to the experience of seeing “Star Wars” for the first time? Just to let you know, we are already campaigning to allow popcorn at the performance...

1 comment:

  1. If the Dueling Divas are as hot as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, I'm there dude!