Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Opera and Prayer

I'll be the first to admit I know little about opera, aside from Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, and the saying "it's not over 'til the fat lady sings." My friend Erica, has been patiently trying to instruct me in the finer joys of opera. It's obvious when you read Erica's writing that she is passionate about opera, so I appreciate her patience with this "non-aficionado".

Testing the waters, I asked Erica what she would recommend for a beginner listener and she suggested some operas by her favorite composer, Puccini. Timidly, I journeyed to HMV and purchased a CD of selected Puccini compositions. So begins my exploration of opera.

Not too long ago, Erica sent me a poem by Marge Piercy from her collection COLORS PASSING THROUGH US. The poem is entitled, "One reason I like opera". Piercy speaks disdainfully of the movie world, with its focus on the visually appealing. The heroine is always
beautiful. the "fat lady a joke". And the pretty people always win. In opera, on the other hand, the heroine is old and heavy, the hero "wolfs down an eight course meal daily". It is the voices that are beautiful, passionate, strong, lusty, deep and mournfully soul filling. Opera is the real world, movies the glitzy world.

This I get. I can listen to my Puccini CD, not understand a word of what is being sung, but the emotions resonate within me. There is no need for any language other than that of music. I close my eyes and follow the music's path. For all I know, they could be singing a grocery list. But oh, what passion it is sung with!

Can you imagine if we prayed with such a passion? David did in the Psalms. Consider Psalm 13:
"How long, Or Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death:" (Psalm 13:1-3, NIV)

David's prayers are opera. Mine are more like movies - pretty on the surface, but not too deep, too passionate. * o


Erica Miner said...

How lovely, Eveline, to mention me as your opera mentor. I am indeed passionate, and for anyone who may be interested I'd be happy to pass along recommendations for other opera 'faves', especially for opera newcomers. Also, your post will motivate me to think on operas that have religious themes as well - that's a whole other subject!

Eveline Maedel said...

My Dear EM
You are ever so welcome. And I hope you will share what you discover about operas with religious themes, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
"the other EM"