Noilly Prattle: the music was always there...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

the music was always there...

    In response to my recent opera critique post about the Zurich Opernhaus a commenter asked how and when I developed an interest in opera. The question got me thinking and so I decided to publish my response here on Noilly Prattle.

        It's hard to say exactly. You grow up with music without really paying much attention to it. Oh, of course there was the rock-n-roll craze in the 50s and then the folk music of the hippie era that I grew up with and was very much a part of. But many tunes from operas were always there in the background; just didn't know they were from operas. Think of the triumphal march from Aida, or the toreador song from Carmen or the theme music for The Lone Ranger TV series from William Tell for example. 

Triumphal March from Aida

Toreador Song from Carmen

William Tell Overture

         I saw and listened to a video recording of Mozart's Don Giovanni on NHK (Japan Broadcasting Company) back in the early 80s and got hooked little by little. As for Road Buddy, she, too, was familiar with Western classical music through hearing it in school and also loved American popular music (learned her basic English that way), but didn't take as early an interest in opera, per se, as I did. She was still very much into rhythm and blues, especially Eric Clapton, and belonged to a fan club of his in Japan. 

        Our town is pretty much a roll-up-the-sidewalks-after-5:00 p.m. kind of town. Also, unlike in Western societies, couples don't go out together in the evenings. The world of entertainment here is not structured that way. Generally, here men go out drinking after working hours with their colleagues (a kind of male bonding and slave to the company issue) and women have lunches together with their girlfriends (probably because many marriages are arranged and there isn't a strong romantic bond between married partners). It was one of the things I found remarkably intriguing when I first arrived in Japan. 

       Our relationship, of course, wasn't an arranged one, I not being Japanese. We met and chose to be together and we behave more in the Western style, especially when we travel to Western societies. But I digress. I was listening to NHK broadcasts of operas while she was still into Eric and would travel overseas now and again with her fan club to attend his concerts--mostly in London. As the English speaking interpreter for the group she went with all expenses paid. Although I also like Eric's music, I am not a fan type guy and wasn't a member of the fan club. I guess little by little the fan club thing began to wear thin and she went less often to concerts overseas. If Eric came to Japan she would occasionally attend with the group. Eventually she stopped going altogether and began to pay more attention to the operas I was watching.

our symphony hall
        I like to go out in the evenings once in a while and sorely missed the lack of a social life here. Then, one year, an opera company from Eastern Europe (I think it was Poland) came for a one night stand in our symphony hall. The tickets were 15,000¥ a pop, but I love to go to the theater (opera is just musical theater basically) and thought the price was worth it. The company put on Lehar's The Merry Widow and we were both utterly charmed by it. That started the going-to-the-opera ball rolling. A few more companies came occasionally and sporadically and put on one nighters in our symphony hall and we got addicted. Then they stopped putting on operas here so we decided to go to the places where they have opera houses and companies and seasons instead of waiting for Godot to come to our town. That meant going to Europe.

       I hope this perhaps unnecessarily verbose explanation answers my commenter's questions.

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