So, I spent last night reading Opera for Dummies. No joke. I was curious. (I didn’t buy it. The fact that the book is in the house at all is a kind of epic capitulation on the part of my other half, who suddenly decided it would be a really good idea to read this book. I think the realization has dawned that this opera problem of mine is probably going to be permanent.)
And it does contain some good advice. For example: make opera friends on the internet! (Unstated: So you don’t bore your real-world friends to tears with your complex technical rants about staging and your moments of squee! And your excitement that there is a new recording of Don Giovanni out that has DiDonato AND Diana Damrau AND a bunch of other people on it and it will be purchased by me tomorrow morning at 10.00, right after I have taught my sleepy colonial America class who couldn’t even get excited on Wednesday about a 17th century novel about slavery and race and power that is also incidentally a little bit like soft porn! And there’s a gruesome execution at the end! It works on a variety of levels! And they didn’t get it, and I’ll stop now and just reiterate the thing about the CD. It’s mine. Tomorrow.)
Also, did you know that in the nineteenth century, a few (unnamed by the book; no footnotes) folks decided to try to write a new libretto, with a new story, for Cosi fan tutte because they didn’t think the plot was serious enough for the music? Stupid nineteenth century. It is quite possibly my least favorite century of all time, in terms of aesthetics. So damn sentimental and pompous. I mean, yeah, Verdi and George Eliot and Mark Twain and all that, but still. The balance is toward the sentimental, the soppy, the condescending, and the oppressively overdecorated.
Finally. The book (Opera for dummies, not the novel I assigned to my undergraduates) also contains a list of common opera terms that are useful to know. The word “cabaletta” – I know what it actually means, but it still sounds like it ought to mean “very small and highly ornamented conspiracy” – like a little cabal, you know?