10th March, 2014 by Rupert Millar - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2
“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.” ― Robert Benchley.
“Passion” is the new buzzword of the moment in many walks of life. From contestants in cookery or talent shows saying how “passionate” they are about sustainable, line-caught gingerbread or some such, to breathless adverts describing the “passion”, fashion or car designers have for their handbags and gear boxes.
Wine too is in danger of over-using the word but if there is one art form where it almost can’t be used enough it is opera.
Opera uses the human voice at its most extraordinary from the glass-shattering pitch of the coloratura soprano to the rumbling vibrations of the bass to convey emotion in raw often incredibly beautiful ways.
The image of opera too is one of luxury, white tie and ball gowns, drinking Champagne from ladies’ slippers at a “souper” in belle époque Paris or Vienna.
Some operas are comic, light and cheerful, but most are tragedy and tragedy means love, torment and death – lots of death, preferably most of the cast.
Both genres though hold room for drink, whether it be a celebratory banquet or road to destruction orgy – like all great art being both a reflection of its own contemporary society and yet relevant to this day also.
Some of the most famous arias in opera, the kind of music that has woven itself into the very fabric of culture and is known to millions whether they have seen the opera or not, are related to drinking.
There is going to be a great deal of music over the coming instalments which will be very familiar, often surprisingly so.
Warning: there are lots of plot spoilers throughout this series – and lots of fat ladies singing.