Open to op(era)tions

Rixta Sievers

OperaOpera. Take a long look at that word and tell me what springs to mind. This is a task I have asked of a number of my friends, and, based on their answers, I have to conclude that my generation just isn’t very keen on this particular artform. They might like music, films, or even musicals, but the reaction to the opera is often a firm “no thanks”.

The reasons for this are many and varied: it’s too expensive, it’s too long, you have to dress up to go, or it’s only for older generations. Pick any of these excuses and I’d be hard-pushed to disagree. These are all legitimate concerns. Opera can be expensive, and the shows often do go on for hours; you would feel out of place if you showed up in casual clothing, and, if you are the average university student, you would probably bring the average age down by at least thirty years.

Despite all of this, I still go to the opera. At the age of six, I fell in love with the music, the singing, the drama and the emotion. But above all, I fell in love with the absurdity that comes with it.

My first memory of an opera is watching Hansel and Gretel. It was in Polish, a language I don’t understand. It was also one of the scariest things I had seen – both the stepmother and the witch were truly evil characters. They wore garish makeup and extravagant clothing, and when they started to sing, the performance turned sinister. I got goosebumps, and a real sense of fear for the lives of Hansel and Gretel. And even though I didn’t understand a word of what was said, all the emotion and the drama, all the fear and the rejoicing, did not pass me by; instead, I felt I had found a deeper understanding of the story. I felt like the music and I had connected, and my imagination had taken off.

Yet for so many people I know, opera seems to be a strange and intimidating artform. To a certain extent, I do agree with them, because it is a long-winded and complex piece of music, where people sing instead of dying. And more often than not it is in a foreign language, so you will barely get a grasp of the story. But if you give it a chance, if you go just once, then you will see that, maybe, you can connect with it like I have. Maybe it will move something in your core, maybe you will shed a few tears at the bittersweet ending of a classic, like Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, or maybe it will uplift your imagination, like Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

All the excuses I listed are still valid. But if you have some spare time any day of the week, take a couple of hours off from the rest of the world and immerse yourself into a story. Glasgow is a fantastic city to experience an opera performance. There is the Scottish Opera, where a student ticket costs £10. A number of other theatres in Glasgow show the odd opera performance if you keep your eyes peeled. Even Cineworld on Renfrew Street has live screenings of the some the best performances from around the world, if you go on a Saturday night during opera season. And of course, watching opera in the cinema comes with an added bonus: you can go in torn jeans and a t-shirt.