Give Opera a Chance (It's Like World Peace, Only With More Wigs)

Blog by Dylan Reed | 21 May 2009

Opera isn't the most snooty artform. It often gets that bad press; but, having been for the first time properly recently (twice), I'm pretty certain it's not.

Not when you consider the sort of nonsense that can surround 'up-and-coming' artist shows: where the explanatory blurb is so confusing not only is it quite clear that they're trying to hide the inadequacy of the work behind a smoke-screen of spurious justification, but you can even find the unitended irony of the associated waffle more entertaining than any of the art on display. Meanwhile the free or cheap booze gives the illusion that this is somehow a cognoscenti occasion.

Or the gig by a great band where no-one dances - despite rolling sultry basslines and a beat you could cantilever Stonehenge with - because it's 'serious music' and needs to be 'appreciated' duly. This often stems from the act themselves: nodding away seriously, repressing themselves for the sake of looking cool, sending out that vibe.

Opera at least is honest about what it is. A big part of the fun is that you get dressed up yourself, and in turn you'll get to see a spectacular set, costumes, and, as often as not, a cast the size of a busy A&E ward (and that's entertainment). It's explicitly a treat, and there's no expectation that you go every night, or even particularly often.

Given that Scottish opera are currently offering £10 tickets to those aged under 25, this is a very good time to give it a look. Their current shows, Cosi fan tutte and Manon, are both concerned with themes of romance, youth, and the irony of our self-destructive human drives - so there is plenty to take interest in within the stories. And, if the direction of both is occasionally a bit wooden, there is still plenty of formal beauty to enjoy in both: the music is consistently very powerful, and the tableau-like stage set-ups unlike anything else you're likely to stumble upon (the dramatic set-change at the end of Cosi fan tutte is particularly appropriate, spectacular, and well executed). Shows of both are taking place in Aberdeen and Edinburgh over the coming weeks, and Manon is still showing in Glasgow. Our preview of this latter is here, and listings for the shows' tours can be found here.

If you need an excuse, take your mum.