Let me try to take your mind off, well, everything, by telling you how I came to love opera. I’d never been to the opera and did not grow up listening to opera. Opera was not on my radar until an exceptional and very kind teacher (shout-out to all of you out there) noticed my intense and judgmental eldest child’s interest in slightly less intense and judgmental Nordic gods and took my 10-year-old to see Siegfried. That’s how it started.Her eldest sounds like an unusual child. At ten years of age, my primary interest was model rocketry (I only almost burned down the house once). Tabatha's first encounter with opera was, yep, the Ring cycle by Wagner, all four operas:
The way I saw it, having my first opera be 15 hours long was trial by aria. I was filled with dread, dread I hid from my child, much like the book I brought to Das Rheingold on our first night out – thinking I might be able to slip into the lobby after a while. But here’s the thing. I loved it. I loved all of it.She also loves Mozart:
Last weekend, I saw COC’s The Magic Flute. I know it’s not an original thought but The Magic Flute is enchanting. As is my tradition, I went to the opera that night thinking I did not want to be there, my mind very much somewhere else, and I was quickly swept right in. I smiled like a goof most of the way through the production. Sometimes it made me laugh and I’m still surprised at how intensely romantic opera can be.
Toronto is cold these days, grey skyed, with little snow, and at some point we seem to have decided to make most of our buildings out of green glass. The city is slowly turning the colour of an old Mason jar. You feel the chill and the barrenness and the ordinariness of it all the most just now. But then, in the middle of that, there is the opera; every winter I find it again, a weird, warm bright flame.What I found particularly delightful about this essay was that I usually find Tabatha Southey unreadable because what she writes is so very predictable but this was a breath of fresh air.
If a political columnist can appeal to new readers by wandering outside her usual themes and sharing something unusual like this, then perhaps the Apocalypse is not nigh after all.
Let's listen to the Prelude to Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner: