My Pet Operatic Hates

This morning, Dolce Suono was delighted to read this article by the wonderful blogger Opera Teen. OT has hit the nail right on the head in his rant about distinguishing crossover from genuine opera. This blog post reminded DS of many of her pet hates to do with opera and so here is a brief compilation of some of the worst:

1. People who don’t know what is opera and what isn’t.

This really needs to be made clear, once and for all. The Phantom of the Opera is not an opera. Mozart’s Requiem is not an opera. O sole mio is not an opera. The Ode to Joy is not an opera. (All of these mistakes are genuine).

2. People who think they know about opera but don’t

The one song which always manages to convince people that they are opera aficionados is, for some reason, Der Hölle Rache, from The Magic Flute. There seems to be a firm belief that if you know this aria, you know everything about opera. There is also the belief that this aria can be called either ‘The Queen of the Night’ or ‘The Magic Flute’.  It is appreciated that some people may have trouble remembering the German name, but please, please, please do not think you can get away with referring to it as the name of the character or the name of the opera. Because you can’t.
Also, it’s all very well knowing how a couple of bars of the aria go but if you can’t say who wrote it, then your claim that you know what you’re talking about becomes completely invalid.

3. Katherine Jenkins

The opera singer who has never sung in an opera.

4. People who only like one singer

This is an irritating feature of some people who are opera fans but sadly narrow minded. The attitude that if one singer has performed an aria or a role wonderfully it is not worth even listening to anybody else’s version annoys me immensely. And for some reason, it is quite often Callas who gets mentioned in this way. Everyone should be able to listen to a performer and enjoy their work in its own respect before comparing it to others, even if those others were indeed better.

And finally . . .

5.People who believe that dead/retired/older singers are always better

This one is harder because sometimes its right and we are all guilty of it. But I have always thought that sometimes we should be more hesitant to dismiss singers of our time for ones of the past. There are some singers, such as Sutherland, who just shine out in their areas of the repertoire. But there are others who could be considered comparable but we would never dare to. For example, if you had to choose between the voices of Renee Fleming and Dame Kiri te Kanawa, who would you choose? Just the thought of it prompts the reaction “How dare she compare them?”. We probably all immediately jump (mentally) to te Kanawa and scoff at the fool who dares to mention her in the same sentence as Fleming. But, actually, when you think about it, there’s no reason why the two shouldn’t be compared. But because Renee is a singer of today, we automatically put her behind when comparing her with older singers. Why? Because these opinions are biased. Not saying, obviously, that younger singers are always better. Just that maybe we should think a little before immediately jumping to conclusions. Here’s a video from someone who has dared to make such a comparison:


4 thoughts on “My Pet Operatic Hates

  1. Haha. Hilarious. I’d like to give my opinion per point.

    1. Just because a song has been sung by an opera singer, it doesn’t mean it’s an opera song. Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming and Joyce diDonato are opera singers who sing other genres every now and then.

    2. When you talk about a part sung in an opera, don’t talk as if it’s the whole opera. You may like an aria, a duet, an overture, or whatever, but never say, “The Flower Song is a good opera.” That’s wrong by definition.

    3. Haha, no comment on Katherine Jenkins. But perhaps she would not be so annoying if she didn’t declare herself as an opera singer.

    4. One thing about opera that changes me is that opera opens my mind to “interpretation”. I have to admit that I used to be what you call “narrow minded,” being fanatic to only one version of something. But when I watch more opera, I can appreciate different interpretation of every artist. For popular operas such as Traviata or Don Giovanni, there are dozens of character interpretations, not mentioning stage production etc. Some Figaros are so funny, the others are more tricky, but no Figaro is wrong. We just have to respect that.

    5. Well, my Myth professor said, “Nostalgia is the most powerful force in the universe.” One Latin writer also protested that people usually appreciate something more after it dies. As for me, I personally am very in love with Placido Domingo. But I listen also to other tenors and baritones. I like the nowadays as well as the past. It’s just the wheel of time working. As the Bible says, “Don’t say the past is better than the present.”

    Thanks for the article. It makes me passionate about the matter as well.

  2. I agree whole-heartedly, especially about ‘older singers were always better’……this never gets said about pianists, or violinists …or actors, come to that. I think we are fortunately to live when we do, when there are SO MANY gifted singers.

  3. Thanks for a great follow-up post to OperaTeen’s great blog post! Your arguments are presented in a great and very funny way! So to the point! Thanks!

    Sometimes we’ll just have stand up for opera as an art form. Sometime we’ll have to call crossover what it is: Simply just crossover. Or we could just say it like OperaTeen: “It is not opera”.

    One of the things that irritates me the most is how many people believe that Pavarotti sang “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s opera “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”. He didn’t! 🙂

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