On Saturday, Matt and I went to the Minnesota Opera's rendition of Arabella. We bought season tickets to the opera this year, so this is our second of four operas. We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the music and environment.
This is an opera by Richard Strauss, and his composing abilities are evident. There was a really large orchestra that was sometimes so loud that the singers struggled to sing over the orchestra. Strauss spins a lot of complex melodies, many key changes, and repeated lyrical themes. Especially fun was a deep, rumbling theme when a bear was mentioned and a soft, high, romantic theme every time roses came up in the plot.
Arabella, like many operas, is a story of love and confusion. Arabella wants to marry for love, but her parents need her to marry for money. She's been courted by several suitors she finds dull. Thankfully, she meets a man who is both rich and attractive to her. They fall in love immediately and decide to marry. As in every opera, there is then some confusion and conflict, including a mistaken identity plot with Arabella's younger sister (who has been forced to live as a boy due to the cost of having two young women come out in society) and an army officer who thinks he's in love with Arabella and her kind notes, which are written by the younger sister.
At some point, the conflict and confusion comes to a head, and Arabella's chosen suitor is accusing her of infidelity with the Army officer. The Army officer thinks he just slept with Arabella, but he really was with the younger sister in a dark room. A duel is proposed, and the sister comes out just in time to avert deadly consequences. Best part is that the dad, an inveterate gambler, had tried to mediate the conflict. As soon as the solution looked clear, the dad throws up his hands and says "well, time to go play cards again! Problem solved!"
Matt and I decided that the Italian version of this opera would be much different. The first opera we went to, a Puccini tale called Manon Lescaut, ended in a 40 minute death scene (the most boring part of that opera). Strauss was content to leave his couples happy and intact, but Puccini would have woven some deaths by duel, the truth coming out, and the rest of the principles killing themselves out of grief. Best yet, the dad could still have the same punchline of problem solved, playing cards.
Opera is definitely a different genre than I am usually used to, but it is great fun to go experience the show. Lyric translations (more or less) are posted above the stage on a screen, so you can follow the plotline. We also go to the before-show talks to get a sense of the music and what points to watch or listen to in the show. I definitely recommend trying out an opera if you ever get the chance. If nothing else, the costumes are usually great, and the bounty of drama can be quite enjoyable.