Tales of Bad Parenting & A Hatred for Opera

Photo: Brandon Patoc

Bach's St. John Passion

Benaroya Hall, Seattle

The subject of this libretto follows the Passion of Jesus according to the Gospel of John. If I didn't know better, I would think that this God fellow was a kind of shitty father. But what pains me more than the suffering of Christ is the vocal styles of operatic singing.

I didn't do my research and ended up listening to opera. St. John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach began with forcefully wonderous choral arrangements and the soundings of a scaled-down orchestra. I enjoyed this very much, particularly the duetting oboes; they were so sad and hauntingly beautiful. I love oboes and celebrate their showcasing. I also love Bach. Hence, my haste to hear anything composed by this God of the Baroque, but I forgot that so many of my favorite composers had a far greater appreciation for operatic singing than I did.

I have tried numerous times over many years, and, for the most part, I simply do not enjoy operatic singing. Though I recognize the discipline and mastery of the craft and that opera singers are likely some of the most technically skilled vocalists walking the planet at any given time, my ears just aren’t hearing any of it. It usually sounds like a parody of itself but is devoid of any intentional humor. I respect the ability to reach a large music hall without microphones; that's very impressive, but it's still like getting a super-fast delivery of take-out food that you don't like. It doesn't matter; it’s just lost on me. It doesn't help that the singing is usually accompanied by what I consider cartoonish over-acting. I feel like I’m watching real-life humans do their best impersonations of Disney princesses and villains. With the broad gestures and over-emotive expressions made for daytime television, I can't take it seriously. Unfortunately, this performance of Bach didn't break any of those stereotypes for me. I appreciated the vocals offered by tenor Andrew Haji, finding them to be clean and with a fine balance of vibrato, but that's about what I could take away before tuning out. After the choir and orchestra began supporting the solo vocalists, my ears drifted, and my eyes examined the lighting fixtures. If I had focused on the stage, I would have had to suppress laughing at what I find absurdly comic, and I don't want to be rude.

As a life-long advocate and aficionado of musical theatre, I have often been on the opposite side of this taste argument. Just as I am convinced that those repulsed by the sounds of a showtune and its unique vocal stylings are missing out on something wonderful, I am likely really missing out on opera. I mean, it's been around so long; there has to be a reason people still dedicate their free time to it. While I know this in my head, my heart, ears, and soul do not care. On some theoretical level, I can muster a profound respect for this art, but in practice, I wonder if I wouldn't prefer listening to reggaeton. On second thought, probably not, but did I mention that I really don't like opera?

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