The Real World of Opera

A woman is being held prisoner in her own bedroom with her son as her only companion. Her husband has just been killed in a hostile take-over of the country. The man who was responsible for her husband’s death is in love with her; yet she still is holding strong to the memory of her beloved departed. Her sister-in-law who had previously spurned the advances of the killer is now asking for his love, but he refuses. To complicate matters, the sister promises her love to the man’s best friend who only wants her for her rank and money. Furthermore, the dead man is actually alive and well and he returns from hiding just in time to see his wife give in to the man who supposedly killed him.
No, this is not the plot of the latest reality tv show drama; instead, it is the story of Rodelinda Handel’s baroque opera, newly returned to the Met stage. The drama, the angst, the anger, and the backstabbing is all there. It’s the Real World series from the 1700’s. Each glance is shooting daggers and each hand is slapping the face of someone else. There is pillow punching, eaves dropping, dramatic slamming of things, and destruction of property. Temper tantrums abound in this production as the spider web of relationships unfold.
While we all think that soap operas and reality tv were the first to bring the melodramatic, entangled web of relationships and life to the public, it is not a recent media ploy. The earliest art forms all dealt with the real drama of life. Be it Shakespeare, classic Greek tragedies, or Baroque opera, the foundation of each of these stories lies in the reality of life, relationships, and the complications that arise. Yes, this drama is often times magnified to the extreme; but it is still within the realm of possibility. So, why do we love watching others’ drama so much? Perhaps it is to make our own lives feel more exciting and important. Or, perhaps it is to put our own problems into perspective. Whatever the reason, the drama of life will go on to entertain us for the rest of our lives. But, before you turn on that TV, consider visiting your local opera company or a met broadcast instead. For who needs reality tv when you have the opera house? I sure don’t.
The next Met live in HD production will be Faust by Gounod on Sunday January 15th at 2 PM at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center sponsored by Opera San Luis Obispo. Call 888-233-2787 for ticket information.

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