Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Eve opera: Elixir of Love

For the third year in a row we rang out the old year at the opera.  This time it was Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore (Elixir of Love). 

Long ago I heard somebody make a comparison between kabuki and opera.  At the time I knew nothing of either.  Now I know a fair bit about kabuki;  more than I know about opera, at least.  And I know enough in general to know that comparisons are, yes, odious, but sometimes useful, and often interesting.

This opera reminded me of kabuki.  Obviously, the music's different:  more precisely, kabuki music is pretty rudimentary, compared to opera, where the music's the essence.  But:  they share an attitude toward emotion, toward drama.  They both go for broad strokes.  There are infinite subtleties in both, but those subtleties come in the context of emotions that are depicted in as much intensity as they can be.  Sadness, joy, love, hatred are reduced to their essences.  Primary colors.  They're both really simple, once you get that:  all the weirdness of staging and acting, all the unnaturalness, is there to heighten the effect of the emotional presentation. 

It's totally ahistorical to think this way, but it really puts me in mind of a kind of global 19th century.  Dulcamara, with his showy medicine-show patter, would have made perfect sense to an Edo audience.  It's Uirouri