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A cultural stumbling-upon

March 18, 2009 - Deb Gau
The other night I was contemplating a couple of possibilities, namely a weekend shopping trip to Sioux Falls and whether I might be able to catch a movie while I was there. I had called up the showtimes Web site for the Century 14 megaplex, and found an unfamiliar title listed for Saturday. “La Sonnambula?” I thought. What’s that? It’s two things, as it turns out. First, it’s Italian for “The Sleepwalker.” Second, it’s an opera. A performance by the Metropolitan Opera, broadcast live in high definition, no less. My good friend the Internet says some movie theaters host live Met broadcasts for those of us not able to see the real thing. The Internet also says this particular production of La Sonnambula got boos from New York audiences - something about unpopular staging choices - but I’m still stoked. No, really. I totally want to give the whole opera thing a try. I know next to nothing about opera - or classical music, or music in general. But I do like musicals, and opera uses the same basic principle of storytelling through song and spectacle. I’ve never heard more than little snatches of opera performances when my car radio scanner hits MPR, but I love the fact that there’s a whole culture built around it, with commentators who can (and will) tell you the complete life histories of the stars, the understudies and the orchestra conductor. And I’m jealous of the fact that Italian- or German-speakers could just sit down and enjoy the show without subtitles. So here’s the deal. Just in case I can’t make it to Saturday’s broadcast, I have a question for any music lovers lurking out there on the Web. How does one “get into” opera? Are there any particular operas or recordings that would be good for a neophyte like me? I’d love to hear any suggestions.


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