Words are inadequate to describe opera. It is like love: how do you verbalize Cupid? Can you capture in a blog an evening in front of TV with and opera DVD and a bottle of brandy?
It is not possible. But still one tries, for the emotions are stimulated and the words fight to come out.
Tonight it was Adriana Lecouvreur as performed in London in 2010 with Angela Gheorghiu (ex-wife of Roberto Alagna) and Jonas Kaufmann (married with two kids.) Written by Francesco Cilea and first performed in 1904, this opera is new to me.
Verismo, maybe. Romantic, no. A tribute to Melpomene, muse of tragedy, yes. But with Angela Gheorghiu, surely the most beautiful soprano now singing, and Jonas Kaufmann, surely the most intelligent, best opera actor with the best voice, how can you not enjoy what at best is a silly story and an overblown tragedy?
Sit back; enjoy the modern music, almost movie-like; revel in the revenge of play-actors on what is but a stage; and muse on the conundrum of old lovers, unfaithful lovers, and adulterous lovers. And succumb to the power of music, acting, and story as old as time and as intimate as everyday. You can see yourself in this opera, as a young man in first love, as a middle-aged ambition, and as an old man still beset by the altar of artemis, in this opera the rising flesh pushed up by tight bodices.
Despair at the conflict of two women besotted by the same man. How many of us can lay claim to that dilemma? Admire the skill of balance and political versus amorous ambition of the Count. Empathize with the old man in love (at a distance) with youth and tenderness.
We could go on with deep analysis of the story and characters and music of this opera. But why bother? It was written and enjoyed as entertainment for the masses in the days before TV. So why should we not today enjoy it as mass entertainment made possible by skilled modern performers, DVDs, and the vast amounts of money poured into opera in the great cities.
For stripped of cant, opera is pure visceral pleasure: an art form of great expense but even greater pleasure that tickles all the senses and stimulates all the organs from the eyes, to the ears, to the heart, and the other parts of us that make for desire and love.