Opera is one facet of classical music in which I’ve never indulged. I’m a patient man, but I don’t have the endurance for a composer like Wagner, whose Ring Cycle lasts roughly eighteen hours (seriously). And then there are the over-the-top melodramatic beltings, the proverbial fat ladies singing, which seem ridiculous to me. That isn’t to say that opera is trivial; you’ll find many devotees. Like those freaks on NPR’s Opera Quiz who are able to identify an aria by hearing half a note. So, yes, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of opera.
I say “not exactly,” because behind those warblings, you’ll find some great classical music. Take for example, Verdi Without Words, an arrangement of his best-known themes by former Cincinnati Pops conductor Eric Kunzel. Even for the uninitiated, you are likely recognize the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, which is often parodied in popular culture (just think of Looney Tunes). And then there’s “La donna è mobile,” whose melody has become for many the epitome of Italian opera. My personal favorite piece is the “Egyptian March” from Aïda.
Put on your Viking helmet complete with horns for the Overtures and Preludes from the operas of Richard Wagner (pronounced vahhhg-ner, not wag-ner). Sure, the man’s legacy isn’t exactly without tarnish, but the music is brilliant and you won’t be subjected to eighteen hours of Germanic mythology in song form. Who can’t resist banging their head to The Ride of the Valkyries? A favorite from this album is the Prelude from Act III of Lohengrin, which puts me in the mood to be heroic.
Until next time–may your personal rite of spring not be riotous.