Sunday, June 21, 2015

17 down, 7 to go


Two weeks since my last post and I don't have much to say for myself. I haven't been out on the town much (with the exception of Friday afternoon when I hit jazz at the sculpture garden, the USDA farmer's market, some sort of astronomy meet-up on the mall, and a simulcast of an Iranian musical performance in one action packed afternoon). I tried a bike ride but my just-fixed bike broke again within sight of my front door so you know... no outdoor exercising for me lately. That includes running on surfaces other than the treadmill. It's just plain too hot to be outside, away from my trusty water bottle, when I run. Maybe it's just me but spring felt awfully short this year.

I do know that now that it's summer I ought to be doing something fun with my life but to be honest, it's mostly just studying lately. Lots and lots of studying. At least it's a bit more rewarding now - somehow in the past couple of weeks I went from that stage of language learning where you feel like you might actually be getting worse every day, to the stage where you wake up one morning and realize that it's all starting to come together after all. This realization of course is met with about 5% relief and 95% anxiety as you realize just how close that end of training test really is.

So yeah. Language training - it is what it is.

Next time I promise pictures and excitement, even if I have to make it up myself.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Opera for people who don't like opera

This one's for you Dad!

While I'm by no means an opera expert, after several months of immersing myself into Italian language and culture I have at least developed some strong ideas on the subject. I put together some recommendations based on my impressions so far - not for opera lovers and people who have artsy tendencies, but for the half dozen or so people who have confessed to me that they just can't watch opera. Hopefully I can convince you to give it one more try.

First thing to know, not all operas were created equal. If you're nervous about opera don't make things hard on yourself. Try to pick a story that has a bit more going on. I made the mistake of watching Madame Butterfly as my first Italian opera and it was a painful experience. (There are basically two scenes in this one, yet they take about three hours.) Big dance numbers, fight scenes, and good old fashioned drama go a long way to upping the entertainment value.

On a similar note, when you can, try a story you already know. This startegy worked great for Opera in the Outfield (this year they featured Cinderella/Cenerentola), but it can also work to just read a synopsis ahead of time. If you find your mind wandering just a bit, it'll help you get back on track. Not only can a familiar story help, but so can a familiar setting. I saw an updated version of Rigoletto set in Las Vegas that is one of my favorites so far. 

Finally, production value matters. After all, if you can't speak Italian the dialogue is more of a background anyway. So you have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. And of course, it can't hurt to make a big production of it yourself. A fancy dress and an evening out might just trick you into thinking that you're actually having fun, until that moment comes when you realize that you are.

Maybe it's time to just let the music speak for itself. Here are a few favorites that you just might recognize.





La Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto









And a big compilation in case you find yourself ready for a whole lot more.