Tomorrow, Le Nozze di Figaro will be staged in the Esplanade. Now regarded as an essential of the standard operatic repertoire, the opera buffa is relatively famous with its overture often performed as a concert piece. It’s not listed in the 6th place of Opera America’s Top 20 most performed operas for nothing, you know.
Your run-of-the-mill youth probably couldn’t care less about such a performance and would rather jump into the mosh pit in a random Christina Aguilera concert. But still, I do have some friends who are terribly interested in all things classical.
Therefore, I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt that I am holding a free pass—a gallery pass no less—to Le Nozze. Me, a plebeian, uncultured couth who is a pseudo-intellectual with a bad, stinky pseudonym “Aristocrat”.
How bad can it get? It’s almost like giving a $30 martini to someone who doesn’t drink. Or a smoker who doesn’t draw back the cigarette smoke.
But in my own defence, I have to admit that I like operas. I still recall how I fell in love with opera because I purchased an abridged text of The Phantom of the Opera when I was a kid. I was floored—the book was amazing, needless to say. And the rest, as they say, was history.
So when I heard that Esplanade had brought in Le Nozze di Figaro—conducted by Seiji Ozawa and performed by the Vienna State Opera—and there was a ticket for me, I was overjoyed! The exuberant me was slowly brought down to earth as I realised I knew nothing about opera. Nothing except for that one encounter with POTO when it was held in Singapore.
In a delirious rush–six parts insecurity and four parts excitement–I scoured the library for books and recordings. I devoured any information I could find. I found stuff on how to “listen” to an opera, what is the first opera to listen for a beginner (not Mozart apparently, which upped the 6:4 ratio into 8:2), where to get reading materials on Le Nozze (on Amazon: here, here and here), the opera plot, and so on and so forth.
The list was endless it seems. I almost died under the deluge of over-information. Not to mention that I have ignored numerous other deadlines as well at the expense of accumulating data.
Yet at the end of the day, one thing seems certain to me. No matter what I read or listen to, an operatic experience is unrivalled in terms of art. Ratatouille may be extremely hilarious, with a tight plot to boot. And surely you have the rest of the audience laughing together with you as well, which, to me, makes it quite an experience. Be it appreciating visual art in museums, attending musicals or classicals, attending an opera is a semi-religious experience that can never be replicated.
It is this irreproducibility of the moment, coupled with the amalgamation of visual arts, music, theatre, film, dance, and the presence of hundreds (if not thousands) of like-minded people that transports you into the surreal, making it an event to remember. For this experience of a lifetime, being flooded with information seems like a small price to pay.
Postscript: I have it on good faith that there’s only one ticket left, just one.
 Opera America, “The Top 20 Most Frequently Performed Operas in North America,” http://www.operaamerica.org/audiences/learningcenter/cornerstones/operalist.html.