Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Wagnerian on Of Mice and Men

Dear Opera Lovers,
When I was young my maternal grandmother used to take me grocery shopping with her. I soon came to realize that my grandmother was extremely rigid with her grocery buying list. The two of us used to pass aisle after aisle of products just to find the one that my grandmother had bought for the past 50 or so years in a row. I am now grateful for the extra exercise my grandmother subjected me to (good physique, tight buns…you get the idea) but I remember I could not understand why she did not want to try something new. “Grandmother”, I used to ask, “Why don’t you try this new brand of brown mustard?” hoping I would score a new treat waiting patiently to be discovered. “Oh no” she would reply with a horrified expression on her face, “you know as well as I do (insert brand name here) is the one I have been buying for years and the one I trust.” So we continued our shopping trips month after month, always going through this strange routine as if we were a broken record.

Yes, my dear friends, this is Christos “The Wagnerian” Dimitriadis and I am not writing about my childhood traumas. This is my usual opera review column and you are on the right page. I just wanted to start my article this way, in order to make a comparison between my childhood experience and the similarities I find with many of my fellow opera lovers. Of Mice and Men was indeed something new for our Louisville palate; it was indeed an opera that most of us might not even have heard of before. It was, however, a great American opera, a great American story of our roots, of pain, turmoil, dreams and yearning. We, however, did exactly what my grandmother used to do when I was a little kid, stick with the usual same brand of mustard!! I have nothing against the standard repertory; in fact, I wept uncontrollably at the Kentucky Opera performance of La Traviata with Mrs. Futral in the lead role, and I’m sure I will have a similar response to Madame Butterfly next season. Nevertheless, why do we, as the operatic audience, continue to be so limited in our selection of opera performances? Why do we want to listen to the same thing twenty times a year but never venture towards something new? Some of you may argue it is because you believe these are the best selections, the best operas and that is why we always love them. I would disagree 100% with this notion because even with famous composers we have not even scratched the surface of their operatic genius. For example, Donizetti composed a total of 70 operas but unfortunately most of us have only heard of 3 or 4 of his works. Few know other Donizetti masterpieces such as Poliuto, Fausta or La Favorita. I do not mean to be abrasive but I did feel great disappointment inside my heart when I realized that Louisvillians did not fully support Of Mice and Men (especially with Mr. Floyd being present and visiting our town) the way it should have been supported; and without wanting to be harsh with my fellow sports fans, if the Cardinals were facing a 3rd grade team in basketball or football tickets would be selling faster than one can say “sesame.” It is a true shame indeed for a town that boasts on its plethora of artistic offerings.

In my usual articles, I would continue by analyzing how I felt about the performance, not so much as a critic because I am not (we have critics in our community, please see Mr. Adler, who are great at what they do) but more as an opera lover and a regular human being. And I can tell you, I was moved, I was thrilled, and I was elated to be in the Brown Theatre for Of Mice and Men. I was glad to experience an opera company who is a leader, who is not afraid to take risks and showcase operas that will expand its operatic audience to a new breed, a new appreciation status, a Kentucky Opera Company that chooses to try another brand of brown mustard!! Thus, I rest my case and I implore you to read the critique that Mr. Adler, our respected critic, printed for the Courier Journal; it says it all and I have to say it is the first time that Mr. Adler and I fully agree and see eye to eye. So, as you read it just think that I would have written the exact same thing. I applaud Kentucky Opera for having a vision outside of the ordinary and for bringing to the forefront a boldness which will become a trademark and guiding light for the future. So, please join me for the opera next season and also in my quest for other, bolder, spicier and more flavorful brands of brown mustard!! VIVA VOCE!!

Christos “The Wagnerian” Dimitriadis
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