As we age, our sleep needs remain the same, but we sleep more lightly and thus get less “deep sleep.” It is for this reason that adults need frequent “cat naps,” for which I recommend–opera.
There is no better time nor place to catch a quick “40 winks” than the cheap seats high above the boards of a cavernous performance space where a buxom coloratura diva is strutting her fretful hour upon the stage, churning out high C’s like a typhoon.
But at some point, as Willy Loman’s wife said, attention must be paid. You’ve spent an ungodly amount of money for your tickets–you ought to get something for it besides peaceful slumber. That’s why the greatest operatic composers came up with the musical innovation called “intermission.” It is a period when the singing ceases and you are free, as they say on airplanes, to move about the concert hall.
I had a girlfriend who tried to convert me to her religion of opera worship, and as a result I am a connoisseur, an aficionado, of opera intermissions. While I love them all, here are the ones that have meant the most to me:
Wagner’s “The Ring Cycle”: This is the grandaddy of them all, the Barry Bonds of grand opera. Intended to be performed over three days, it is a veritable Sahara desert of opera in which each intermission is like an oasis, to be savored. Drink of this respite from overwrought Rhinemaidens and Nibelungs until you’re full, like a sand-weary Bedouin, because you have many miles to travel until the next one. Set your cell phone alarm to go off just before intermission to beat the line at the gift shop for souvenir Viking helmets.
Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd”: This opera has everything going for it; story by Herman Melville, music by Britten, stuttering, half-price buckets of chicken wings and $1 Bud Light long necks until closing time. I made up those last two, but you get the picture. Still, this opera dulls the senses with the best of them, making intermission seem like you’ve died and gone to heaven. Don’t be a piker–get an extra pack of Twizzler’s Red Licorice for your date!
Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”: I studied this one in college, and I used to have the album. There’s a subplot about the Masons which I’ve never completely understood. I thought those were the guys who rode around on little motor scooters in parades. Maybe I have them mixed up with al Qaeda.
Verdi’s “Rigoletto”: I would be remiss if I didn’t include a work by Giuseppe Verdi, the greatest of the Italians. Based on a play by Victor Hugo titled “Le roi s’amuse” (Translation: “Restrooms for patrons ONLY”), this opera gave us “La donna e mobile” (Translation: “Donna’s gone”), the canzone of the Duke of Mantua.
If you hurry down to the refreshment stand, you should be able to get a canzone for yourself and your date before they’re all gone.