“It’s too loud, it’s too crazy, it’s too violent…I love it.”
Norma, Rigoletto, Carmen?
You guessed it: professional football (by way of Gregg Easterbrook, journalist and author of The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America. )
The analogy with the outsized drama that is opera struck me (or tackled me, if you will) in light of current news and San Francisco Opera’s recent production of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.
Susannah dramatizes the victimization of a young woman, made possible by the tolerance, indeed, the active participation, of community leaders. It’s a brilliant libretto, and while Floyd had the McCarthy hearings in mind when he wrote it, it holds much wider implications for abuse of power – sexual, religious, and political. Another message is that young people raised in a climate where coercion and violence are acceptable responses may ultimately adopt these themselves.
Easterbrook calls football the king of sports “because it expresses what we are as a nation.” Perhaps in the way Verdi expressed what Italy was as a nation in the 19th century?
But here the analogy ends. Opera and the arts do much more than simply “hold up a mirror to society.” If football is governed by survival of the fittest, opera is a product of intelligent design. There is a creative force that molds what happens on the stage.
Shortly, several hundred of our San Francisco Opera Guild students will attend a dress rehearsal of SF Opera’s next production, Verdi’s A Masked Ball. Based on the true story of the assassination of King Gustav of Sweden, the censors, worried about giving anyone ideas, forced Verdi to move the setting of the original production to Colonial Boston. What really stands out in Verdi’s opera, however, is the importance of integrity, honesty, and justice, even in the face of grave circumstances.
As theatre was in Shakespeare’s England, opera in Verdi’s Italy was a means to sway public opinion and curtail extreme inclinations of the nobility. Methinks Roger Goddell, the team owners, and certain NFL players, would benefit from a night at the opera.
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