I have a confession to make. I do hope it won’t make any difference to the way you feel about me, but I can never be sure quite how people are going to react. Are you ready? Okay. Here it comes.
I love opera. Hang on, wait, come back!
Okay, okay, I know. I get this all the time. I say 'I like opera,' and the responses range from 'you know, I think I left the gas on....' to 'you’re really not getting out enough, are you?’ Well, all I can say is, if you’ve never tried it, and if you like music, theatre, or even musical theatre, give it a shot. You might like it! Opera is pure emotion, big style. It’s big stories, undying love, sex and passion on a grand scale, and if you love romance, the chances are you’ll love some opera, somewhere. And it’s not always the case that ‘everyone dies at the end’ either! There are plenty – loads! – of operas with happy endings where the baddies get their come-uppance and the lovers are reunited to live happily after, just as it should be, and just the way we like it.
Far from being out of touch with the modern world, opera reflects real feelings, real passion. When I’m writing, there’s often an aria or two as part of my soundtrack, and some piece always slips its way into the story. Here’s an example – near the beginning of my book A Different Kind of Honesty, the heroine Maggie Lawless feels she may have been betrayed by the hero. As it turns out, he’s as faithful as the day is long and always has been – but while Maggie’s emotions are in turmoil she hears a piece she knows on the radio. It’s an aria in which a woman sings of her sadness at her husband’s betrayal and mourns the loss of the love she once had. It’s desperate and beautiful all at once, and fits Maggie’s mood so well that I just had to slip it into the story.
'Maggie recognized the aria. The Contessa from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; a woman alone and melancholy, remembering moments of sweetness and pleasure, longing for their return. Tears stung the corners of her eyes, but she blinked them away. It was probably just the music.'
There’s something about opera that seems to fit the way I write, though maybe it’s just that I’m too emotional for my own good! But I don’t mind that. If you’re an emotional writer, you'd probably find the same. Whatever your writing genre, whatever your style – contemporary, historical, fantasy, paranormal, romantic comedy, even deep, sexy, dark and delicious - I’m willing to bet there’s an opera you’ll love. Who knows? You might find something that inspires you.
Still not convinced? I think I know why. Opera suffers from a bit of an image problem. Mention the word and it conjures up pictures of short fat tenors who barely reach a soprano's bosom, or stocky females in blond plaits and pointy Viking helmets a la Bugs Bunny cartoons. Yes, I once thought that too, but let me tell you, that image was dispelled for me forever on my very first opera job. I entered a room full of young, vibrant, gorgeous individuals, all of whom were opera singers – and I was hooked for life. Here’s an example. Check out this link to a BBC news item about a recent production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti at Glyndebourne here in the UK. Scroll down the page and hit where it says ‘watch the performers in action.’ It takes a moment to connect, but go on, take a peek. See those two gorgeous blokes? Those two beautiful girls? They’re opera singers, all of them. Now tell me in all honesty – couldn’t you pick any one of them as a role model for your next romantic hero or heroine? I know I could, no problem.
And if you’re still not convinced, here’s my final shot. Here’s one of those four singers, a tenor from Finland called Topi Lehtipuu. Believe it or not, this guy started out as a rock singer! In Cosi Fan Tutti, the boys take a bet to prove that their girls will always be true to them, even if they’re courted by another while their own men are away. So confident are they of their girls’ fidelity that the boys assume disguises (hence the dodgy moustaches in this clip!) and each attempts to seduce the other’s girlfriend. You can imagine the shenanigans and the trouble.... But in this scene, one of the boys, Ferrando, forgets the bet for a while as he dreams of his true love. This aria is called Un’Aura Amorosa – A Breath of Love - and though it’s in Italian, you know what, that doesn’t matter one bit. Listen to the music, watch his acting, and oh, I promise you - you’ll understand exactly what he’s singing about.
Enjoy – and may you be inspired.