Journal of Writing & Environment

Web Rove: To the Opera House!

By Kelly Slivka

I don’t actually listen to opera. Sure, I have a few songs in my iTunes library – an album of Pablo Neruda’s poetry sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, a track of Por Ti Volare sung by Andrea Bocelli (which I only bought because of Will Farrell’s performance in the movie “Step Brothers”) – but I wouldn’t call myself a fan.

However, this could soon change. The universe is guiding me toward the opera, it seems of late. I chanced upon tickets to a showing of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, I’m dating someone who sings opera, and I’ve been enraptured by recent creative pieces themed on the opera.

So in celebration of what is perhaps my new hobby – opera music – I’d like to share these fantastic opera-laced creative pieces from the interwebs.

Plácido Domingo on the Northbound Train” by Jehanne Dubrow (from The Virginia Quarterly)

This poem is magical for me. Not only is it the kind of poetry I typically read and write – a casual and accessible narrative – but it passes through dreams, through lifetimes, and through generations using straightforward words and images. It reminds me of a haiku, in that it captures a moment so precisely it’s almost painful to behold: effort, idealism, reality, exhaustion. I rarely see the human condition painted with such simple piquancy.

The Lesser Blog by Wendy Lesser (from The Threepenny Review online)

This is a blog written exclusively by The Threepenny Review editor Wendy Lesser. Lesser is a huge fan of classical music, and she writes often about opera, especially Handel, with whom she is madly in love. Even though I’m not an opera aficionado, I get a kick out of reading Lesser’s entries. Her enthusiasm is scintillating, and touring her blog is like getting a window into strange new world with its own vocabulary and history and gods. If you need to brush up on your opera to impress a crush or an in-law or a boss, this is the spot to do it.

Echoes” by Edward Hower (from Blackbird)

An opera singer reviews the major and minor events of his career and his time at the New York City Opera in this work of nonfiction. I like this piece, because as with The Lesser Blog, you get a window into an esoteric world. You get the language (basso profundos) and you’re literally behind the scenes at the opera. You also see things in this esoteric world that are familiar to all of us – first-day jitters, on-the-job mistakes, competition, and frustration.

Ellipsis, Third or Fourth Dot, Depending” by Stuart Dischell (from AGNI Online)

This is a great poem. I like the way it flows down so quickly, breathlessly, like falling. I like the opera fantasy in it. The words basso profundo crop up again, but you are prepared for it now after reading Edwar Hower, above. The things this narrator wants to be – in a carnival, in an opera, in a garden, in the clouds, part of the neighborhood. Lastly, I like how this poem connects the opera, which I see as so unapproachable, to the simplest things. As I’ve said, I’m beginning to rethink my stance on the opera.