My husband (now) and myself 2 years ago couldn’t disagree more.
Surely it’s not the first thing you realize when it comes to opera. It definitely needs a trained ear to appreciate the operatic voices, which are very different from the normal norms of sonic beauty most of us are comfortable to hear, and see. The sky-high pitch, the nasal voice, the loudness which we often accustom to … quarrelling rather than singing. The awkward facial straining including popping out eyes, trumpeting mouth, and all kinds of strange grimaces while making those difficult sound. We prefer soft whispering to shouting generally. Perhaps because loud voices are often linked to anger, aggression, lament, torment, in general unpleasant things that are unbearable.
And in fact, that’s just the point. Opera, for me is emotions being celebrated out. Too much sorrow, too deep pain, too strong joy or affection, the only effective way to depict those emotions are at the top of your voice. It’s so much dramatic, it can not contently be expressed in a milder way. Opera is beautiful as it refuses to be plain and ordinary. Opera is difficult to sing as it’s tricky to both reach the correct notes (whether high or low), paint the correct ‘colour ‘ to the notes, and transfer the correct amount of mood to those notes while maintaining them technically. It’s a fine acrobatic work of balancing controlled technically your voice and setting free the content of your singing emotionally.
Often the good arias are when the performers are rather stiff in posture and rather limited in their moving, as they focus on their vocals. But often you can feel a lot from their singing and also from their facial expression as every raise of eyebrows counts if they are good performers. It’s not an action movies where our brain have the easy job of just sit there lazily and the movie does all the work of throwing out quick movements, startling noises, colourful pictures, all possible means on the surface to rob your attention. Opera, don’t rob your attention, you have to pay attention to see the underlying storm of emotions, and mood going on in the soul of the characters. As soul and emotions are invisible, we’re not used to be so attentive and sensitive to observe them well.
I don’t like all kind of operas to call myself a fan of opera. Operas, as well as with books, or friends, or anything you take seriously, you like only few among an ocean of choices. Some that share the same chemistry and beat at the same tunes with your soul, some that for whatever private personal reason, fit with your preference better. A small collection that you pick very particularly and sparingly but once they got there, you like them dearly, they influence you and just as good old friends they might last a lifetime.