Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Opera and the DSM

I have been spending WAY too much time with therapists of late. I know because I sat through the tragedy of Faust and kept seeing mental illness instead of characters! The soldiers all clearly had PTSD and Marguerite had one nasty case of post partem depression. Execution seems a bad way to treat a new mom who has clearly lost her marbles, so we have progressed a bit as a civilization since this tale was inked.

I started to think of all my favorite operas and I realized that if we had better psychiatric care in the last few centuries, we wouldn't have any decent plots! If SSRI's had been invented before booze, where would the human race and classic tales be then, I ask you? Prozac nations don't do awful things to their families and lovers, and where's the drama in that?

But maybe that's an important point--we all struggle through our human condition as generations have in ages past. The passions, the pain, ultimately death--which is often untimely, are common to all--although most of us can't sing our way out in an unwavering aria.

Sometimes, especially when its been a hard week, I find a trip to the opera is so cathartic. It's an escape, yes, where I can lose myself in the sumptuous staging or the unlikely fantasy of throwing oneself off a rampart after a little music that rocks me to the core (can't wait for Tosca, can I?), but it also is cleansing in a way that deep true emotion is. Truth become the underlying vibration, an aura in the air. Someone always loves something too much at the opera--whether its Faust who loves youth, or Mephistopheles (my daughter and I disagree---I totally would have signed a deal with that guy, she thought he was creepy) who loves to capture another soul in his stable. And Siebel who loves Marguerite. Haven't we all loved something too much and badly. Regrets and wasted lives are much more palatable and nuanced at the opera than on the front page. Fenger High School needs a Gounod to steep us in that tragic tale.

And I await the operas that tell stories where women are not the pawns of men. But that will have to be a new generation of tale tellers. Get to work folks, I NEED you. I just can't wait for the rest of the Lyric Season, where I can escape the parking debacle and the state budget woes and immerse myself in times that were REALLY hard.

I know I have heard grumblings about all the old chestnuts pulled out for the season from some other opera fans, but times are hard and we need to revisit the old beloved tales, and we need opera to be here in 5 and 10 years so I appreciate that the scions of culture have belt tightened a wee bit to keep on keeping on.

See you at the Civic.

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