What’s Opera, Doc?

To riff on an old joke:

"I went to a boxing match and a hockey game an Andrea Bocelli concert broke out."

Oh yes indeed folks – my first operatic concert proved to be an enlightening one as I learned that Andrea Bocelli fans can be a bunch of pompous, stuck-up, pains-in-the-you-know-what. 

I’ve been to over 130 concerts, many of them at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, MA, and many of them have spanned a wide range of musical tastes: from the Chieftains to Slayer.  I knew it was going to be a different night just walking towards the entrance – instead of the jubilant activity and noises that accompany most of the concerts I’ve attended (such as tailgating, music blasting out of cars and trucks, people just randomly yelling), everyone was walking either in silence or talking in hushed tones.

Once at our seats, we waited for the show to start.  The Boston Pops were providing the backing music for Andrea (not bad!) and around 8:15 (the show was supposed to start at 8 according to the tickets), they began a bit of prelude music to warm up and set the mood.  No one singing – just instrumental.

It was at this point that things started take a bad turn.  As the orchestra started playing, a group of about 8 people came up the stairs, and were trying to figure out their seats.  An older middle aged man (a bit tough to tell how old he was – could be anywhere from 60 to 75 as far as I know) dressed in a too-tight polo shirt sitting two rows ahead of us was getting annoyed with their noise and actually told them, "I hope you find your seats soon so you can sit down and shut up!"

Now, I’ve been to a lot of concerts where those words would instantly start a fist fight.  But I’ve never seen or heard anyone say that to anyone at any of those concerts.  Apparently heavy metal fans and hard rock fans are far more understanding and accommodating than opera and classical fans. 

These two middle-aged dudes started to get up in each others faces, with their wives having to intervene to prevent a fight from starting.  Bizarre!  Then I went to say something to my mom about the situation and I got "shushed" by the woman in front of us.  I’ve never been "sushed" by a stranger before!!  I was dumbfounded!

The rest of the concert went fairly uneventfully, though about 8:30 a group of 4 African-Americans came and sat down two rows in front of us.  If you’re keeping track, you know that means they had to get by the tight polo shirt guy.  I thought he was pissed about the seat finders… these people who came in late – and were clearly having a good time but anxious to sit down to watch the show – got the "evil eye" for a good two minutes from him.  I couldn’t tell if it was purely because they came in late and disturbed his musical experience or because they were black or a little bit of both.  Given what he had shown of his temperament and his age, it was probably a little bit of both.  Then another couple came in late and sat in the row in front of us, right next to the "shusher" who was infinitely annoyed at them.  I thought there was going to be blood shed when one of them pulled out a digital camera to see if she could take a photo.  Luckily no flashes or beeps went off, so the shusher didn’t have to kill (again, probably).

So here’s my first memo to all you classical/opera fans out there: you’re going to see a popular opera singer (or opera-style singer; check the profile on AllMusic and you’ll see this: "Bocelli has been most successful as a pop ballad singer") at a place primarily sponsored by Budweiser and a classic rock station.   Tom Petty and then Nine Inch Nails are gonna be there the following week.  Don’t expect this to be Symphony Hall.   Yeah, I have a problem with people showing up really late too, but people have to work, fight through traffic and have a right to eat supper too.  I’ll give them a break.

When it comes right down to it, if you want complete quiet and reverence for a concert, don’t go to a place that serves frozen margaritas in three-foot tall glasses and sells Superpretzels.

Oh, and to all you over-privileged twits who think that driving a car worth more than the average American makes in a year (or two) entitles you to get out of the parking lot first, please spend your next $50,000 on getting a reality check.  We all paid to park there, we all want to get out quickly, but you need to wait your turn.  Getting cut-off is one thing, but when some jerk decided that he was entitled to cut 20 cars in line and was going to get in front of me, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Who drives a white Volvo station wagon when you’re that old anyway?

I’m going to go practice my deep breathing exercises now.