Monthly Archives: October 2008

Manon: Thoughts on the Opera

A few weeks ago I attended my very first opera. I’ve been to twenty one Broadway musicals but never an opera. My friends and I dressed for the occasion, not because we had to, but rather for the heck of it. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is a truly beautiful building; the theater is tall and rounded so that every seat is a good one. Danny somehow had managed to find $20 orchestra tickets. He wagers they were really worth $160. Mwahaha.

The curtains opened up to a stage bustling with people. In the background there sat rows of people who looked down upon a tavern scene. It was as though they completed the other half of an amphitheater. The ladies of the tavern mostly appeared lewd and crude, moving around from one gentleman’s lap to the next. Dancers popped in and out here and there. Bawdy is the appropriate term. And then the singing began. And it did not stop. Not for another four hours.

I didn’t mind so much, but what I could not understand in my opera naiveté was why they needed to sing for everything. “Why do you doubt me,” sang a large-chested baritone, “for whenever before have I given up an opportunity to go drinking?” I got used to this emphatic pronouncement of mundane activities, but I still do not understand why it was necessary to sing about them with such gusto. In a musical, the fact that there is a song indicates particular importance of an event or emotion. In an opera the clues are not so obvious. I suspect that such clues are in the music itself. In order to fully appreciate an opera, you need to listen to the music itself to understand the extent of sadness, joy, exuberance and grief. If an event is important, somehow the tones, the instrumentation, or the key change will let you know. This unfortunately did not occur to me until after the opera. I was too busy trying to figure out what was going on.

It took forever for the leading lady to die. I wonder if that is normal.

Overall, I emerged from the Opera thoroughly impressed. The idea that humans can create such powerful sounds with their bodies cannot help but to impress, especially considering the leading lady was a TINY woman. How could such a small thing produce so big a sound? Simply Amazing. Though I do not think this one visit instantly transformed me into an opera enthusiast, I am nonetheless pleased I went.

There was no fat lady. It therefore was hard to tell when it was over.

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Redeeming Reason, apparently

Golly Gee, it has been a long time since I have written. I really like that phrase, golly gee. I think we should bring it back.

Over the summer I had a hard time writing regularly because I was convinced that you need to be out and doing things gathering material for the blog. Now I am bouncing all over the place and finding it hard to narrow down my day’s observations to a comprehensive and hopefully entertaining post. Whatcha gonna do?

So what have I been doing? The Lord has sent me back to Chicago where I have signed on to working on the Redemption of Reason conference. The Redemption of Reason, and it has taken me a long time to figure this out, is a conference series engaging the University community in conversation about the intersection between Christianity and Academia. The general idea is that we should refrain from segregating our knowledge by their source—we should combine all of the knowledge we have so that we can have a holistic understanding of God’s truth. As Christians, we not only can think empirically and logically, but we can also rely on scripture and revelation for knowledge. We should use all we can.

This year, the conference is a little different. We focus this year on social justice and human rights. First, we hope to expose our audience to the complexity of both the idea of human rights and the circumstances of injustices around the world. Then we wish to discuss the role of Christians both in history and currently. Lastly, we hope to get people energized on what we can do to spread the idea of human rights via the Gospel as a way of promoting justice around the world, starting with sweet home, Chicago.

Yes, this is what I am doing. Or trying to.

ßThis photo is of Contemplation of Justice, complements of the illustrious Mr. Josh Sauerman.

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