Monday, February 26, 2007
A few years ago I feel in love with a wacky opera from the early 1930s called The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. A cynical spoof about greed and disillusionment. The characters are shameless bastards, driven by pleasure and money*. Several self destruct. One is excecuted because he can't bay his bar tab. His friends, while sentimental , won't lend a dime to save him. A murderer bribes his way into a "not guilty" verdict. Stuff like that. It has a crass and cartoony element that keeps it from being too preachy or depressing- but it does make one think about the ugly side of human nature.
A two minute clip can be found here. Note the "Seek the truth and ye shall be dissapointed" sign.
In 2005 I bought the cd and played it over and over. In time it became my own personal soundtrack, associating songs and musical passages with things happening in my life. When I discovered the Los Angeles Opera was producing it, I was over the green moon. My parents and I catch a few operas each year, and I told them they just had to see this one!
I waited over a year for it. Yesterday we went.
The opera house was packed. The orchestra started. I couldn't' believe it. I was really here! I was seeing my favorite show. My show!
I watched the first act like a giddy kid in a fun house ride. They'd done a good job! Singing, staging, acting, costumes, casting.
"So howdja like it?" I asked my folks, at intermission.
"It's okay," my mom sighed, "I hope the second act is better"
"Me too," said Dad.
As the lights dimmed for the second act, I noticed conspicuous clusters of empty seats. People had walked out! Were they crazy?
Maybe I was the crazy one. The cackles at the funny parts came from sparse corners of the audience, including a few souls behind me that were having fun. Everyone else stared in silence.
My mom kept up the "is it over yet?" nudges. I tapped her at the final note and she clapped with enthusiasm.
"You liked it?" I asked.
"No!" she said. "I'm glad it's over!"
"Yeah," Dad added. "I was about to climb up on stage and kill the protagonist myself. I don't usually agree with the Nazis but I'm with them on banning this! I couldn't wait for it to end"
"The people behind me liked it," I said,
Mom disagreed. "They probably were just pretending to like it, to look sophisticated."
I felt like a mutant. How come I fell in love with a show that most people disliked, if not hated.
Why was I so out of step with everyone?
If anyone out there likes this show let me know. We can form a support group.
*I don't buy into the "capitalism = bad" notion that this show hints at, but agree that people can be greedy jerks, using the system to cheat and exploit others.