opera or Broadway?

I got lucky earlier this month when I went to the Big Apple. I didn’t have to choose between seeing an opera or Broadway show. I packed them both in one day–Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met and Anything Goes at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre later that night. I realize I was fortunate to have seen both. Today’s theatre prices might have demanded I choose.  No, I’m not independently wealthy. I hadn’t seen a Broadway play since 2008.    

Surprising, really, for someone whose early ambition was to be on Broadway, that I would rather travel to New York to see opera than catch the hottest Broadway show. Stunning, considering I never used to miss the Tony Awards and always tried to pick the winners ahead of time, always knowing most of the contenders. Now, I have a strong command of many of the names and personalities you’re likely to see at the Met and other houses in addition to the roles they are playing. And let’s not forget who’s doing what–thanks to Bachtrack.com, which I consult regularly. Yet I couldn’t tell you more than a handful of details about the current slate of shows on the Great White Way.     

I enjoyed both productions though perhaps not equally. The point of this post isn’t really to pit opera against Broadway and make the reader choose. The point is to tell you that I think my love affair with Broadway has ended–and that I have a new love interest. Begins with an “o.” Ends in an “a.” Five letters.    

No, it’s not Omaha.    

It’s opera, of course. But why? Because it is so damn difficult to sing and to present. And the performers and houses that do it well make an art form that requires consummate skill and knowhow look easy, like you should try it at home.    

Unless you are a trained professional, don’t even attempt opera singing. You might kill yourself. Or the people living with you, if you persist.    

I won’t go into the reasons why I didn’t pursue that Broadway career. Had life circumstances not changed my path radically, I think I might have made it. I did have talent way back when. Whereas I never could’ve sung opera professionally. Too difficult. It requires too much discipline to study and perform.    

Damrau, Florez, and DiDonota in Le Comte Ory

Too much vocal skill. Skill and vocal calisthenics that many Broadway performers would have a hard time matching–certainly not night after night, performance after performance. Right now, I’m remembering the bedroom scene during Act II of the Metropolitan Opera’s Le Comte Ory. Not only are the three principals acting–deftly–with broad comic timing. They are also singing Rossini at the same time. Rossini. As I said in my review on Le Comte Ory for Bachtrack, “The tryst scene in Act II in which Diego Flórez, Damrau, and DiDonato sing ‘À la faveur de cette nuit obscure’ was the ideal synthesis of song and performance.”   

I’ve never seen Rent and doubt I ever will. The last thing I want is to pay heapum lottum money to be serenaded by an audience of Rent-heads.    

Given the chance to see another professional production of La bohème, I’m there faster than you can say, “Mimi.”

3 Comments

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3 Responses to opera or Broadway?

  1. Hello, Joyce! Thank you for stopping by and weighing in on this topic. While it would be hard for opera to compete with the dancing virtuosity on Broadway, as you mention, opera singers can fill a house without amplification, night after night. Not to mention the runs. How many Broadway belters can handle anything approaching coloratura runs? By the way, I like your blog and will link to Operatoonity!

    Hi, Samantha. So glad you dropped in on this post. Yes, all you who aspire to sing classically have noble pursuits. I wish you the best of luck!

  2. Samantha Ash

    Love that article! I am studying singing as i would like to be an opera singer. It is hard. Very but i don’t mind. I just think it will pay off in the end

  3. Hi Gale,

    Like you, my first musical love-interest was (in elementary through high school) musical theater. Opera never crossed my mind. Then I realized I was not a belter and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. This was difficult to accept at first, but now I am a classical singer with no regrets 🙂 Opera singers may not engage in some of the more robust dancing that Broadway performers do, but I’d like to see them keep up in terms on unamplified sound production!

    ps. I, too, have no idea what shows are up for Tony’s anymore!