Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
There’s no doubt that opera is something of an acquired taste.
“Opera’s not for me,” says Oliver Westgate, 42, of Water Valley. “I’ve never been, but I don’t think I’d like it.”
Perhaps because mainstream television and movies often portray opera in a satirical way, many people have a negative view of the art form, even if they’ve never experienced a performance.
Julia Aubrey, the president of the National Opera Association and director of Opera Theater at Ole Miss, believes that opera is misrepresented and misunderstood. She says everybody should give it a try.
“In reality, once they’re there, they go, ‘Oh, I get it, this is funny,’ or ‘That touches me,’ — it’s a moving or poignant moment,” says Aubrey. “And the voice is one of the most beautiful, expressive things you can ever listen to.”
The Ole Miss Opera Theater Department is currently gearing up for William Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” showing April 19 at 8:00 p.m. and April 21 at 3:00 p.m. on the Ford Center main stage. It’s a comedy about a nobleman who squandered his fortune trying to seduce two wealthy married women to blackmail them for some of their money; it also includes three men vying for the hand of a young woman and what all the women do to humiliate and get back at the men.
Some people get immediately hooked on the experience.
“I went to the opera last year for the first time, and it was amazing,” says 23-year old Ole Miss student Jeremy Campbell. “I went with some friends and didn’t think I’d like it. I’m planning on going back this year.”
The assumption that opera is only for society’s elite is also a fallacy. The average price to see an opera production locally is about $15.
“I keep it inexpensive because I want people from all walks of life to take the chance, to have the opportunity to see opera,” says Aubrey. “Try something new. Go to the opera. You might be surprised how much fun it really is.”
Opera as an art form began near the end of the 16th century when guests at festivities were used to watching non-musical plays with singing acts between them that employed costumes, stage effects and dancing. Eventually, the musical acts became full stories told entirely through song, and the first operas were born.
“I like the music I listen to to tell a story,” says Patricia Lyons, 26, of Oxford. “I guess I might like a story to be told through song.”
Tickets for The Merry Wives of Windsor are $15 and are on sale now at the Ole Miss ticket office.