Friday, July 30, 2010

Lesson Learned: Megan Decides to Like Opera

This is the last of our sample essays before we turn it all over to you. Don't forget about the great prize. We can't wait to hear from you! Don't forget, the deadline is August 7th.

I like mildly inaccessible culture. I happily stood for three hours at a time to see Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and four other Shakespeare plays at the Globe.  I appreciate film festivals with especially esoteric films. I love going to indie rock concerts or bluegrass concerts or classical music concerts. I like ballet and can even get behind some modern dance. I delight in postmodern novels and modernist poetry.

And I'm a big fan of opera.

I didn't always like opera. My parents weren't fans and they would always change the classical music station when someone started belting an aria. Bugs Bunny made fun of it. My first live opera experience was nice, but there were no supertitles and I was a little lost, so it was more of a novelty than anything. It was something to check off my list of snooty things I'd done, and I did it. [dusts off hands.]

Then, a couple of years ago I was simultaneously doing an internship at the Music and Dance Library in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, and reading a novel called Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. The novel had several characters who loved opera, and the way they talked about it made me want to join their super-special opera-loving club. The internship provided easy access to lots of CDs, libretti, and effusive music majors. It was time.

So I started checking out stacks of opera CDs. I packed my purse with double- and triple-disc cases: Don Giovanni, The Barber of Seville, The Flying Dutchman, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Fidelio, Porgy and Bess, The Rake's Progress. 

The thing I think is amazing about this experience is that I set out to like opera, and I liked it. In fact, I loved it. I would sit in the Reading Room with a stack of scores to be cataloged and a pair of those giant headphones, and I would just glory in the sounds. I listened to them in my car or while I was reading in my room. I started having favorite singers and composers (Bryn Terfel, Verdi). I started searching the Utah Opera website for student ticket prices.

My love of opera has served me well. I moved to Indiana the next year, and IU's music school puts on three fantastic operas every semester. I have several operas on my iPod, and they provide a welcome respite when I'm tired of drums and guitars during a long day at work. Operas make me feel good about the world.

But I think more than that, the experience taught me that you can set out to like something and actually end up liking it - maybe even more than you thought you would. I set out to learn to appreciate opera and ended up finding something that brings a lot of joy to my life. Sometimes when there's something I don't expect to like, I remind myself about opera and I think, "I can have positive feelings toward this. I just have to decide that I want to like it."

I'm fond of calling certain things that took me awhile to like "acquired taste  ______." Acquired taste music. Acquired taste art.  And I guess I say "fond" because the things that I have to work to love often end up being my favorite things.  There's something about making a conscious choice to learn to love something that gives me a feeling of ownership and power over my experiences. I choose what I love. I choose to love.

Lesson learned. Thanks, opera.


Emily said...

I love love your writing style, Megan.

Lately, the idea of "choosing to love" is an idea that has been influencing a lot of who I am, what I do, and who I hope to be.

fidjiti said...

I too love your writing style. You and my hubby have a way of using awesome words, to convey your message, which have me opening the dictionary to see what the meaning is behind them. Thank you! I love learning new words even if I can't remember what they were the second I close the dictionary.
I too love to love things. It's just part of being a girl I think. I think I love a lot of things which people usually only say they "like." But I don't care. I guess you could say I'm a girl who just loves things. But that doesn't lessen the type of love or the meaning of love. Just because one doesn't use the word love as much as I do, when describing something or an activity or a person, doesn't lessen the love I have. Thanks for the great article. I will have to listen to some opera because I think I would love it too. :)

LifeAsABox said...

There are many things in my life that I have chosen to love. Of course sometimes I am sad when I don't like a thing as much as I expected to, and other times when I stubbornly like something I don't really until one day I love it. And then I read Stuff White People Like and realize that my individual identity has been socially constructed.

Anonymous said...

Bel Canto is the first book I read that actually made me cry...

Love the post!

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