Old music by dead guys

One of the things I look forward to doing after my surgery is going to more events at the performing arts center. Right now, I have to contort myself a little to sit in the chairs, and it’s difficult to sit with my legs together. The chair width has never stopped me from going to plays and concerts, but I generally don’t enjoy myself because I’m self conscious about how much I need to shift around to remain conformable.

I’m especially looking forward to taking the Complementary Spouse to more classical music events. To my knowledge, he has never seen a symphony performed. I definitely know he has never seen an opera. I have taken him to see two opera singers in concert, though: Deborah Voigt and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Footnote 1). He said he liked both performances, but I’m not sure if he was just humoring me.

My brother and me at the local performing arts center. I am shocked to realize that this picture is probably 20 years old.

This thought about seeing more classical music popped in my head for two reasons. First, I just made a reference to Rigoletto (Footnote 2) in a previous post. Second, I listened to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in its entirety at work today.

When I was in school in Atlanta, I took two classical music courses, although I can’t play an instrument and I’m probably tone deaf. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra had a great deal for college students: If there were seats available, we could buy ‘em for next to nothing — I think it was $5 or $10. Some of the pieces were easily accessible, like the ones by Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and so on. Some were more difficult to appreciate, but fortunately the atonal pieces were generally not the focus on the program. (I can’t remember if it was Arnold Schoenberg or Alban Berg I heard, but I wasn’t a fan).

I saw several symphonies here before I met the Complementary Spouse, and I found them quite good, even though I’m not the sort of person that can tell if a few notes are played wrong. There are some weird things about our symphony orchestra, though. The first is that they’re always on the move, as they play in three different cities over the weekend. That means the only night I can really go see them in Fridays, or else I have to drive over to St. Petersburg or Clearwater. Second, they seem to play a lot of pops stuff, which is always fun but not as intellectually rewarding as classical music.

After the surgery, I will test the waters by taking the Complementary Spouse to a performance of either Classical (Footnote 3) or Romantic music. If he isn’t checking his watch during the concert, I’ll know I can take him back for additional performances. I once played Smetana’s Moldau for him when we were in Prague, and I think he enjoyed that.

I have never been to an opera, either in Atlanta or here in Florida, but I saw about 10 of them during one of my courses in college (Footnotes 4, 5). The opera season here is quite short, and I’m not familiar with many of the things they perform. I’d love to see Carmen, La Bohème (Footnote 6), or Die Zauberflöte. Perhaps we can arrange a trip to New York to see something at the Metropolitan Opera — I would absolutely love that, and I’m sure the Complementary Brother-in-Law would want to come with us.

I’m sure the Complementary Spouse is reading this and thinking “what the hell is he taking me to?” Trust me, man. It’ll be great. Much, much better than that time we had to sit through that awful, awful Martin Sexton concert.

1. If you know about opera singers, you’ll definitely recognize these names and realize how fortunate we were to have them in our part of the country.
2. Can we all agree that it is one fucked-up opera.
3. Although all non-pop music is usually lumped under the classical name, Classical with a capital C refers to a specific period in music — generally the time around Mozart. The focus is generally on structure. Romantic with a capital R came after Classical music, and it’s generally considered much more emotional. Beethoven is probably the best known Romantic composer. I also like Felix Mendelssohn because he was a member of the tribe.
4. They were on Laserdisc. That should give you an idea of when I went to college.
5. I saw Wozzeck in its entirety. I deserve a medal for that.
6. I have a recording of Puccini performing the role of Rudolfo. Yeah, like he’d ever be mistaken for a starving artist.

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