Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday: Conversations With a College Kid

#2 daughter and I had a longer-than-usual talk this morning.

One of the upsides to having a kid in college is that you learn without having to sit through lectures.

Like this morning. I knew that in American culture, opera was considered to be for the hoity toity, not the hoi poli.

I'd thought that this was crazy, because opera, even the 'serious' stuff, tends to be the sort of over-played, over-the-top, uber-dramatic display that made the Schwarzenegger action movies popular.

Somebody gets stabbed, and what does he do? Sings an aria! That's like your action movie, where a perforated perpetrator manages to get three or four pithy lines out before collapsing.

#2 daughter explained what happened - she's been learning this sort of thing from music history classes. (In her defense, her description was more conventional than what I'll write here.)

Over in Europe, you couldn't throw a rock without endangering an opera theater. Some cities had opera singers like Hollywood has extras. And everybody went to the opera.

In America, people wanted to see the opera, too. But, it was the upper crust who could afford to ship opera singers across the Atlantic: Beverly Sills and other American-made opera singers were generations away.

So, American opera was a rich-folks phenomenon. And stayed that way, for the most part.

#2 daughter also told me that the music departments in college are the acknowledged leaders in students and faculty with big egos. Second place went to the English departments.

One of my majors was English, and I can believe that ego assertion.

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