Who Says Opera Can’t Be Fun?
I’m here to dispel a few notions that Opera is not fun. Opera is the mother of all modern day musicals and the grandmother of all music videos. Long before the movie moguls transported this art-form to celluloid film medium, Opera was the only form of musical theater in existence, and was so for several hundred years before movies. The concept of meshing music with visual imagery is not an invention of MTV. So sit back and take a look at the lighter side of an aria, one that isn’t afraid to poke a little bit of fun at itself, giving the audience a little wink and a nod.
The following clip is from the Opera “Les contes d’Hoffmann” composed by Jacques Offenbach and first performed in 1881 in Paris. Our protagonist Hoffman falls in love with Olympia, a mechanical doll. He isn’t initially aware that it is a mechanical doll, and its creator has convinced our Hoffman to wear a pair of rose-colored glasses to help with the illusion.
The aria that follows is Olympia’s debut to the public and to Hoffman who is really impressed and well, let’s say taken. She sings “Les oiseaux dans la charmille” (The birds in the bushes). As a mechanical doll however, Olympia is in need of an occasional “adjustment and winding” when she runs out of power. I’d say the following interpretation is quite er… um… interesting. Enjoy!
I’ve got to hand it to the French – they sure know how to have a bit of naughty fun at the Grand Opera.