Thursday, April 26, 2007

Space Opera

A couple of coworkers tried to recruit me into their opera club the other day.
A bunch of the staff and volunteers at the office get together every time a new opera comes to town and have a potluck supper followed by a discussion about the particular feature they’re about to head out to see. The idea is to revel in their specific cultural passion and to try to “enlighten” non-opera fans (and thus swell their ranks).
I declined the invitation.
While I have the highest respect for this form of music, it’s just not something I enjoy much. Certainly I do enjoy the instrumentals of operas, but the singing doesn’t do anything for me. I think it’s an acquired taste – and one that’s still fairly bitter to me.
The fact that the office types haven’t given up in their attempts to convert me (this recent “invitation” was, in fact, their fourth attempt – and it should be noted this recent invitation was actually repeated about three times over the course of two days) has caused me to begin to view them (affectionately though) as a type of cultural Borg – attempting to assimilate all consciousnesses in the office into their collective in an attempt to achieve perfection in musical appreciation and potluck supper variety. They differ significantly in that they haven’t arrived at the office in a huge cube or sphere – yet.
That’s got me to thinking about instances where opera has popped up in sci-fi/fantasy/horror TV and movies. This is not to be confused with operas that have used speculative fiction as their inspiration (such as “Dracula” or “1984” – Wikipedia’s got a whole list of them, and one that’s by no means complete – hasn’t “the Lord of the Rings” been turned into an opera?) – I’m talking about television shows or film in the genre(s) which have made effective use of opera as part of their soundtracks or the focal point of scenes. Even though I don’t enjoy the singing component, I can appreciate how its use can enhance a scene.
Non-genre examples come to mind easily: “Philadelphia”, “Glory” and “The Untouchables” to name but a few.
But speculative fiction TV/film examples are a little harder to find (references to opera in written sci-fi, fantasy & horror are legion).
It goes without saying that the various incarnations of “The Phantom of the Opera” feature this particular art form at some point.
There’s the scene near the beginning of “Star Trek: First Contact” where opera rattles the portholes as Picard broods over his recent visions of the afore-mentioned Borg just before Riker enters.
“Deep Space Nine” in its final years featured regular references to, and examples of, opera – though the decidedly unpleasant Klingon variety. And I think it was mentioned on “Voyager” from time to time.
There were a couple of points in “Conan the Barbarian” where opera is employed quite powerfully.
We hear references to and see the ruins of (and full-blown hallucinations of an intact version of) the opera house in the capital city of Kobol on the new Battlestar Galactica (though opera itself is not used in the show’s score to my recollection).
Don’t the new brides belt out a bar or two at the end of “Young Frankenstein”?
Can we classify that weird singing/spherical swimming performance in “Star Wars – Episode III Revenge of the Sith” in the scene where Chancellor Palpatine dangles the possibility of discovering the secret of preventing death in front of Anakin Skywalker as a type of opera?
Was opera featured as background music in a scene or two of “Serenity” or “Children of Men”? I can’t quite remember.
Beyond that, nothing much comes to mind in film or TV.
That being said, the disturbing thought has begun to take root that if I can appreciate – and even enjoy – the use of opera to enhance a scene in sci-fi/fantasy/horror TV and film, then perhaps, just perhaps, there is a tiny, deliberately unrecognized, part of me that does, in fact, enjoy it. (shudder) I won’t be buying tickets to see the Tenors anytime soon, but maybe this means there’s the possibility I might join the office opera club for supper one night sometime down the road.
Resistance is futile.


Unknown said...

Well, on behalf of the opera club, you will be o-ssimilated!

Robin Shantz said...

It's like listening to some surreal hybrid of Alice Krige and Luciano Pavarotti: "Your culture and technology will be adapted to listen to Monteverdi and Wagner." Where's Picard when I need him?