Without gooey, wet music, nonfiction can get dry and flaky. Its author may also become too fact-heavy, which feels sort of like having eaten too much white rice. Tonight I read a survival strategy of a favorite writer: listen to opera when you write nonfiction. Makes sense.
They’re cranking out the same goddamn “La Boheme,” the same garrets and the same snow, and the same songs that every ear would identify as “opera.” Art also doesn’t care about doing the same old thing. Classical music is especially brilliant this way– so conservative– that no one opens the program and complains that Bach has been done before. This assures us all: “Play it again, Sam.”
And the waste! While modern playwrights arrange their productions for as few as one or one-half people, to save money, to ensure their productions, at the opera house, they got a couple dozen musicians, fake snow, animals, all those costumes and wigs, football fields of velvet, specially woven carpets. What a beautiful waste. Lights burning late into the night. Even the audience, wasting their livers with gin at intermission. Gorgeous waste. Luckily, rich people love it. Opera advises, “Throw that on! Cut that up! Don’t worry about it, why not? We’ve got more!”
Opera is for when you are older. I knew this, and reserved my interest for after thirty. Before you are thirty, your friends provide you with the sexy histrionics that you crave. After thirty, you shuck off these people, or you develop a drug problem. The thrill of the drama wears dull, and it’s much better to let people in operas fall desperately in love, fight their demons and their parents and their fates. It’s not immature to let your heart bleed for them– in fact, it’s as mature as white hair and pearls.
You can go home satisfied with their beautiful dream, and not have to take them out for breakfast the next day. There’s nothing worse than tragic people over perfectly fried eggs. Opera believes that getting older is getting deeper, because opera knows that older people may be less showy out of ease, not fear. They still have music swelling in their soundtracks. They just don’t always have to drink jell-o shots or skinny dip to start up the string section. Their string sections are more obedient.
So I put on the “Butterfly,” and it rolled and puffed and pitter-patted and I didn’t understand a word of it. For verbal types– all reassuring steadiness and romantic lavishness aside– the blurriness may be the best part.