I went to the ballet to try to broaden my horizons. I tend to be more artistically inclined than, say, the governor of Minnesota, but my tastes do not generally run as deep as ballet. All that dancing, and so few electric guitars. It seems like a waste.
The opera is something else I usually find inaccessible. I always wonder how it would be to live in that strange world where people sing instead of talking. I think there would be a lot of suicides in that world. Which there are in operas, too, so I guess it makes sense.
The last opera I saw was “Carmen,” which is a delightful show about a skanky woman who wins the love of a guy named Don Jose, who then kills her. Huzzah! (“Carmen,” by the way, is in no way affiliated with “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”)
But back to the ballet. Before I went, I happened to see part of a DVD recording of “Swan Lake,” which was staged last year on Broadway in an attempt to trick theater-goers into watching ballet. At one point in this ballet, several of the main characters go to an opera. A ballet about people going to the opera: What sort of experiment is this? If the opera were about people standing in line at the DMV, then the unholy trinity of tedium would be complete, all in one show.
Or so I thought, before I attended a ballet last week in Salt Lake City. (As is often the case, my opinions had to be altered upon actually experiencing the thing.)
It was not boring. It was beautiful and exciting. The stage was filled with so many lithe young men and flat-chested young women, I thought an Obsession commercial was going to break out. The music and dancing complemented each other, telling a story. (“Once upon a time, there were some people who were dancing.”)
It was a wonderful experience, even with the two old ladies behind me who kept talking. I think they’re the same two old ladies who are always behind me, talking during shows, like when I was at “No, No, Nanette” and someone in the play said, “Marry me, Nanette!,” and one of the old ladies said, “That’s Nanette,” which we all found very insightful. These old ladies follow me around everywhere I go as part of a vast conspiracy to drive me crazy. They report back to their headquarters, which are in a secret lair cut in the shape of a big purse out of the side of a mountain, where the evil queen old lady says, “What is the status of Operation Drive Eric Crazy?,” and the old ladies don’t answer, because they weren’t paying attention, because they were talking about shampoo.
But I digress. If I had a nickel for every column I’ve written about people who talk during shows, I’d have enough money to have each of those people killed.
The point of this particular column is that we needn’t be so afraid of things like opera and ballet. In Europe, people go to operas the way we in Utah go to plays: It’s a fairly casual thing, everyone does it, they bring their screaming babies, they eat candy bars during it, they call it a “good” production as long as everyone knows their lines, and they get mad if any local critics say otherwise.
Ballet is also popular in other countries, primarily countries where televised wrestling is not popular. Many of these countries are in Europe, though, so I can understand our ignoring them when they say ballet is fun. But you can take my word for it, and I’m sure the old ladies will back me up. Don’t look, but they’re sitting … behind me … right … now ….
A few very devoted readers can tell you that in high school, I wrote a parody of Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" called "Chunky Ballerina," and that the first line of the parody was the same as the first line of this column.
The ballet I attended consisted of chunks of several ballets, none of them particularly famous, as ballets go. A few of them were originally choreographed by George Balanchine, who is famous enough for me to have heard of him.
Kudos to my friend Ben for the DMV addition to the ballet/opera combo.