Hello, my name is Caitlin Elftman. I am a proud Milwaukee native, I am a millennial and … I am an opera lover.
Did I catch you off-guard with that last statement? While that may not be a typical introduction for a 30-year-old Wisconsin girl, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that going to the opera is certainly one of my favorite things. Ever since attending my first opera outside of Lublin, Poland, I realized that opera is so much more than overstuffed ball gowns and extreme dramatics. The bitter, January cold was instantly forgotten from the first notes of "Rigoletto," a beautiful yet tragic tale of a duke, his court jester and a damaging curse. Ever since that night, I was hooked.
And, lucky for opera enthusiasts like me, Milwaukee is the perfect city to explore your passion for opera. You can experience the very best of this stunning art form in our beloved Brew City with the Florentine Opera Company and the Skylight Music Theatre, to name just a few.
Unfortunately, I believe the hardest generation to convince that going to the opera is both an entertaining and thought-provoking experience is my own. That’s right: the millennials, a generation that can sometimes (if not unfairly) be characterized as being entitled and self-obsessed, or the age group that would rather spend their time binge-watching hours of Netflix or tagging their friends in internet memes (although I’m not going to pretend I’m not occasionally guilty of that).
But I never said I wasn’t up for a challenge. I firmly believe that millennials can thoroughly enjoy opera and bring a renewed enthusiasm of what it has to offer its eclectic audience. After all, millennials are open minded, self-expressive and, above all, passionate – and if that doesn’t describe opera, than I don’t know what does.
Here are a few reasons why going to the opera can be an exciting and meaningful experience for a millennial.
1. It is a completely immersive musical experience
Have you ever just been at home relaxing, and you want to put on your favorite album and turn up the volume as loud as it goes? As much fun as that is, take that sensation and multiply it – that’s how it feels to be at the opera.
From the intensity of the illustrious, boisterous singing voices to the explosions of sounds from an expert orchestra, there is no better way to get surround sound.
2. It showcases unique vocal talent
Coming from someone who does have some vocal training and experience in musical theater, whenever I am lucky enough to attend an opera, I am floored by the exceptional talent of the singers. Let’s just say they make me sound like Florence Foster Jenkins.
Trained opera singers are experts at everything from sight-reading, music theory and history, acting and diction – and must flawlessly perform in multiple languages. That’s on top of their impeccable vocals. Some even call it the "Olympics of Singing," and for good reason.
3. Opera is a team effort
It isn’t just the incredible singers on stage that make attending the opera so magical. It doesn’t matter what role you are; whether you are a musician, costume designer, set designer or prop master, you have to be the very best. Every opera performance allows you to experience a high-quality, collaborative event that perfectly marries human ability and hard work.
4. They are relevant in today’s world
What do you do when you have a bad day? For me, when things aren’t going my way and life gets me down, I put on a pair of sweatpants, go to the freezer for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and I either put on my favorite movie or listen to an opera record for comfort.
If laying on the couch and listening to an opera isn’t something you’ve ever done before to cope with stress and emotion, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. For me, right now I’m really into listening to Handel’s "Giulio Caesar," a tale of love, war and politics.
We all cope with stress in different ways, but take it from this millennial, opera can be a cathartic experience that can provide a new understanding to both the positive and negative extremes of human emotion.
5. Opera has inspired many forms of art you love
Even if you aren’t a self-professed opera lover (yet), I’m going to bet that you’ve at least heard of perhaps the world’s most recognizable opera, "La Boheme." Well, do I have news for you: If you are a fan of the musical "Rent," then you are already an opera enthusiast! That’s because "La Boehme" was the main source of inspiration for the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway classic. Another musical favorite, "Miss Saigon," garnered much inspiration from another well-known opera: "Madame Butterfly."
And it goes both ways; even many of your favorite books and films have inspired exceptional operas. Everything from "Moby Dick" to "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" has been transformed and retold as an opera.
There could be any number of reasons why you haven’t given opera a fair shot yet; perhaps you assume it just isn’t your taste, or you imagine that operas are difficult to follow. But know that it this exceptional art form can beautifully express life’s triumphs and tragedies – and that’s a trait that crosses all generations.
And hope to see you at the opera!