Saturday, January 23, 2010

Miniature Opera Guides (or anything that goes with event tickets)

I realize that opera is a very specific, acquired taste, but I also thought I wouldn't like opera, and I was wrong. For Christmas 2008, I put opera tickets in my husband's Christmas stocking because I knew he'd been wanting to go. (Unfortunately I also left the receipt lying around so the surprise was kind of ruined!) The tickets were for A Midsummer Night's Dream, because I wanted to start with something that was in English and that was a comedy. I really enjoyed it, so this year I bought a package deal for tickets to three of the Houston Grand Opera performances. No easy comedies this time: I got Tosca and Xerxes, both in Italian with English supertitles, and The Turn of the Screw, which is in English but is a creepy atmospheric ghost story based on the Henry James story.

So last night was my real test: was I going to like tragic opera sung in a language other than English? Yes! Although a tragedy, Tosca is also a beautiful love story and it even has a little humor in it.

In any case, though, one of the reasons I enjoyed the opera is that I did a little homework. A week beforehand, we went to a lecture on Tosca, learning a bit about the opera itself, the composer, and the context in which it was written. Opera is not like the movies -- you don't have to worry about spoilers because 1) the stories are generally well known to begin with, and 2) if it's a tragedy, which many of them are, you already know that most of the good guys are going to die. So generally, the more you know about the particular opera going in, the more you'll enjoy it. At the lecture we went to, we purchased a little booklet guide to Tosca -- sort of like a Cliff's Notes to the story. This guide was prepared by the lecturer who is local to Houston, although you can order the booklets by mail.

I also looked just now on Amazon and there are miniature guides to many operas there as well. Shown here is the La Traviata guide that is part of the "Opera Journeys Mini Guide Series". The booklet is 36 pages and measures 8.3 x 3.2 x 0.2 inches -- in other words, it's a tall and narrow little booklet that would fit into a wide-mouthed stocking.

Along with some tickets. ;-)

Since I know that opera will not be to many people's taste, and not everyone lives near an opera company anyway, I'll try and make this post a bit more general at the end by saying that tickets to anything the recipient will enjoy make terrific stocking stuffers: rock concerts, Sesame Street on Ice, you name it. And they're a great opportunity for paired gifts, because you can get a CD by the band whose concert the tickets are for, a Sesame Street toy or stuffed animal or book, etc. Tickets to a Broadway traveling show can be paired with a DVD of the movie if there is one, and so on. The possibilities with event tickets are endless.

What: Miniature Opera Guides (or anything that goes with event tickets)
Where: Amazon (for opera guides) or elsewhere
How much (as of today's post): approximately $9.75 for opera guides

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