What You Always Suspected About Opera Is True
When it comes to sung classics I’m relentlessly middlebrow. Give me Offenbach or Donizetti over Wagner any day, or Gilbert & Sullivan, although I have a soft spot for most Verdi except ‘Aida’. Despite all efforts to democratise it, opera remains relentlessly upper class, and therefore periodically deserves to be mocked.
There are past pieces on this site about the British love of fooling around with classical music – I’ve always like Victor Borge’s versions of classics, especially the one where he starts off in the wrong key, Hoffnung’s legendary concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Barry Humphries’ delightful overturning of Peter and the Wolf – but I’d not come across this before.
The English National Opera faces an existential dilemma; it’s no longer needed. All opera houses have surtitles, so we don’t need opera sung in English, and the ENO seems unable to open out its brief. Why not a night of classical comedy?
Here the soprano has no idea that her song is being translated as heard behind her back by comedian/musicologist Rainer Hersch, here conducting.