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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 15-Jun-14


Sunday 15-June-14

A rather intense night at the opera

This last week, I was in Athens, helping a friend do up his flat there. It was an interesting experience, including watching Greek negotiation, which seems to involve high-volume discussion and a lot of hand waving. It was also amazing experiencing the local driving, where road rules seemed more advisory than mandatory.

Anyway, I got the chance there to go to see Mozart's Don Giovanni in Herodes Atticus, the ancient Greek amphitheatre on the side of the Acropolis. I'm not really an opera buff but the location made it an unmissable pull. And indeed it was spectacular and something I will never forget. It also got me thinking about why people like opera.

The goal of all art is, arguably, to stimulate emotion. It's to make you feel something, whether it is anger, fear, sadness, happiness or some combination of these. When we experience emotion, we feel aroused and alive, as opposed to the dull and numbed state that we often find ourselves in. Music achieves these through complex patterning of sound frequencies, that range from the familiar to the novel. Theatrical productions tell stories of human emotion that provoke empathetic responses.

Opera combines both music and theatrical stimulation in a way that intensifies the emotional experience. Operatic stories and singing also tend to be rather exaggerated, leading to further intensification. Bright lights, spectacular costumes, complex sets, all are designed to make you feel more deeply. And putting on the show in an ancient amphitheatre added to all this. The drama even got accidentally heightened more when a woman in front of me fainted and the parametics swooped in. The show did not stop and the lady recovered, but on top of everything else I was close to emotional overload.

So will I remember it? Of course. We remember things that have strong emotions attached, which can be both a boon and a bane, depending on how positive or negative the experience was. In this case, I have intensely happy memories.

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