Jerry Earl Johnston: When life becomes 'operatic,' don't mock it

Published: Friday, May 6 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Jerry Greenfield, left, of Ben and Jerry's, and Rabbi David Wolpe have a discussion at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California, April 6, 2011. Conservative Jewish rabbis met recently in Las Vegas to talk about a plan to "rebrand" the Conservative movement, which has seen alarming declines in membership in recent years. (Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Glenn Koenig, Mct

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I got my brochure advertising the upcoming Utah Opera season the other day. And I thought, "These days, every season — every day — is opera season."

That's because these days, there seems to be an operatic quality to almost everything we do.

For example, I've been watching the NBA playoffs — Grand Opera at its finest. It is an opera filled with villains and heroes, elation and heartbreak. When all seems lost, someone will rush to the rescue. When victory seems assured, disaster strikes.

And NBA "opera fans" can feel every twist of fate in the pits of their stomachs. They live and die not only in L.A., but in every city with a team involved.

People who don't care for basketball, however, think the whole spectacle looks rather silly. All that joy and agony over somebody tossing a ball through a ring?

How corny.

But such has always been the lot of opera.

For aficionados, hearing Placido hit High C brings tears to their eyes, while — for outsiders — all that make up and mugging feels cartoonish, like those robust women in horned helmets busting windows with their voices.

I once knew a couple that looked for a happy medium.

She'd attend basketball games with him and read a book while he whooped and booed.

Then he'd go to the ballet with her and sleep while she daubed tears from her eyes.

One man's opera will always be another man's sideshow.

And that, I think, goes for the biggest opera of all — the opera of religion.

For Catholics, the Pope in his miter performing high mass fills the heart and touches the soul on a dozen levels.

For outsiders, it all looks overdone and melodramatic.

For Mormons, the tenets of their faith make the spirit soar.

For others — the "Book of Mormon Musical" boys, for instance — such things are the stuff of parody.

For the Broadway set, the most earnest and vital moments in life come from characters jumping around on stage while singing and dancing their emotions.

That's why all Broadway musicals look ditsy when seen from afar.

For those deeply involved, however, they are a reason to go on.

In the end, I suppose, the ideal would be for us to recognize what is "operatic" in each other's lives and — even if we don't get it — refrain from mocking it.

Every life has an element of opera to it. And whether your opera is "Grand" or "Grand Ole," remembering that may soften some of the barbs and needles we like to poke at each other.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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