Opera For People Who Don't Like It is a drop-dead funny, completely painless look at the art of opera and the people who perform and produce it. It is beautifully illustrated by the talented comic artist Peter Fay.
It is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.
Here are a couple of short excerpts from the book.
From Chapter 4:
"Operatic characters don’t die like everyone else. For one thing, they die singing. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I were dying of some awful disease or someone had just stabbed or poisoned me, the last thing I would want to do would be to sing about it. “Somebody call 911!” would be my most likely reaction, provided, of course, that I were capable of making any sound at all. Most likely, I’d just fall back and die and leave the commentary to someone else.
In Act I of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni (Italian for Don Juan – same guy, different language) has just broken into the bedroom of an attractive woman, with the idea of breaking into her. She isn’t about to take that lying down, and she makes enough noise to wake up everyone, including her father. The father and Giovanni get into a sword fight, which lasts about thirty seconds until Giovanni runs him through.
You’d think that would be the end of the elderly man, but it isn’t. Damned if he, Giovanni and Giovanni’s servant don’t spend the next minute or so singing a trio about how the old man’s soul is slowly leaving his “palpitating bosom.” It’s only on the final cadence of the trio that the old man is finally able to die and be done with it. The poor man gets no rest even then, though. Toward the end of the opera, he comes back as his own statue, just to scare the life out of Giovanni. He succeeds."
From Chapter 14:
"Here is a list of frequently asked questions, along with answers you might get from a singer who is in the mood to be snarky.
Can you break glass with your voice? No. Nobody can do that. If you ever find anyone who can, please warn me ahead of time, because I won’t want to be standing in front of him when he opens up with one of those pinging notes. If he can break glass, think of what he can do with my fragile brain cells.
Where do you sing? I’m like a streetwalker. I perform for whoever pays me. I travel around a lot. So you won’t have to worry that I’ll commandeer you into coming to my next performance. It’s in Tokyo.
What do you think of Luciano Pavarotti? I don’t know. I never met the man and, considering that he’s dead, I don’t think I’ll get an opportunity now. I do love his singing, and I’m sorry that he was silenced so soon.
Is it true that opera singers are temperamental? No. And if you ask that again I am going to kick you in the ass.
How many hours a day do you practice? I practice until my neighbors start throwing rocks through my window. (In other words, I don’t get as much opportunity to practice as I would like, and I’m not about to let you know that.)
What advice can you give to someone who wants to have a career as an opera singer? Find something else to do that has less aggravation and pays better."