Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wherein I Make Fun of Another Opera

Ernani sucks. Let's just get that out of the way right now. It sucks and is dumb. The music's pretty good (Verdi: "Thanks, Alice" Me: "No problem, Verdi") but the plot's insanely, ridiculously stupid. Basically, it's based on a story by Victor Hugo, and they cut out a lot to make it into an opera (as we previously discovered with Così, anytime a character's upset, the action has to pause as they sing about how they're upset. This takes time).

There's a girl. Who's...kind of a princess or something. Three guys are in love with her. Ernani, whom we're supposed to like; Charles V, or "Carlo" or something; and this nobleman dude named Silva, whom we don't like because he's old. Elvira the Princess kind of bounces around from guy to guy with little explanation as to why. She actually loves Ernani. Due to various stupid plot points involving a horn, Ernani has to kill himself at the end.

You can tell it's an opera because she looks so soulful and INTENSE

Back when I was newly into opera and generally idealistic about life, I thought Verdi could do no wrong. This was based on my extensive knowledge of his body of work, or rather, the fact that I had listened to a recording of Traviata five billion times (appx) in high school. If he had written something as amazing as La Traviata, I reasoned, surely everything else he did was equally amazing. I thought this despite also knowing that George Lucas made both A New Hope and Attack of the Clones.

If I were actually going to choose a Verdian opera to make his AOTC, I'd probably choose something like Nabucco, but since I've never seen that staged, I'll stick with the Ernani thing, despite it having some beautiful music. Because hey, AOTC has some beautiful music. But I can never unhear that dialogue, and that has made my life sadder.

According to various websites, the following is why Ernani ends up killing himself: he, Silva and the King want to marry Elvira. There's some situation where Silva hides Ernani in a room from Charles V. Then: "Silva challenges Ernani to a duel and is astonished when Ernani reveals that Carlo [Charles V] is also a suitor for Elvira’s hand. The two agree to suspend their quarrel to take vengeance against the king. Once they have done so, Ernani says, his life will be in Silva’s hands. As pledge, Ernani gives Silva a hunting horn: when it is sounded, Ernani will kill himself.

WHAT? WHY?? Why would anyone do that ever?? The moment that happens in the opera, you first say "Well that's an idiotic thing to do," which is swiftly followed by the thought 'That's gonna bite him in the ass.' And indeed it does. Silva RANDOMLY SHOWS UP at the very end, blows the stupid horn, and Ernani's like "Oh, Elvira, even though we just got married and everything looked like it was going to be happy, now I have to kill myself."

Opera's kind of a huge 'suspension of disbelief' setup in the first place. But when you start adding things like "I have to kill myself because I gave that power to this man early on even though it was REALLY STUPID TO DO SO," things get into the 'beyond belief' category. I mean, it's not even tragic then. Instead you're left feeling sorry you wasted three hours listening to characters that were apparently mentally disabled try to navigate a complicated plot. I'm not sure why Verdi didn't ever ask his librettist "Wait...why does he give the guy the horn?" If I had one question to ask him, I'd probably blow it on that, just because this opera pisses me off so much.