'As anyone in public life can attest, there's often a need to get away from it all. Sometimes it's enough to merely switch from one task to another. Other times, I manage to get away without leaving the office--get away to a pastime I've found soothing all my life. I listen to opera.
My first exposure to opera was in a Los Angeles elementary school, as part of our cultural enrichment program (that's why I strongly support the Educational Opera Assn. program of John Arnold Ford, which the city has funded for several years). I remember how we all groaned when we heard that we'd have to listen to opera. Surely, we thought, we'd be bored by a lot of "tra-la-la" in a foreign language. Instead we heard a variety of pieces by various composers. If we all didn't become fans, I think most of us got a feeling for what opera is: a story told with musical instruments, the greatest of which is the human voice.
For me, opera is a soothing, relaxing experience. My earliest favorite was "Carmen." I still find myself keeping time to its lively songs, such as The Toreador's Song and the street boys' chorus. I especially like Bizet's flute and the string work in the melodic songs like the cigarette girls' chorus. The girls' voices and the soldiers' weave together softly, then build to a dramatic climax that never fails to thrill me.