Opera characterized

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A Carrier friend recently told me, somewhat to my surprise, that his father, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 95 and never went to school, had liked opera. He called it "shun be lhehudulh" ᙖᐣ ᗫ ᘱᐳᑐᒡ [ʃʌn be ɬehʌdʌɬ] = "they fight each other with songs". I'm not sure how much Italian he understood, but he seems to have understood opera pretty well.


  1. John Lawler said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    Reminds me of Nanny Ogg's take on opera, from Terry Pratchett's "Maskerade":
    "Well, basically there are two sorts of opera,' said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. 'There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh, I am dyin', oh, oh, oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely."

  2. Rick Matz said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    I grew up on opera. My dad was a big fan and every Saturday afternoon we listened to the Metropolitan Opera brought to you by Texaco.

    A few years before he died, my mother won a contest where the prize was a trip to New York to visit the Met, see an opera (which was his favorite, La Boheme) and meet the director, singers, etc. No one could have won a better prize.

    As for me, except for Mozart, I don't like German operas much. There's altogether too much shrieking. I think I like comedies sung in Italian the best.

  3. Mark Mandel said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

    Sounds like he had a good grasp of the basics.
    As this post was coming up, I could only see part of it because another program's startup screen was in front of the browser window. But as soon as I saw ᙖᐣ ᗫ ᘱᐳᑐᒡ I suspected it was from you, Bill, and when I saw [ʃʌn be ɬehʌdʌɬ] I was sure. :-)

  4. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

    I learned to tell the difference between the two kinds of opera from Ethan Mordden. Before I'd even seen one of either kind, I read in I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore "If it's about courtship, it's comic; if it's about honor, it's tragic." That's when I made up my mind to pursue comedy.

  5. Barry Brenesal said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

    I'm a fan of opera, and there's a lot greater diversity than either "fight each other with songs" or a mixture of dying and beer drinking would indicate. This is especially true nowadays, with the revival of so much from the 17th and 18th century operatic stage, what with ironic parodies of heroic operas, humanistic reflections on the past, and comedies of manners very much in vogue.

  6. Silke said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 6:12 am

    Being German I had a hard time learning to approach opera without prejudice.

    Only after I had dated an American who considered Fledermaus to be an opera and was unabashed when this terrible exposure of lack of Allgemeinbildung (general education) was pointed out to him did I realise how ridiculous it was to feel obliged to listen to the music as if it was beyond my own likes or dislikes sacred.

    i.e. I had to work at improving myself more than a bit to achieve the same kind of "erudition" your friend's father seems to have had from scratch.

  7. david said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 8:57 am

    "shun be lhehudulh"
    What language is this?

  8. Chris Slaby said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 10:07 am


  9. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    @david: See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrier_language (which, incidentally, Dr. Poser has contributed significantly to).

  10. John Chew said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 10:36 am

    I once asked a German girlfriend, "What's it like to be able to understand opera in your native language?" She replied, "What's it like to be able to understand popular music in *your* native language?"

  11. Xmun said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Having just watched (on TV) a performance of La Bohème with subtitles in English, I can testify that the opera makes a lot more sense if you know what the characters are actually saying to one other. It was a beautiful production, by the way, in proper nineteenth-century costume, recorded at the Teatro Real in Madrid. And it was also a very expensive one. I think I read somewhere that a million euros had been spent on it. Now I want to read Murger's Scènes de la vie de bohème.

  12. Bill Poser said,

    January 1, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    Actually, I find it difficult to understand lyrics in any language, even English. I'm not sure why.

  13. mike said,

    January 2, 2011 @ 12:04 am

    @Bill — as do many people, it seems, hence the universality of mondegreens. :-)

  14. Robert Coren said,

    January 2, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

    So, am I the only one to whom "They fight each other with songs" suggests a song from Annie Get Your Gun, which is not exactly opera?

  15. richard howland-bolton said,

    January 3, 2011 @ 7:36 am

    Sorry, but I think Peri's Dafne was the last decent opera to be composed: AND that it survives in the most decent state for opera.


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