Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I got plenty o' somethin'—opera tickets to give away!

With Adina Aaron, the latter half of Lyric's "Porgy and Bess"
     Every day, almost every newspaper in America runs a column devoted to lies intended to encourage the gullible to continue misunderstanding the world.  
     The Sun-Times used to run two.
     That it’s called “Daily Horoscopes” and that we’ve always run them must dilute the foolishness considerably, because in all the years I’ve worked here, readers have complained about the most head-scratchingly obscure elements of the paper, but nobody has ever demanded to know why we dabble in astrology, at least not to me. I don’t read them, though I often hold them up as a metaphor to those aghast at this or that feature found in the paper. “Here’s a flash,” I say. “It’s not for you. Not everything is for you.” The idea of there being other people, who appreciate other things, is one of the more thorny concepts to grasp, and running a horoscope helps drive that truth home.  A newspaper contains a universe, or should, and people discover in it what they may.
     Sure, the hoofbeats of change—or, if you prefer, doom—thunder louder day by day. The Internet is universe aplenty for most. But we’re still here, still twinkling in your morning sky as mightily as we can, and I like to think we’ll always fill a role, digging up news and curating the wordstorm online.
     Which is a long run-up to explaining why I’m extra pleased to announce the 7th annual Sun-Times Goes to the Lyric Contest. Readers started asking about it last week, when I dropped in on a rehearsal of “Porgy and Bess,” which 100 readers will attend Dec. 8. The choice is ideal. Not only a truly great American opera, with soaring music and powerful voices. But it’s what got me into this whole opera business. I wrote a column about race and “Porgy,” an editor suggested this contest, and away we went.
     I didn’t give the details last week for the same reason I always drag my feet with this: we were still figuring them out. But now we have, and it’s bigger than ever. Not only are we giving away 50 pairs of great seats to the Lyric opera. There are also prizes—stays at a hotel, gifts. And a party beforehand, which we did one year and was a lot of fun. Find details at www.suntimes.com/todayspaper.

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19 comments:

  1. I've been to the opera and I'd rather do that than read horoscopes. To answer your question: I think horoscopes get a pass because folks that buy that stuff are incapable of critical thinking. The rest aren't sure. Sort of like religion, why take a chance on being wrong.

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  2. Horrorscopes....most people read them in the morning and then find situations throughout their day to make them true - and they can always skew something to fit. Hope to see you at the pre-party!

    RC

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    1. I don't believe in horoscopes, but I always thought that those who do should always read them the day after they were printed so as not to make them self-fulfilling prophesies as you alluded to in your comment. And if they did this, they might stop reading and believing in them.

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  3. horoscopes are fun, like the comics
    I only believe them when they are good!
    critical thinking does not help much with romance and workplace woes, or a run of bad luck
    if a cheerful astrological forecast sends you forth with a smile, good on you
    Ellen

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  4. This is a general inquiry (it may become personal, depending on if Reply): Are your Lyric seats &/or activities accessible (comfortable/welcoming vs. barely/reluctance) to mobility-impaired participants? e.g. wheelchair, walker, cane+additional-difficulties.

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  5. For years I thought that operas were about as silly as horoscopes, but I have to admit that there's something in each that entrances millions.

    Thanks, Neil, for the heads-up on authority figures today.

    John

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  6. This reminds me of the time the Sun-Times ran a horoscope on the wrong day and issued a correction, which prompted a smartassed Eric Zorn column that basically said, It's a horoscope. How can they tell what's "correct" or not?

    That prompted an indignant reply from the horoscope's author, Omar somebody, which of course provided grist for more columns. Good times.

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  7. As a former, but largely lapsed, sports fan and a fair-weather opera attendee (free tickets would make for very fair weather, indeed!), I really don't have a dog in this fight. But, I just can't not respond to your Cubs vs. Opera paragraph. It's just NOT a mystery why some people who have been there and many people who haven't perceive opera as dull. Much of it IS dull, especially to those who are not deeply familiar with it. Much of it is glorious, too, of course. It's largely an acquired taste, though, or it would be much more popular than it is. Frankly, taking 4 hours to tell a story that could be summarized in three paragraphs might tend to lead to some filler being included, here and there. : ) Similarly, to a non-fan, a 1-0 Cubs game may be quite a bore. And there's plenty of wasted time. But to a true fan, it might include many instances of great excitement, and can be appreciated for other aspects than winning and/or offensive production. For the entire game, the Cubs are only one pitch away from tying the game. Now, THAT'S entertainment. Ahem. Anyway, to each one's own. I haven't been to a Cubs game in quite a while.

    I always find it curious, though, given your appreciation for opera, that your favorite gripe about sports seems to be that "it's the same thing happening over and over again." This is true in a certain sense, but another way of looking at it is that something new is always happening and that one never knows before the game what the precise outcome will be. These are among the primary attractions of watching sports. Why, just Sunday, both Aaron Rodgers and the Bears managed to accomplish things that had only been done once before in the long, long history of the NFL. (Spoiler alert: the Bears giving up over 50 points in back-to-back games is not really much of an "accomplishment.") Hardly the same old / same old.

    Yet, attending multiple performances of the same opera production, to the casual observer, largely DOES appear to be the same thing happening over and over again. This doesn't seem to bother you like it does when it comes to sports. Because, I suppose, in that instance, you personally ENJOY the repetition.

    Having said all that, I hope it doesn't preclude my thanking you for creating this contest. It's a fine idea, benefiting all involved, I'm sure. And it seems like you've really ramped things up this year. Beyond that, for a general-interest columnist such as yourself to write about opera as often as you do is certainly commendable, regardless of what nitpickers such as myself might argue with, and whatever what your horoscope may say. ; )

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  8. Love the photo at the top of this blog. What are the objects? Where are they?

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    1. Oh sorry, I mean to caption them. They are ancient Chinese figurines, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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    2. Thanks--they're terrific. Will go check them out--would not have guessed they were Chinese.

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  9. Opera is a taste worth aquiring because its musical and dramatic complexity, as well as the virtuosic talents needed for performance, make it of more enduring interest than more accessible entertainments. I saw my fourteenth or fifteenth Marriage of Figaro in a chamber production at Ravinia this summer, and, even though I could sing along with the bouncing ball, encountered fresh delights previously overlooked. Alternatively, I enjoyed The Sound of Music this spring at Lyric Opera, but would endure it again only as an act of penance..

    Opera plots are sometimes silly and not very believable, but so what. Leslie Stephen, Great Victorian and Virginia Woolf's daddy, once said "No good story is ever really true."

    Porgy does indeed have a hopeful, if not entirely happy, ending. If you're into tragedy go to a Bears game.

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  10. Neil, I generally like your insights & always like your writing, but may I humbly suggest you lack math skills? Odds for winning a pair of tickets seem more like 50 out of "thousands" of entries, not 1 out of 50. (Surely the bright son still at home would have caught this, if he deigns to read the old man.)

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    1. Sigh. Most people who point out supposed errors are themselves wrong, though your mistake is understandable. Thousands of entries are, say, 2,500—that's where you were led astray, in my attempt to make the thing seem more popular than it actually is (although 2,500 IS "thousands," technically). We give away 50 pairs of tickets. So the odds are 50/2500. 2,500 divided by 50 is 50. Thus 1-in-50.

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  11. I cringe in anticipation of your wrath as I ask yet another question about the Opera Contest, Neil. I signed up to enter the contest online. But there's this stuff about a question each day. As a non-subscriber, I can find no answers posted online. Does one either have to subscribe online or get ahold of a physical copy of the paper to avail oneself of the answers to said questions?

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    1. To my knowledge, you have to get your hands on the physical paper. I'll ask Monday if they can be found online? Wrath? Do you know how many readers' hands I had to hold because they couldn't find the paper, or couldn't see the ad in the paper, or the banner ad on the web site to click....I am calm itself.

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    2. Thanks for the response. I guess I can steal my neighbor's S-T enough times to increase my chances from the one in fifty! ; )

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    3. Neil,

      Since it's now over, here's one more observation about the Opera Contest. I know it demonstrates a distinct lack of initiative, but I was only able to avail myself of a copy of a Sun-Times once during the run -- yesterday -- then, only because I knew it was my last chance. Previously, I tried guessing at the answers on the days that I thought about entering, with limited success, alas.

      Anyway, after rapidly paging through a copy at an undisclosed location, I found the Contest ad. From what I could tell, it contained the answer to Wednesday's question, and a new question about Boeing moving here, in part, because some of its honchos are Opera fans. But I never figured out where to find the answer to THAT question. No matter, since it was the easiest question I'd seen -- one that could easily be figured out by googling, but which didn't even require that, since the 3 other companies listed as choices had never "moved" here, at all. Whatever.

      The curious thing was that last night, when I logged on to enter my answer, there was a different question on the contest website, to which the correct answer was "all operas should be presented in English," if I'm not mistaken.

      Just thought I'd mention this, though I realize that it's a moot point and a tedious one, at that...

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