Thursday, 21 July 2011

Opera fanatics, analyzed anthropologically

Why not study the anthropology of opera fans just as we study primitive tribes in obscure places ? There's a new book out called The Opera Fanatic : Enthnography of an Obsession by Claudio E Benzecry (2011). HERE  is a description which also covers a much more provoking title, The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire by Wayne Koestenbaum.

Benzecry apparently divides opera fanatics into four types. Heroes who keep the art going,  addicts for whom opera is an alternative to drugs, nostalgics who think the past was golden, and pilgrims, for whom opera is an outlet for OCD.  By which definitions, most people have one or more characteristics, yet certainly aren't demented. "The author hasn't read opera-l", said Gary, who forwarded this to me. (more soon)  It seems pretty normal behaviour, not all that different from other sections of the population, like Elvis impersonators, Havergal Brian devotees, or Cliff Richard groupies who think he's just waiting for the right girl. There was a stamp collector so devoted that he'd wander around China collecting first day covers behind Japanese lines. The Kempeitai couldn't believe an elderly gent would risk his life crawling under barbed wire to get a stamp. Luckily some of them were philatelists too, so he didn't get shot.

There are fans and there are fanatics, who live beyond reason and tolerance. Frankly some "fans" are so deranged that they harm the reputation of the very idol they worship. Obsession fills a psychological hole in a person's soul. In itself that's perfectly reasonable and healthy human behaviour. People keep pets, after all. It only goes haywire when they keep hundreds in squalid conditions and call it love. But even then, that's benign compared with those who would destroy others who don't believe as they do.  Politicians. And  some of the denizens on opera-l ! So, from opera fan to opera obsessive, to obsessive-in-general to extreme megalomania.  That's why it's a subject worth studying, though I'm not too sure about the methodology in either book.


Mendel Markel, said...

If nothing else, a solid answer to those who view opera fans as humorless. I personally feel that my opera fanaticism borders on the "deranged" category, but ultimately I think if it makes you feel good (regardless of why it does) and doesn't hurt anyone, go for it. Still, it does sound like a must read, even if just for the comic relief and a humorous look at oneself.

Doundou Tchil said...

How empoty life would be if we didn't have enthusiasms !!! As you say, as long as they urt no one else they are what makes life worth living. I'm a bit down at the moment plagued by fanatics of the intolerant kind so I really appreciate your sane remarks.