Monday, November 21, 2011

Flash mob, everyone!

Imagine you're in line at the supermarket.  Suddenly, the guy in front of you starts singing to the lady bagging his groceries, and what do you know, she starts singing back!  "Holy cow!" you think to yourself, moments before you notice that the guy in the next checkout lane, the lady three places behind you in line, and that couple over there in the produce aisle are all singing, too!  Well, last night I was playing around on Stumble Upon, when I, um, stumbled upon (imagine that!) this video:



Quite aside from the lovely performance itself, the reactions of the other shoppers were very interesting to see.  There were, of course, a few people in the crowd who did their best to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was going on.  They kept their headphones in their ears, paid for their groceries, and left with averted eyes.  But they were the minority.  As the camera panned around the store, I watched the various expressions of surprise and delight cross the faces of the many customers, young and old.  They were sharing the wonderful experience of opera with complete strangers, most of them probably for the first time, and the result was almost magical!
This got me thinking.  There are so many people out there who have never experienced opera, and in the normal course of life, probably never will.  Most people who don't alreaky know and love opera are not likely to go out and buy a ticket to a performance on their own, without any sort of external push.  You know, Newton's first law of motion.  An object will persist in its state of being at rest or in motion, unless acted upon by an external force... Sorry, I digress.  Anyway, my point is this: an event like this just might be that external force needed to alter the inertia... ahem... I mean, to pique public interest in opera. 
So after I saw this video, I wanted more.  I wanted to find other examples of opera ambushes, as they are sometimes called.  I found that various organizations and opera companies often arrange similar events, whether to promote an upcoming performance or just to bring a bit of culture to the unsuspecting public.  These events, also variably called pop-up opera and Opera Anywhere, have been put together in such places as shopping malls, restaurants, transit stations, public markets, and even college cafeterias!



One organization of note puts on what it calls "random acts of culture."  These events range from opera to jazz to "impromptu" orchestras.  And several South Florida locales have played host to these random acts.  Earlier this year, shoppers at the Aventura mall were treated to a grand-scale performance of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana.  Travelers at Miami International Airport were surprised with a brass quintet rendition of West Side Story.  And if you happened to be trying on ladies' shoes in Macy's at Dadeland Mall at just the right time, you might have seen this:



These wonderful surprise performances do much more than provide brief entertainment for people passing through on their day-to-day business.  They raise awareness of the arts, and offer an introduction to opera to anyone fortunate enough to be there.  They bring joy to people of all ages, from the older audience members who may already be familiar with the music, to the young adults who may have never really noticed before, and especially to the children hearing it for the first time.  For them, these performances are precious gifts, paving the way for a lifetime love of opera.

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