by Anthony Merlino
reprinted from "Interstellar Business Traveler"
My wife, Ann, and I have always been fans of the theater so when my editor handed me two tickets to the Imperial Opera Company's performance at the Hero's Theatre of Krios during a recent business trip we both looked forward to sampling this unique expression of Klingon culture. Nothing could have prepared us for the experience and the effect on our lives.
Firstly, we arrived at the Theater in formal evening wear, as one might expect at a prestigious performance of a national professional company. Yet, the local Klingons in attendance seemed oblivious to this, arriving with dirty boots and half-full bottles of liquor, having starting their festivities early. Unlike other, more somber occasions, the boisterousness of the crowd was more what one would expect at a street brawl.
And for a state opera house, the theater was completely lacking in style or flair. The walls and floors were unadorned stone rising sharply in a near-complete circle around a scarred wooden stage. The bleachers, for they were of a quality of an ancient sport stadium, were mere wood benches. Overall, the effect was one of a crater with a flat bottom and steeply sloping sides, topped by a steeply angled balcony.
Our seats were in the front row of the balcony, giving us a bird's-eye view of the stage and the mob in the crater below, literally struggling for the best seats. Next to my wife sat an ancient and scarred warrior who inexplicably struck up a one-sided conversation with her. His accent was thick and I had trouble keeping up with the klingoneese but he had apparently appointed himself the performance's libretto; no printed copy had been passed out before the performance. He didn't seem to care that Ann didn't understand a single word and she sat meekly hoping to survive the embarrassment.
The performance was atrocious. It began without an overture and the musical accompaniment was all cymbals and percussion. The male lead was an epic bass with an inhumanly low voice that caused my clenched teeth to vibrate. The female lead was not the traditional soprano but a jarringly low-toned contra-alto. The story was convoluted. The language unintelligible. The action frantic and loud. As near as I can tell, the plot was something of a cross between Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" and Kubrick's "Apocalypse Now," all done with over-the-top Wagnerian style.
At approximately midway through the performance, at just the time I was hoping for an intermission and an opportunity to slip out of the theater, I realized that the audience was on their feet. Had I not had a front row balcony seat, I would have had to stand upon the "bench" to see the stage. Ann's self-appointed friend was on his feet, singing along with the chorus, brandishing a knife, yelling insults at the villain on stage and was encouraging my wife to do the same. Ann had a wild look in her eyes, and was making an effort to accede to his wishes for fear of offending the aged warrior.
The grand, climactic battle on stage was mirrored in the pit, where warriors apparently had taken up sides and were engaged in battle, tearing up the seats and using them as weapons. And Ann! She had one foot on her seat and the other on the balcony railing, her fists clenched and screaming the repetitive lyrics that had become an underlying musical theme throughout the performance. She was like a woman possessed.
Then, suddenly and as if on cue, the entire audience fell to an eerie silence as the two stars ended the performance with an unaccompanied, lung-bustingly long duet. Then, with the last note still echoing through the hall, the crowd exploded into a terrifying howl that caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand full on end. The crowd surged towards the exits and I was swept away from Ann.
God only knows what happened to her in the interim when I was able to fight my way back in to the theater after fifteen minutes and found her sitting on the edge of the stage, her hair disheveled and hyperventilating, obviously in shock.
The counselor says Ann will be all right but I can't help thinking that she is scarred for life by the trauma. I suppose it could have been much worse. She does seem more assertive than before and the leather garments she's been wearing are kind of sexy but it's unnerving to hear her humming the music from that damnable opera while she's preparing dinner with a very sharp knife.
To my fellow business travelers, let this serve as a warning. The Klingon opera is an infectious form of insanity. Should you ever hear a terrifying sound, one that reminds you of a heard of cattle being savagely murdered by madmen and banshees with clubs, cross the street. You're standing too close to a Klingon opera house.
(Editor's note: Tony Merlino will be taking an extended sabbatical from IBT. The staff and I would like to extend to him our best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.)
|http://www.tasigh.org/kordite/opera.html -- Revised: 18 May 2002
Copyright © 1998, 2002 Kevin A. Geiselman