February 4

Attending the Opera: The Teenage Dream

At first, going to the opera in 2016 felt like going to a Nickelback concert, well, any time after 2005. Presented with the opportunity to get two free tickets to Die Tote Stadt, a German opera currently playing at the Jubilee, my initial pique in interest can be mostly attributed to the sheer randomness of the idea, as well as their use of the word “free.” Still, it was enough to prompt me to “just do it”, “seize the day”, or some equivalent German proverb, and this is how I found myself posting the following status on my Facebook page:


If I am being honest (an honesty that, of course, excludes my link to a disappointingly non-existent webpage), I did have a specific person in mind when I was writing this post. Some part of me held out hope that said person would notice me soliciting companionship to a show in which all of the dialogue is sung in German and think, “That is exactly where I want to be on Saturday night.” Where did I get these unrealistic expectations of reality? I blame Disney.

And while these hopes were never validated, I did get several responses to my Facebook advertisement; I had managed to find an opera buddy without the help of operabuddies.com! (Which, again, is not a real site. Sorry to get your hopes up like that.) When the two of us arrived at the Jubilee the next day, sporting heels and formal wear, I couldn’t decide whether we were overdressed, underdressed, or simply not sporting enough feathered hats and theatre binoculars to fit in with the aging opera-going population. But as we found our way to our seats, I spotted several audience members who appeared to be under the age of 30, some who were even younger than my friend and I. There were even a handful of women wearing… pants! Yes, pants! To the opera!

Just before the show began, it was announced that the granddaughter of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, creator of Die Tote Stadt, was watching in the audience that evening. Many patrons chose to find and chat with her at intermission or after the show, but I vowed to find her later on Tinder. At the opening of the first act, my friend and I were surprised to discover English subtitles, which were projected above the stage. Having mentally prepared myself for three hours of having no idea what was happening, this was a total game-changer.

When the lights came up for intermission, neither of us quite knew what to say; there was no mistaking the immense talent and resources that had gone into the production, and the storyline itself was quite engaging, its music captivating. But how do two teenagers with no background knowledge on the subject speak about an opera without sounding totally ignorant? So, we avoided mis-using any fancy terms and lingo, trying not to sound as malapropic in that theatre as we did in our English exam, and instead made predictions about which characters we thought would die in the last half of the show.

In what seemed to be the middle of the second act of the show, the lights went up, and all of the women in the audience dashed off toward the only set of washrooms. It was at this moment that my friend and I discovered that intermissions are not always isolated incidents, and that what I had assumed was a two-act opera was in fact three full acts long.

When the opera finished at 11:00 pm, we still had an hour’s drive back to Okotoks, so we did what any two sane people would do; we hit Peter’s Drive-In. And I know that the whole point of this post was to talk about how cool the opera is (and, seriously, you  should really go see one), but I feel like it’s important that I take a second to talk about what kind of milkshakes we got. You’ll never see me post any sort of “look book” on here, so this is basically as good as it gets. Call it my “milkshake of the day” or something. After three hours of German opera music, I was feeling pretty adventurous, so I opted for the flavour combination orange-vanilla-marshmallow. This was a high-risk choice, even by $5 milkshake standards, but it ended up paying off. My friend ordered a mint-oreo milkshake, which I am told is a classic, but I simply must condemn it on account of my being opposed to mint-chocolate combinations on moral grounds.

^This is what happens when I try to write a blog post when I’m tired: I complain about how Disney wrecked me for real life, and end with an entire paragraph on milkshake flavours. If you got anything out of it, though, hopefully it’s the importance of incorporating milkshakes into a balanced diet and not that the opera is an under-appreciated art form, although the latter is equally valid.

So thanks for reading.


Category: culture | 5 Comments
December 26

Trigger Warning: Christianity vs. Islam

So I have been writing for a local youth blog for the past few months, and have subsequently neglected to post anything on this page. However, four months of lavishing in the internet fame that accompanies blogging for a website with readers in the double figures has caused me to realize the true, modest beauty of a site on which I can post something, absolutely anything, and be passive-aggressively confident that no-one will read it.

To be fair, I constantly test the limits of what I can get away with on this other, rather “vanilla” youth webpage, and am yet to see one of my articles rejected- it’s a game of chicken I seem to be losing consistently, and thus I will begin to discuss some of the more “controversial” topics on this forum, as to avoid further personal embarrassment. Basically, I am opting to perform for my stuffed animals instead of a live audience. To flirt with the mirror, instead of doing something reminiscent of flirting with an actual person. I’m opting for literary masturbation.

Now that I’ve got you excited about the idea, I’ll bring you back down to “comfortably confused and offended.”

Disclaimer: I barely know anything, my views are likely an exaggeration of actual truths, and I will probably make stark generalizations about such intimate things as God, faith, and religion. But here I go anyhow, clambering on with my highly problematic opinion. Well, here it is: on a practical level, I think that there are more similarities between Catholicism and Islam than there are between Catholicism and Protestant Christianity.

Let me try to explain; I attend a Catholic school, and have a deep, albeit objective, respect for Catholic practices and teachings. And obviously, as far as monotheistic religions go, there is one HUGE difference between Islam and other Christian religions, and that is, well, Christ. Muslims view Jesus as another prophet, while he is regarded in Catholicism and Protestantism as not only God’s son, but God. That’s another thing that Muslims don’t understand about Christianity- which I think is pretty understandable. At first, the concept of the Trinity actually appears rather blasphemous.

“So you pray to… three gods? And you call yourself a monotheistic religion? Oh, okay, so one God. Three gods… but just the one.”

However, I think that a lot of us don’t realize how similar Christianity is to the Islamic doctrine. I certainly didn’t, until, fed up with people who had probably never once spoken to a Muslim person about Islam quoting the Quran, grossly out of context, to support their misguided prejudices, I decided to read this Islamic book of faith. Here are a few of the things that surprised me-

1. It’s the same God. Maybe this isn’t a surprise to people who grew up in a non-Christian environment, but I went to a Christian private school where we were taught about Islam as if it was a weird and alien practice.  A lot of people seem to think that because Muslims say “Allah” and we as Christians say “God” or “Yahweh” that the God of Islam is somehow different from ours, and that praying to him is blasphemous. I think that this uninformed idea is further propagated by the fact that Middle Eastern culture is just so different from our North American experience, and thus a lot of the traditions that have developed around these two religions make them appear even more different on the outside.

2. Muslims believe in the Bible. Much like Judaism, they actively follow the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. But instead of completely disregarding the New Testament, as in Jewish tradition, Muslims simply believe that certain parts of it have been mistranslated or corrupted over time, similarly to Mormons.

3.  Islam is far more accepting of other belief systems than Catholicism. Feel free to dispute this, but despite what people like to believe about Muslims wanting to “do away” with the infidels, the Quran explains that Jews, Catholics, and people from all other God-seeking religions will go to heaven. And the different levels of heaven in their theology have nothing to do with what religion one follows- only with righteousness and closeness to God. (To me, their belief in multiple levels of heaven is somewhat reminiscent of the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.)

As far as Catholicism is concerned, the church has been historically unaccepting of other religions. Until Vatican II in 1964, the official church teaching was that only Catholics could go to heaven. And I know what you’re thinking: “There are no radical Catholic terrorist attacks! It must be a far more peaceful religion.” But anyone who feels that Islam is the only religion that can be twisted to promote violence obviously doesn’t remember the crusades.

4. The Quran barely mentions anything about women wearing a niqab. Here is the verse that is often cited in support of the niqab:

     “You who Believe, do not enter the prophet’s apartments for a meal unless you are given permission to do so; do not linger until [a meal] is ready. When you are invited, go in; then, when you have taken your meal, leave. Do not stay on and talk, for that would offend the prophet, though he would shrink from asking you to leave. Allah does not shrink from the truth. When you ask his wives for something, do so from behind a barrier: that is purer for your hearts and theirs. It is not right for you to offend Allah’s messenger, just as you should never marry his wives after him: that would be grievous in Allah’s eyes. Allah has full knowledge of all things, whether you reveal them or not.” (Qur’an 33:53-54).

Obviously, I don’t have the historical or religious context to accurately interpret such a passage, but it seems like it could be applied in any number of ways. Actually, it seems that the Islamic practice of wearing of a niqab has come about more as a result of social and cultural factors than of any actual religious teaching. And while there are definitely verses in the Quran that refer to women as “lesser” than men, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a book that was published in 632 CE.

And here are a few parallels to Catholicism that I was not expecting to find:

  • Unlike Protestantism, both Catholicism and Islam believe that good deeds, not just faith in God, are necessary to enter into heaven. (But at the same time, true faith is accompanied by works; it’s a tricky subject, and people from every denomination tend to be divided on it. So, on that note, never mind.)
  • Islam believes in a prophet and Imams to whom God continues to reveal important truths that affect Islamic teaching; the Catholic pope is said to have similar divine authority.
  • In both Islam and Catholicism, there are many acts and rituals that must be performed. Catholics are expected to follow the 7 sacraments. They must take communion at least once every year to become intrinsically united with Jesus Christ. Muslims follow the 5 pillars of Islam. They must fast during the month of Ramadan, and pray to God 5 times a day facing Mecca.

Of course, there are many fundamental differences between the two belief systems. Obviously, I am picking and choosing verses and teachings that help to support my opinion, and someone with enough writing prowess could probably write an equally biased yet equally compelling article comparing tiny armadillos to Joseph Stalin. And if it helps, this is probably offensive to everybody- Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, AND atheists- so you may all proceed to slam me in the comments.

All zero of you.