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Yet More Wisdom from the Opera

Updated: May 28, 2019


Then the Valkyries came on stage singing “Hoyoho!” and carrying the dead soldiers into Valhalla. The men were naked, because it’s the afterlife, and hey, this was in Finland. So there they were, lying on their backs in fake blood with their arms dangling. You know: Dead.

And these big Scandinavian women in winged helmets and bronze brassieres were singing over them “Hoyoho! Hoyoho!” and so forth. Obviously, I kept watching for an erection. But no luck. . . .

There really should be more nudity at the Met.


—Uncle Jerry's pal Zan

Peace and joy, Camper, and welcome to Your Uncle Jerry’s Opera Corner.


Once again, young persons are writing to Uncle Jerry with concerns about the troubling moral examples they have seen in the opera house. Some Millennial campers are especially alarmed about the influence opera may have had on older generations—the so-called Silent Gen and the Boomers. One look at the ruling class in Washington, and we can see why they might be worried. Here we take up some of their more urgent queries.


Dear Uncle J: I’m not sure I should expose myself to all the mayhem, murder, sex, and scheming in opera, when I could binge-watch something more wholesome—like Game of Thrones or a Congressional hearing. — Ambivalent in Albuquerque


Fair. But let’s keep in mind that, compared to Congress or Game of Thrones, your average opera has a lot more singing.

Remember those royal bureaucratic conferences in King’s Landing? “If you threaten me again, I will cut off the subsidy for your fossil fuels and brothels.” Boring.

By contrast, in opera, you get the fabulous Don Carlo quartet in the king’s chamber: All the same posturing, suspicion, and backstabbing, plus the sublime ethereal sound of four hearts actually breaking.


Dear Uncle Jerry: Was it a sin for Tosca to pray over Scarpia’s body after she killed him? I mean, she’s not a priest, and he was actually president or something, so. — Denver Diva


Um? Right? And don’t forget that Tosca told a flagrant lie—“This is the kiss of Tosca!”—just before she stabbed him. It wasn’t a kiss at all, was it? Total falsehood. Plus she stabs him with a knife from his own dinner table, and that’s just disrespectful.

Add the last rites, totally unauthorized as you point out, and Tosca has a great deal to answer for. He should have made her sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Also, you’re an idiot, Denver.


Uncle Jerry: Did the Saudis get the idea of beheading journalists from Salome? And which is morally worse—the nude dancing or kissing the decapitated head? — Sally from Sunbelt


The dancing is worse. To make an audience of young people watch a typical soprano do a striptease is a crime against humanity. Just stick to singing, ma’am. You’re not Karita Mattila.

Who knows where the Saudis picked up the beheading idea—could be opera, could be video games. In the USA, our leaders never kill journalists; they just say someone ought to do it. On Twitter.

The real point of Salome is that rulers may like naked dancing in Moscow, but they never like critics back home.


Hey, Uncle Jerry: Is there really a pile of gold at the bottom of the Rhine? — Asking for a friend.


There was. There was. But the Nazis found that gold in the 1940s. Then they died. Get it? The Nazis of today are looking for gold in the Potomac. They will also die eventually.


Speaking of Wagner, young person, the Ring Cycle itself offers some useful operatic moral lessons for the leaders of our time:

  1. Gold can be awesome, but it’s also cursed. You gotta know that going in.

  2. To renounce heaven, love, or nookie in exchange for power is a losing trade.

  3. Policies like nepotism, sleeping with goddesses, separating babies from their families—these never turn out as well as you think.

  4. You can build it with other people’s money, you can call it Valhalla or Mar-a-Lalla, you can put your name on it in gold letters. You will still end up a sad one-eyed old man, mumbling about past glories and holding your useless staff in your hand.

Joy and peace.

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